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Irwin Cotler, MP



Cotler Introduces Bill to Protect Judicial Independence

Posted on April 24, 2015

Legislation would allow judges to consider particular circumstances at sentencing, notwithstanding mandatory minimums

MP Irwin Cotler today introduced a Private Member’s Bill (C-669) that would allow judges to vary mandated sentences, such as mandatory minimums, when doing so is deemed “just and reasonable.” The legislation, known as the Judicial Independence Act, would require judges to provide written reasons when derogating from the prescribed sentence.

Cotler cited last week’s Supreme Court ruling, in which Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin noted that “empirical evidence suggests that mandatory minimum sentences do not, in fact, deter crimes.”

Instead, noted Cotler, mandatory minimums lead to prison overcrowding, disproportionately impact Aboriginals and other minority groups, increase costs for taxpayers, may violate the Charter, and are, as one American study put it, “a recipe for recidivism.”

“Everyone in this House seeks to prevent crime and keep Canadians safe,” said Cotler, former Justice Minister and Attorney General of Canada. “Sometimes, however, measures intended to achieve these laudable objectives turn out to be ineffective, counterproductive, and unjust. Such is unfortunately the case with the government’s ever-increasing reliance on mandatory minimum sentencing provisions. It is in the interest of both justice and public safety that the sentence fit the particularities of the crime.”