Top Court Rules: Aboriginal Sentencing Upheld

30 May, 2012

Top Court Rules: Aboriginal Sentencing Upheld

A ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada states the background of violent aboriginal offenders should have a bearing at sentencing likely won’t change the landscape of aboriginal crime in Canada.

The country’s top court weighed in on the Gladue principle—a directive from Parliament—which asks judges to recognize that a history of colonization, resi- dential schools and cultural repression has affected generations of indigenous men and women, leading to a severe over-representation of aboriginal people in Canada’s prisons.

The Supreme Court said not evaluating the historical context of aboriginal offend- ers would represent a breach of sentencing guidelines. “Systemic and background factors may bear on the cul- pability of the offender, to the extent that they shed light on his or her level of moral blameworthiness,” the ruling reads.

“Failing to take these circumstances into account would violate the fundamen- tal principle of sentencing— that the sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the of- fender.”

The issue stemmed from two very similar cases—one in BC and one in Ontario. Both men involved had lengthy criminal records and had been designated as long- term offenders. Both were released from jail after serv- ing their sentences and, as a condition of their status, were subject to regular moni- toring. Both men were sent back to jail when they broke their conditions and received 3-years from the Ontario and BC courts respectively.

The Supreme Court ruling, however, said it would allow their appeals and sub- stituted the 3-year sentences with 1-year., dismissing the appeals by both the BC and Ontario Crowns.

Source: Postmedia News

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