Use of Conditional Sentence Orders in British Columbia 2010-2020


January 28, 2022


Prof. Yvon Dandurand



Use of Conditional Sentence Orders in British Columbia 2010-2020

 The lack of detailed sentencing data continues to be a problem in Canada. This problem is underscored when parliamentarians are considering amendments to the Criminal Code that will affect sentencing practices. Bill C-5, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, includes proposed amendments that would, among other things, repeal certain mandatory minimum penalties and remove some existing restrictions to the use of conditional sentences. This report 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 BC 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 availability of sentencing data, 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.


Prof. Yvon Dandurand

Senior Associate


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