BCCLA at Supreme Court of Canada to fight mandatory minimum sentences

THE BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) on Tuesday  will make oral arguments at the Supreme Court of Canada in Hills and Hilbach, two cases about the constitutionality of mandatory minimum sentences for firearms offences. The Court will consider whether three such offences constitute cruel and unusual punishment and therefore violate s. 12 of the Charter.

The BCCLA says it has advocated against mandatory minimum sentences for nearly two decades. Mandatory minimums lead to unjust outcomes because they deny judges the discretion to craft a fit and proportionate sentence. Mandatory minimums have a disproportionate impact on Indigenous people and people with mental disabilities. Further, they do not achieve their purported goals of deterrence, certainty, and transparency.

In this appeal, the BCCLA will argue that a prison sentence that exceeds a fit sentence by any length is cruel and unusual and contrary to s. 12 of the Charter. Incarceration is the most severe of punishments and has serious consequences for the individual and society. In the BCCLA’s view, a law requiring a judge to impose a jail sentence that fails to account for the unique circumstances of the person being sentenced is unconstitutional.

The BCCLA is represented by Emily MacKinnon, Amanda G. Manasterski, and Stephen Armstrong of Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt LLP.

The BCCLA’s factums are available here and here.