Lighter sentences based on ethnicity?

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ClairesMommy's picture
Joined: 08/15/06
Posts: 2299
Lighter sentences based on ethnicity?

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/03/23/north-supreme-court-aboriginal.html?cmp=rss

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that aboriginal background should be a paramount consideration when sentencing violent offenders who have breached long-term supervision orders.

In a 6-1 decision, the justices ruled on a pair of cases in which offenders on long-term supervision were sentenced after violating the terms of their orders. Both men had long, violent, criminal histories.

The justices said the issue of aboriginal background must be considered even in cases where the accused have been placed under long-term supervision by the courts.

"To be clear, courts must take judicial notice of such matters as the history of colonialism, displacement and residential schools and how that history continues to translate into lower educational attainment, lower incomes, higher unemployment, higher rates of substance abuse and suicide and, of course, higher levels of incarceration for Aboriginal Peoples," Justice Louis LeBel wrote for the majority.

"Failing to take these circumstances into account would violate the fundamental principle of sentencing."

The ruling marked the first time the court has ruled on how the Gladue principles, guidelines set by Parliament on aboriginal sentencing, are to be applied in cases involving long-term, violent offenders.

Those Criminal Code provisions are not a "race-based discount on sentencing," LeBel wrote. They are a "remedial provision designed to ameliorate the serious problem of overrepresentation of Aboriginal People in Canadian prisons and to encourage sentencing judges to have recourse to a restorative approach to sentencing."

In one of the cases, a man who breached an order to abstain from alcohol and was sentenced to three years for the breach had his sentence cut to one year. Manasie Ipeelee was caught cycling drunk in Kingston in August 2008 and pleaded guilty to breach of his order. His three-year sentence was upheld by the Ontario Court of Appeal until it was overturned Friday by the Supreme Court. Ipeelee's adult record contained 24 convictions, including sexual assault.

In the other case, the justices rejected a Crown appeal which wanted a stiffer sentence for an offender who was caught using cocaine and morphine at a halfway house in Vancouver.

Last year, the British Columbia Court of Appeal judge reduced Frank Ladue's three-year sentence for breaching a court order to one year.

His record lists more than three dozen convictions, including robbery and sexual assault.

What do you think about this? Do you believe there's any merit in this argument that aboriginal history and socio-economic background should influence the justice system in terms of giving lighter sentences? What does that mean for ethnicities/cultures which, on average, have a lower violent crime rate? Should that mean longer sentences for offenders of those cultures?

fuchsiasky's picture
Joined: 11/16/07
Posts: 955

I read this one and am kind of torn on it. I do think that we need to take into account the history of aboriginal people in the justice system. I think that to not do so is detrimental as it means that people may not get the help they need. (For example, if a crime is linked to addiction issues there may be better treatment options than prison.) I would like to see more services offered but not necessarily lighter sentences. I would like to see sentences that actually address the issues than just imprison people.

But I don't think this should be just for aboriginal people. There are many in this world who sit in jail because they are addicted, mentally ill, carry psychological baggage etc and this has led them to crime. For many jail time does not rehabilitate them. I would rather my tax dollars go to programs to address rehabilitation and actually help people then to more prisons. Save the prisons for the real criminal elements like Pickton, Rafferty, and Bernardo.

Joined: 12/10/05
Posts: 1681

Jail time should be based on the crime committed. That is all.

Rivergallery's picture
Joined: 05/23/03
Posts: 1301

Should have no bearing on sentencing.

Should have bearing when allocating social service type funding. Prevention should be looked into. Causes for the unequal percentages of aboriginal peoples incarcerated compared to other ethnic groups, when comparing it to the current population.

GloriaInTX's picture
Joined: 07/29/08
Posts: 4107

I grew up in Montana and there are many Indian Reservations there and they have their own law enforcement/justice system on the Reservation. My mother sold Tupperware and had a lot of parties on the Reservation and when she got a bad check or something she had to go to the tribal council to collect, but once she did she always got her money. But if an Indian moves off the reservation they are under the same justice system as everyone else, as it should be. There should be no preferential treatment.

fuchsiasky's picture
Joined: 11/16/07
Posts: 955

I don't think there should be preferential treatment. But I do think that to just punish without looking at the broader picture may not actually help in the end. It may just reinforce the criminal behaviour. If someone is stealing to support their addiction why not address the addiction as well as the stealing. To just address the stealing doesn't solve the issue. And a lot of the issues facing aboriginal people do lead to criminal behaviour. I think that if these issues were addressed then criminal behaviour would lessen. This can come from social services or through the justice system - really both would be good. I would rather help those who can be helped to find new and better lives and leave the prisons for those who cannot or will not be helped.

Joined: 12/10/05
Posts: 1681

"GloriaInTX" wrote:

I grew up in Montana and there are many Indian Reservations there and they have their own law enforcement/justice system on the Reservation. My mother sold Tupperware and had a lot of parties on the Reservation and when she got a bad check or something she had to go to the tribal council to collect, but once she did she always got her money. But if an Indian moves off the reservation they are under the same justice system as everyone else, as it should be. There should be no preferential treatment.

Depends were you are. In Canada, the same laws apply on and off reserves.

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