Posted by Darryl Aarbo — filed in Human Rights Law
In a split decision, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the mandatory minimum sentence for illegal possession of a firearm under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It also struck down the minimum for illegal gun possession for repeat weapons offenders earlier.
The imposition of mandatory minimums for a variety of crimes has been an important part of the Conservative government’s policies since being elected. It has been part of their mandate for some time. Many predicted the Court’s rulings suggesting that the sentencing laws may be unconstitutional.
Checks and balances are an important part of a democracy. It is inevitable that there will be constant interplay between unelected Judges enforcing the Charter of Rights and elected members of Parliament acting on its mandate. There is no question that this government had a mandate to bring in tougher sentencing laws. It campaigned on it and won elections on the principle. There is also no question that the Supreme Court of Canada has a mandate to defend the Charter from what it views as legislative encroachments on protected rights. I do not specifically recall, but I strongly suspect that the Parliament was split along party lines in passing the sentencing laws and the Supreme Court’s decision was split 6-3. There is obviously no clear consensus on this issue by either the Parliament of Canada or the Supreme Court of Canada. One thing is clear, we do live in a democracy where we can debate and argue these issues in a reasonable and public manner without fear of reprisal.
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