Canada

Canada’s criminal justice system is racist.It takes more than an apology to fix

In June, the Toronto Police Service (TPS) turned a news story about racism into a media spectacle over an apology.

The TPS data show that Toronto police are more likely to use force against blacks, more likely to search blacks, and to offer firearms to blacks even when blacks are not perceived to have guns. I confirmed that there is a high possibility of turning. any weapon.

Toronto interim police chief James Reimer has apologized to the black community. And they certainly haven’t produced the systemic changes needed to address anti-black racism in police and other criminal justice systems.

Governments and officials have criminalized blacks, indigenous peoples, racialized people, the poor, the homeless, and those with mental illness and addictions. must do Instead, they must try to right their wrongs and, wherever possible, undo the damage they have done and are doing.

In July, the federal government took steps to address some of the damage caused by the criminal justice system. Members of Congress voted to adopt Bill C-5. If enacted into law, the bill would amend the penal code to remove some mandatory minimum sentences and remove a criminal record related to a simple drug possession charge two years after the end of his sentence.

This is a step in the right direction. But it’s a small step.

First, despite years of urging the government to eliminate all mandatory minimum sentences, the bill only eliminated a small number of sentences. Courts across the country have already ruled (or may rule) that many of the mandatory minimum sentences on the books are unconstitutional.

Many of the mandatory minimum sentences that have greatly increased the numbers of Blacks and Indigenous people in prisons also remain in the Penal Code. This is why earlier this year, the Black Legal Action Center (BLAC), together with the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund, the Canadian Association of the Elizabeth Frye Association, called on the government to, among other things, abolish all mandatory minimum sentences. That’s why.

Second, while the bill was amended to automatically segregate criminal convictions for simple possession, more work needs to be done to remove the unnecessary discriminatory barriers people face because of older criminal convictions. must be done.

Even if Measure C-5 were passed in its current form, the vast majority of people with criminal records would have to wait five or ten years after completing their sentences before applying for a record suspension. . They must then undertake a long and complicated application process to prove, among other things, that they have not been convicted of any new crimes and that they have done “good deeds.”

Opinion: Abolishing all mandatory minimum sentences would bring more justice to Black, Indigenous, racialized and other disadvantaged communities, Moya Teklu & Khaldah Salih writes. #justice #systematic racism

It’s a completely counterproductive system. A criminal record makes it difficult for people to get jobs, housing, and educational opportunities. All of these are important to help people reintegrate into society and keep them out of the criminal justice system.

There is no evidence that burdening people with a criminal record for 10 years will help improve public safety. It is not possible to determine whether a person is more likely to commit violent acts in the future based on past records. , are less likely to be involved in the justice system than those with no criminal record.

The current record stop system is discriminatory. We know the police target and overcharge black people. So when you look at whether someone has done “good deeds” by looking at whether they had contact with the police, whether they were charged, etc., it would disproportionately affect blacks even if those charges were dropped. and exacerbate the harm already caused by racist policing.

This is why BLAC, along with members of the Fresh Start Coalition, are advocating for a used criminal records system. This means that after a period of time, all criminal records, not just those related to drug possession, will be excluded from standard criminal record checks. People no longer have to apply and navigate complex bureaucratic processes. it will just happen. Canada has already done this with youth records.

Anti-black racism in the criminal justice system is a fact. The federal government has an opportunity to move beyond apologies and toward meaningful action. Bill C-5 gets us part of the way, but there’s still a long way to go.

Moya Teklu is Executive Director and Khaldah Salih is a Communications and Outreach Specialist at the Black Legal Action Center (BLAC). BLAC provides free legal services to black people in Ontario who have legal issues related to anti-black discrimination.

Canada’s criminal justice system is racist.It takes more than an apology to fix

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