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View Marco Mendicino Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Marco Mendicino Profile
2017-02-21 18:41 [p.9191]
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to discuss both the question from my colleague, the member for St. Albert—Edmonton, as well as our government's answer.
As we have said on numerous occasions, there is going to be a comprehensive criminal justice review. As part of that process, we will take a careful look at mandatory minimum sentences. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice have been quite clear that, as a matter of principle, our government believes in and supports mandatory minimum sentences for the most serious offences. In her mandate letter from the Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice has been asked to review the changes to sentencing reforms over the past decade to ensure that we are increasing the safety of our communities, addressing gaps, and ensuring that current provisions are aligned with the objectives of the criminal justice system.
Our government believes that it is important to ensure that all of our laws, including those with mandatory minimums, are effective in meeting their objectives, promote public security, and are consistent with individuals' constitutionally protected rights.
The cornerstone of sentencing in Canada is that sentences will be both fit and just. This means that they must reflect the degree of responsibility of the offender and the gravity of the offence. Responsible sentencing and making sure that the punishment fits the crime is essential to ensuring a safer Canada, a Canada with communities that are better served and protected by our criminal justice system.
While mandatory minimums may be appropriate for the most serious offences, their increased use over the past decade presents pressing issues and challenges. Particularly, their increased use has resulted in a large number of challenges under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
A number of these challenges have been successful before the Supreme Court of Canada. For instance, in the case of Regina v. Nur and Regina v. Lloyd, the Supreme Court of Canada found that both mandatory minimum sentences that were in question were unconstitutional, but at the same time provided important new direction on mandatory minimum penalties and how they should be addressed in the context of the criminal justice system. If they do not comport with the new direction that has been given by the Supreme Court of Canada, we believe that mandatory minimums will be vulnerable to constitutional challenge and may constitute cruel and unusual punishment, which in and of itself would be a violation under the charter.
The evidence also demonstrates that mandatory minimum penalties negatively impact the criminal justice system in some circumstances. Mandatory minimums have lengthened the time required to complete cases by causing increases in charter challenges and thereby extending the amount of time required for trials. This is unfair to victims and their families who have to wait longer for a resolution of their case. By reducing the number of mandatory minimums, our government will also reduce delays in our courts, and I know that is something that the hon. member across the aisle would support.
Canadians want a criminal justice system that is compassionate to victims, that holds offenders to account for their crimes, and that protects Canadians. These are the objectives that guide our government in its consideration of reforms to the criminal justice system, to the sentencing regime, and to mandatory minimum sentences.
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