Provincial justice ministers of Manitoba and Saskatchewan are urgently calling on the federal government to “convene a bail reform summit to address the increasing level of violence faced by Canadians.” Other provincial justice ministers have voiced similar concerns. The immediate concern is bail reform, but it is part of an ongoing, racially based strategy of the Supreme Court and federal government to reduce the high rate of incarceration of indigenous (and now, black) offenders. This strategy includes releasing indigenous accused with records of violence where others would not be released, sentencing indigenous offenders to shorter jail terms than others would receive, and paroling dangerous offenders—or simply not using jail terms at all for violent offences.
Myles Sanderson, who stabbed to death 11 people and injured many more, is only one example of an indigenous offender who likely would have been in jail if he had not been indigenous. His victims were also indigenous. This case, and many others like it, are what alarm provincial justice ministers.
The racially based release and sentencing strategy is fundamentally flawed, as it ignores the fact that a disproportionate number of indigenous and black men commit crimes. It is not “systemic racism” or “poverty” that is responsible for their offending, as the great majority of indigenous and black people do not commit crimes—including low-income people.
To illustrate the weakness of the reasoning, consider the fact that there are far more men than women in prison. Does this disproportion mean that there is something wrong with the system, so the numbers should be evened out by letting more men out of prison, or putting more women in? Or, in the case of ethnic groups that are underrepresented in the prison population, by putting more in jail? These “solutions” are obviously absurd.
It all goes back to the Gladue case. A well-intentioned Supreme Court set out to solve the problem of indigenous overrepresentation in Canada’s jails by imposing a racially based system of selective sentencing. In spite of this, the indigenous incarceration rate has continued to rise, resulting in more victims—who are overwhelmingly indigenous.
The solution is clear—“justice” is one set of laws for everyone.