A latest Ontario court docket choice struck down the necessary conviction for impaired driving of a girl as a result of she is Indigenous. This highlights the pressing have to re-examine the wrong-headed gentle sentencing ideas (Gladue) that now apply completely to Indigenous offenders.
With a blood-alcohol stage 3 times over the authorized restrict, the offender’s reckless driving included hopping a curb and flying by way of the air touchdown on a sidewalk. It was solely luck pedestrian was not in her path. A non-Indigenous individual would have been convicted, she ought to have acquired the identical therapy.
Moms Towards Drunk Driving (MADD) have campaigned in opposition to drunk driving since 1980. In that 12 months, Cindy Lightner’s daughter, Cari, was killed by a drunk driver with a number of convictions for driving drunk. At the moment, consuming and driving was nonetheless largely handled as a minor matter — virtually like a site visitors infraction. Comedians made their careers joking about inebriation, and films recurrently included folks going to bars and driving off of their automobiles. Mrs. Lightner and different decided moms relentlessly hounded lawmakers and refused to let a “good outdated boys” community deter them from their aim. Because of their efforts, the variety of drunk driving-related deaths is much decrease right now — and there are far fewer grieving moms.
The concept behind Gladue sentencing provisions was good — far too many Indigenous folks charged with crimes have been being jailed. Nevertheless, the simplistic response of lightening sentences — or not charging Indigenous folks the place others could be charged — causes extra issues than it solves.
It was hoped that Gladue would lead to fewer Indigenous folks in jail. The alternative has occurred. Famous creator and sociologist Thomas Sowell defined why within the American context in his latest essay. He argues that blaming the over-representation of black folks within the American felony justice system on the police merely ends in fewer fees being laid, lighter sentences, however — perversely — extra black crime.
This is applicable in Canada in relation to Indigenous folks. By blaming the over-representation of Indigenous folks on “systemic racism”, and artificially lowering fees and lightening sentences, the issue will get worse — extra repeat offenders committing severe offences.
And, the view that Indigenous persons are over-represented within the system due to “systemic discrimination” can also be unsuitable. Whereas extra crimes are dedicated by Indigenous folks, the simplistic response of laying fewer fees and lightening sentences is counterproductive.
Giving folks preferential therapy by cause of their race destroys the mandatory message of non-public duty and accountability. Sentencing judges ought to take an individual’s particular person circumstances under consideration when sentencing, however nonetheless maintain the offender accountable. Race and ethnic concerns needs to be irrelevant. Gladue ought to by no means be employed to recommend that an Indigenous man who dedicated a severe crime shouldn’t be held to account for that crime. Racial concerns in sentencing ought to by no means recommend that Indigenous offenders can commit crimes with relative impunity.
The message to a grieving mom of a drunk driving sufferer ought to by no means be that taking part in racial politics is taken into account to be extra vital than the kid she misplaced.
Gladue sentencing provisions are, and at all times has been, a nasty concept. It’s time to rethink Gladue.
— Brian Giesbrecht, a retired choose, is a senior fellow on the Frontier Centre for Public Coverage