Christopher Sewrattan, “Apples, Oranges, and Steel: The Effect of Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Drug Offences on the Equality Rights of Aboriginal Peoples”

Working Abstract

The Safe Streets and Communities Act has created mandatory minimum prison sentences for certain drug offences. This article analyzes the effect of these sentences on the equality rights of Aboriginal peoples. Through social-scientific data, government reports, academic commentary, and criminal jurisprudence, the article documents how a disadvantage and prejudice exists against Aboriginal peoples in the criminal justice system. It then examines Parliament’s attempt to remedy this disadvantage and prejudice at the sentencing stage, and speculates that the drug-related mandatory minimum prison sentences may counteract Parliament’s remedy. Such counteraction will perpetuate the disadvantage and prejudice against Aboriginal peoples, violating in the process subsection 15(1) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The article concludes that it is likely, though not certain, that this violation cannot be saved under section 1 of the Charter.

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