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This morning CCLA appears before the Supreme Court of Canada in two cases, R v Hills and R v Hilbach, challenging the constitutionality of mandatory minimum sentences. These two cases have the potential to fundamentally reshape Canadian sentencing and constitutional law. CCLA will be there to urge the Supreme Court to keep proportionality as the fundamental principal driving sentencing, and maintain strong constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

Mandatory minimum sentences – laws that require judges to sentence people to minimum periods of prison time – are ineffective, regressive, punitive, and discriminatory. They make for unfair sentences, discriminatory outcomes, and do nothing to enhance community safety. CCLA has fought against them in the courts, criticized them before legislative committees, and written countless briefs, op-eds, and advocacy letters. Slowly but surely, courts have found these provisions unconstitutional, and legislators have started to propose some of these penalties be repealed.

The two cases being heard this morning are about the constitutionality of a few specific mandatory minimum sentences. Whether these provisions remain in force could make the difference between just and unjust sentences for hundreds of Canadians. But the issues being discussed go beyond these specific mandatory minimum sentences. The decisions under appeal have invited the Supreme Court of Canada to radically reshape Canadian sentencing law and protection afforded by the constitution’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. These changes, if embraced by the Supreme Court, would move our criminal justice system towards longer prison sentences, and less constitutional protection for excessive, cruel, and disproportionate imprisonment.  CCLA is asking the Supreme Court to reject these radical proposals, and reaffirm both the principle of proportionality and the protection against gross disproportionality under the Charter.

Many thanks to Nader Hasan and Ryann Atkins of Stockwoods LLP for their pro bono representation in these cases.

Read the CCLA’s factum in R v Hills here.

Read the CCLA’s factum in R v Hilbach here.

About the Canadian Civil Liberties Association

The CCLA is an independent, non-profit organization with supporters from across the country. Founded in 1964, the CCLA is a national human rights organization committed to defending the rights, dignity, safety, and freedoms of all people in Canada.

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