In June 2022, Bill C-5 passed its third reading in the House of Commons. It would repeal certain mandatory minimum penalties — penalties the Liberals say have disproportionately harmed Indigenous and Black offenders and those struggling with addictions.
The Call to Action:
We call upon the federal, provincial and territorial governments to provide sufficient and stable funding to implement and evaluate community sanctions that will provide realistic alternatives to imprisonment for Aboriginal offenders and respond to the underlying cause of offending.
In June 2022, Bill C-5 passed its third reading in the House of Commons.
Bill C-5 would repeal certain mandatory minimum penalties — penalties the Liberals say have disproportionately harmed Indigenous and Black offenders and those struggling with addictions.
The bill would require police and prosecutors to consider alternatives to laying charges in simple possession cases, such as diversion to addiction treatment programs. It would also have given the courts leeway to use conditional sentence orders in cases where an individual isn’t a public safety threat.
Bill C-5 is identical to Bill C-22, which was introduced in February 2021, but the bill was not passed before the September 2021 federal election, meaning the bill died on the order table.
Previously, the federal government committed funding for the creation of programs designed to reduce the overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in custody. But some of those programs are simply replacing prior programs with the same mandates and the same level of funding.
In the 2017 federal budget, the government committed to $120.7 million over five years “to address the over-representation of Indigenous Peoples in the criminal justice and corrections system,” according to the federal government website.
Of the $120.7 million, $55.5 million was committed over five years ($11.1 million per year) to the Indigenous Justice Program, which funds community-based programs that use restorative justice approaches as an alternative to the mainstream justice system.
But the Indigenous Justice Program is not new. It was previously known as the Aboriginal Justice Strategy. It too, since 2014, received approximately $11 million per annum to operate, under the previous federal government.
In December, 2016, Corrections Canada Services released a report called the Evaluation of Aboriginal Justice Strategy. It determined that the annual $11 million funding was not enough to adequately cover the demands of the community-based justice projects, despite the fact that when funded properly, they were successful.
Despite this, the 2017 federal budget did not increase the per annum funding of the program (now called the Indigenous Justice Program).