A version of this commentary appeared in Maclean's

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Too many indigenous women in prison

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Judges need more flexibility in sentencing

There is no justice for Indigenous women in the current Canadian justice system.

Indigenous women are violently victimized at almost three times the rate of their non-Indigenous counterparts.  Indigenous women are also more likely to commit criminal offences — but nine times more likely than non-Indigenous women to be sentenced to prison.

Independent Senator, Kim Pate recently announced her intention to introduce a Bill that would grant Canadian judges the power to impose an appropriate sentence for any offence, regardless of whether the offence carries a mandatory minimum sentence of imprisonment.  An appropriate sentence reflects the seriousness of the offence committed and the offender’s degree of responsibility.  But it also takes into account the circumstances in which someone has commited a crime.

Judges already have the power to impose a more severe sentence than the mandatory minimum — this Bill would allow them to impose a lesser sentence than the usual minimum in appropriate circumstances.

What is the relationship between mandatory minimum sentences and the denial of justice to Indigenous women?

Read the rest of the article at Maclean’s: https://www.macleans.ca/opinion/too-many-indigenous-women-are-in-prison-but-sentencing-flexibility-will-help/

 

Patricia M. Barkaskas is the academic director of the Indigenous Community Legal Clinic at the Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia and an expert advisor with EvidenceNetwork.ca. 

Emma Cunliffe is an associate professor in the Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia and an expert advisor with EvidenceNetwork.ca.

June 2018

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