OTTAWA, July 24, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) applauds today’s decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal to strike down two sections of the Criminal Code of Canada that unjustifiably limit the ability of judges to allow conditional sentences for Indigenous offenders.
Cheyenne Sharma, a 25-year-old Ojibwa woman and a member of the Saugeen First Nation, had been sentenced to spend 17 months in jail after pleading guilty to importing 1.9 kilograms of cocaine.
The Safe Streets and Communities Act, which was passed into law in 2012, prevents the imposition of conditional sentences in cases, like that of Ms. Sharma, in which the maximum term for the offence committed is 14 years to life [Section 742.1 (C)], or in which the offender is convicted of importing, exporting, trafficking or producing drugs [Section 742.1 (e) (ii)].
But a majority of judges on the Appeal Court panel found that those sections of the Criminal Code undermine the court’s ability to take the Indigenous background of an offender into consideration when imposing a sentence.
They agreed with Ms. Sharma that the sections unjustifiably infringed on sections 7 and 15 of the Charter of Rights.
NWAC was an intervenor in the case.
Lorraine Whitman, the president of NWAC, said she is delighted by the court ruling.
“Our young women are over-represented in the prisons across this country, largely as a result of the legacy of historical wrongs committed against our people,” said Ms. Whitman. “The courts must be given options to keep them out of the correctional system whenever possible.”
Two years ago, her case prompted an Ontario judge to strike down a mandatory two-year minimum sentence for drug trafficking convictions saying they were “cruel and unusual punishment” for Indigenous offenders.
Parliament and the Supreme Court of Canada have long-recognized that, when sentencing Indigenous offenders, a fit and proportionate sentence requires considering factors related to the legacies of colonization that contributed to their being brought before the courts.
The limitations imposed by the Safe Streets and Communities Act on the ability of sentencing judges to impose conditional sentences were found by the Appeal Court to reinforce, perpetuate or exacerbate the disadvantage faced by Indigenous people.
To arrange interviews with NWAC’s legal counsel, please contact:
Gloria Galloway at 613-447-6648 or email@example.com