November 6, 2014
For immediate release
Ottawa – On November 7, 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada will hear arguments in R. v. Nur; R. v. Charles. These cases are an important opportunity for the Supreme Court to provide guidance to lower courts about how mandatory minimum sentences may constitute “cruel and unusual punishment” under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The BCCLA is an intervener in these appeals.
These cases concern the constitutionality of mandatory minimum sentencing for firearms offences under the Criminal Code. Mr. Nur was charged with one count of possession of a loaded prohibited firearm and was subject to a mandatory minimum three-year sentence. Mr. Nur challenged the mandatory minimum on the basis that it violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Mr. Charles pled guilty to several firearms-related offences. The Crown sought an increased penalty due to prior convictions and thus triggered a mandatory minimum five-year sentence. Mr. Charles also challenged the mandatory sentence under the Charter.
Last year, the Ontario Court of Appeal heard these cases along with four others. The Ontario Court of Appeal declared the mandatory minimum sentence in both cases to be unconstitutional under section 12 of the Charter, which protects against “cruel and unusual punishment.” These cases were further appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The BCCLA has been a long-standing opponent of mandatory minimum sentencing. Earlier this year, the BCCLA released a comprehensive report outlining concerns about the financial, social and legal implications of mandatory minimum sentencing. The report calls for evidence-based policy making in the criminal law, while drawing attention to the proliferation of mandatory minimum sentences in Canada. Such sentences were at one time an exception in our justice system, but Canada is now second only to the United States in the number and scope of offences that carry mandatory minimum sentences. Mandatory minimum sentencing in Canada is at an all-time high even as crime rates have been dropping steadily, and are at their lowest point since the early 1970s.
In these cases, the BCCLA is proposing to the Court a framework for determining the constitutionality of mandatory minimums that will take into account the fundamental principle of sentencing: that a sentence be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender. In the BCCLA’s view, mandatory minimum sentencing is a one size fits all approach to a process that must be individualized and contextual for it to be meaningful.
The BCCLA is represented by Nader Hasan and Gerald Chan of Ruby Shiller Chan Hasan Barristers.
- What: Supreme Court of Canada to hear arguments in R. v. Nur; R. v. Charles
- When: Friday, November 7 at 9:30 am EST / 6:30 am PST
- Where: Supreme Court of Canada (Ottawa, Ontario)
- Who: Representatives of the BCCLA available for comment