Alberta’s justice minister has spoken out against the Liberal government’s firearms legislation for the second time this week, expressing concerns about the decision to remove mandatory minimal sentencing for gun crimes.
On Feb. 18, the federal government introduced Bill C-22, which seeks to amend the Criminal Code to repeal several mandatory minimum penalties for drug offences and gun crimes. In Canada, when a judge gives sentence to an offence punishable by the mandatory minimum penalty, the verdict must be equal to or greater than the minimum term for the offence.
If this legislation is passed into law, judges would have more discretion in sentencing.
“While Ottawa’s new justice bill (Bill C-22) contains some reasonable measures, I am deeply concerned about the decision to gut tough sentencing provisions for gun crimes,” Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu said in a news release.
“Ottawa’s draft law removes mandatory prison sentences for serious crimes such as illegal possession of a loaded handgun, robbery with a firearm, and possession of a firearm obtained through crime.”
Federal Justice Minister David Lametti said during a press conference on Thursday that the minimum penalties are ineffective in safeguarding Canadian communities, and have instead created a discriminating system for indigenous and black offenders.
According to Lametti, indigenous adults represent 5 percent of Canada’s population but account for 30 percent of federally incarcerated inmates, which is double the number to what it was 20 years ago. He said black inmates represent just over 7 percent of the federal offender population, but only about 3 percent of Canada’s population.
Lametti said the mandatory minimum penalties is the centre-piece of Canada’s “punishment through imprisonment” sentencing system, which contributes to the high incarceration figure.
“This rigid, one-size-all approach makes it impossible for judges to take into account mitigating factors, in order to impose a sentence that fits the crime,” Lametti said.
Madu said by removing tough mandatory penalties for actual gun crimes would undermine the safety of the minority communities that are often the actual victimis of brazen gun violence.
“Once again, Ottawa appears to be going soft on the criminals who perpetuate real gun violence while symbolically targeting law-abiding Canadians,” Madu said. “I also find it disingenuous for Ottawa to exploit a genuine issue like systemic racism to push through their soft-on-crime bills.”
Earlier this week, the Liberals tabled Bill C-21, a bill that would allow municipalities to ban handguns through bylaws that restrict possession, storage, and transportation.
Madu, in a statement issued on Tuesday, said that the majority of guns used in committing crimes in Canada are illegally smuggled over the United States border. He urged the Liberal government to crackdown on gun smuggling, rather than Canadians firearms owners who “purchased their property legally, and have used that property legally and safely for many years.”
“For the federal government to gut sentences for real gun crimes just days after scapegoating duly-licensed, law-abiding firearms owners (Bill C-21) is especially rich,” Madu said on Thursday.