For immediate release
Ottawa, Ontario (January 12, 2016) – Tomorrow, Wednesday, January 13, 2016, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association will make oral arguments before the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of R. v. Lloyd. The case will determine whether the mandatory minimum sentence of one year’s imprisonment for a drug offense violates s.12 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.
The minimum criminal sentence mandated in this case was imposed by the Safe Streets and Communities Act – also known as Bill C-10 and the “Omnibus Crime Bill.” The Safe Streets and Communities Act, a “tough on crime” law enacted in 2012, made sweeping changes to the criminal law, including requiring for the first time mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders through amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
This case is on appeal from the B.C. Provincial Court. Mr. Lloyd was convicted of three counts of possession for the purposes of trafficking under section 5(2) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. As Mr. Lloyd had a previous conviction for a designated drug offence, he was subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of one year under section 5(3)(a)(i)(D). The issue before the Supreme Court of Canada is whether the minimum sentence of one year’s imprisonment is unconstitutional in its reasonably expected application to other offenders, not as applied to Mr. Lloyd’s own circumstances. Courts are permitted to strike down minimum sentences based on whether the law would be unconstitutional as applied to the circumstances of others who might be punished under the law, thereby ensuring that unconstitutional laws do not remain on the books.
The BCCLA is arguing that the mandatory minimum sentence at issue in the case is unconstitutional. The BCCLA argues that the Court should look at the reasonably foreseeable and broad, practical effects of the one year mandatory minimum sentence on individual rights, in particular the rights of the most marginalized and vulnerable offenders, such as low-income drug users and the drug-addicted. The Court should also consider how the law negatively impacts the rights of non-citizens, such as permanent residents. For some non-citizens, by operation the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, a one year jail sentence will effectively result in deportation from Canada, without a right of appeal. The BCCLA submits that this is an important consideration when assessing whether the mandatory minimum sentence in some cases constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under s.12 of the Charter.
The BCCLA has been a long-standing opponent of mandatory minimum sentencing. Last 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.
The BCCLA is represented by Matthew Nathanson of MN Law.
What: Supreme Court of Canada to hear arguments in R. v. Lloyd
When: Wednesday, January 12 at 9:30 am EST / 6:30 am PST
Where: Supreme Court of Canada (Ottawa, Ontario)
Who: Representatives of the BCCLA available for comment