Impact of Existing Restrictions

Bill C-5, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, presently before Parliament, includes amendments that would, among other things, repeal certain mandatory minimum penalties and remove some existing restrictions to the use of conditional sentences. The proposed changes certainly merit careful consideration, and for many, are long overdue. As a small contribution to inform such consideration, ICCLR just released a research report on Conditional Sentences Orders (CSOs) in British Columbia. The report, by Yvon Dandurand, examines the impact in British Columbia of the restrictions imposed in 2012 on the use of conditional sentences by the Safe Streets and Communities Act. It also examines whether the restrictions have had a differential impact on the sentencing of indigenous offenders in that province.

The data reveal a sudden and persistent reduction in the use of CSOs in British Columbia, starting in fiscal year 2014-15, with the coming into full effect of the restrictions. The data also reveal that, whereas there was a substantial difference in B.C. sentencing data between the percentages of indigenous and non-indigenous offenders who received a CSO before 2013-2014, that difference became much less pronounced after the restrictions were imposed. The impact of the new restrictions on the proportion of cases where a CSO was imposed seems to have been relatively less pronounced for indigenous offenders than for non indigenous offenders, thus reducing the difference observed between the two groups prior to the legislative amendments. Nevertheless, indigenous offenders continued to receive a CSO proportionally less often than non-indigenous offenders and to be proportionally more likely to receive a sentence of incarceration.

Given the limited sentencing data available, it is nearly impossible to understand the full range of factors that may have influenced sentencing decisions for these two groups of offenders. Nonetheless, the data did not support the claim that indigenous offenders were disproportionately affected by the restrictions on the use of CSOs introduced in 2012.

Reference: Dandurand, Y. (2022). Conditional Sentence Orders in B.C. – 2010-2020. Research Report 2022-1. Vancouver: International Centre for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal Justice Policy.

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash.

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