Trudeau Drug-Sentence Reform Aims to Tackle Racial Inequities

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is seeking to ease sentencing laws for minor crimes such as drug possession, citing the need to tackle racial inequities in the judicial system.

Trudeau’s justice minister, David Lametti, introduced legislation to repeal mandatory minimums, allow for conditional sentencing and push police to consider non-criminal remedies for low-risk and first-time offenders. The move, which includes leniency on some firearm crimes, is aimed at addressing disproportionately high numbers of Indigenous and Black Canadians in federal prisons, Lametti told reporters in Ottawa.

Trudeau Drug-Sentence Reform Aims to Tackle Racial Inequities

“The reason the numbers are so high is due in good part to current sentencing laws, which focus on punishment through imprisonment,” Lametti said. “This is shameful.”

The changes will allow judges to take into account mitigating factors and imposes sentence that fit the crime, he said.

The move is one of Trudeau’s most significant judicial reforms since he took office in 2015, dovetailing with his government’s broader efforts to address systemic racism in society. Trudeau legalized recreational marijuana use in 2018, but the sector remains heavily regulated.

According to data released on Thursday by the justice department, more than four out of 10 women and 30% of men in federal jail are Indigenous, despite being just 5% of the population. Black Canadians, who make up 3% of the population, represent 7% of federal inmates.

The announcement is the second major crime-related measure this week. The federal government announced new measures Tuesday allowing municipalities to ban handguns.

With Trudeau weighing whether to trigger an election this year, there’s no guarantee the legislation will be enacted before a vote.

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