POLITICS

Quotes from the Supreme Court's ruling on mandatory gun-crime sentences

04/14/2015 02:38 EDT | Updated 06/22/2015 07:59 EDT
OTTAWA - The Supreme Court of Canada has struck down a law imposing mandatory minimum sentences for certain gun crimes. Here are some quotes from the majority ruling from Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, and the dissenting opinion by Justice Michael Moldaver.

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"In most cases ... the mandatory minimum sentences of three and five years respectively do not constitute cruel and unusual punishment. But in some reasonably foreseeable cases that are caught by (the law) they may do so." — McLachlin.

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"Mandatory minimum sentences, by their very nature, have the potential to depart from the principle of proportionality in sentencing. They emphasize denunciation, general deterrence and retribution at the expense of what is a fit sentence for the gravity of the offence, the blameworthiness of the offender, and the harm caused by the crime." — McLachlin.

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"They function as a blunt instrument that may deprive courts of the ability to tailor proportionate sentences at the lower end of a sentencing range." — McLachlin.

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"A person cannot be made to suffer a grossly disproportionate punishment simply to send a message to discourage others from offending." — McLachlin.

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"It is not for this court to frustrate the policy goals of our elected representatives based on questionable assumptions or loose conjecture." — Moldaver, in a dissenting opinion.

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"In my view, sending our elected representatives back to the drawing board on (the law) would impede the goals of deterring and denouncing the unlawful possession of deadly weapons and keeping them out of the hands of those who would use them as instruments of intimidation, death, and destruction." — Moldaver.

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"The record plainly demonstrates that, after lengthy debate and study, Parliament responded to the pressing issue of gun crime by enacting the heightened mandatory minimums in (the law) In my view, that policy choice merits considerable deference." — Moldaver.

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"Where matters of public safety are implicated, we should be wary of second-guessing the choices of our elected representatives, absent a compelling justification." — Moldaver.

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"We are reviewing today's Supreme Court of Canada decision to determine its impacts and the most appropriate next steps towards protecting Canadians from gun crime and ensuring that our laws remain responsive." — Justice Minister Peter MacKay.