Liberals will review controversial mandatory minimums: justice minister
Published Sunday, November 8, 2015 10:54AM EST
Last Updated Monday, November 9, 2015 11:51AM EST
Newly appointed Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould says the government will review the use of mandatory minimum sentences brought in under the former Conservative government’s “tough on crime” agenda.
While Wilson-Raybould did not specifically say what the Liberals plan to do about the controversial law, she told CTV’s Question Period that her department will “definitely” look at it.
“It’s definitely going to be a subject of conversation, absolutely,” said Wilson-Raybould.
In April, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the law requiring mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes, labelling the legislation “cruel and unusual.” The gun-sentencing rules were introduced in 2008 as a part of one of the Conservative government’s omnibus bills.
Reviewing mandatory minimums will be part of the Liberal government’s larger renewed approach to the criminal justice system, according to Wilson-Raybould.
“I recognize the need to empower judges and to uphold the discretion that judges have in particular circumstances, and (will be) looking more fundamentally or broadly at the criminal justice system in terms of restorative justice and rehabilitation,” she said. “Not just simply being tough on crime.”
Wilson-Raybould said the criminal justice system has been particular hard on indigenous people.
“I was fortunate to be a provincial crown prosecutor at the Main Street criminal court house in Vancouver and saw, certainly, an overrepresentation of indigenous people in the criminal justice system.”
As the first-ever indigenous justice minister, such issues are close to Wilson-Raybould’s heart. She also served as the B.C. Assembly of First Nations regional chief for six years. She said she realizes the significance of her appointment to the portfolio.
“I’m incredibly proud to be an aboriginal woman, proud to come from the We Wai Kai nation, and certainly recognize that there is a substantive new relationship that we, as government, need to embark upon with indigenous peoples in this country.”
High on her priority list is a Liberal commitment to launch a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.
Wilson-Raybould said she wants to see justice for the affected families and a review of the root causes of the problem, including inequality and marginalization.
Doctor-assisted suicide legislation a priority
The Liberals are also under pressure to draft new laws after the Supreme Court struck down the law prohibiting doctor-assisted suicide last year.
Wilson-Raybould said she is acutely aware of the approaching February deadline for new legislation and that she’s already talked with her department officials about it. However, she did not say whether the Liberals would seek an extension past February.
“It’s a priority for myself and for our government. And we need to, as we did as a party before, look at this in a substantive way,” said Wilson-Raybould. “We understand the deadline is upon us and certainly we’ll look to proceed … in the most appropriate way.”