Fixing mandatory minimum penalties a way to cut court backlogs; minister

Fixing mandatory minimum penalties a way to cut court backlogs; minister

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Jody Wilson-Raybould, left, sits with Quebec’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General Stephanie Vallee at the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Justice in Gatineau on Friday, April 28, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang.

GATINEAU, Que. — Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould says her priority for today’s emergency meeting with provincial justice ministers is to hammer out possible changes to mandatory minimum penalties to give discretion back to judges and get the courts moving faster.

The meeting was called to address a court backlog that became critical after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled last year that a person accused of a crime has the right to have the case heard within 18 to 30 months.

Several provinces, including Alberta and Quebec, are pressuring Wilson-Raybould to fill judicial vacancies to address the backlog, but she and others argue those are not the only, or even main, reason some cases take so long.

Wilson-Raybould says she wants to discuss changes to mandatory minimums to ensure a balance between respecting victims and upholding public safety, while giving discretion to judges.

The Liberals have promised to review 72 mandatory minimum penalties in the Criminal Code, many of them introduced by the former Conservative government.

It is believed mandatory minimums have reduced the number of accused willing to accept a plea deal because they cannot negotiate a lesser sentence.

The Canadian Press

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