by Riley Thomas
Sexist and Racist Bill is Almost Law and No One is Reporting It
Bill S-215 was introduced in the Senate and is sponsored by the Aboriginal People’s committee chair, Lillian Dyck. This bill would amend the criminal code’s sentencing guidelines for convictions under sections 235, 236 and 239, which are murder, manslaughter and attempted murder, respectively. If the victim of those crimes was a female Indian, Metis or Inuit individual, it would be counted as an aggravating factor under the new law.
Saying this bill is unprecedented would have made for a snappier headline, but it isn’t, not by a long shot. Crimes committed against transit workers, police officers, seniors, and children are all considered aggravating factors at the time of sentencing. If passed, this would not even be the first law about sentencing guidelines in regards to aboriginal crime. The criminal code’s sentencing principles instructs judges to take into consideration “all available sanctions, other than imprisonment, that are reasonable in the circumstances and consistent with the harm done to victims or to the community should be considered for all offenders, with particular attention to the circumstances of Aboriginal offenders.”
Most violence against aboriginal women is performed by other aboriginals. This should come as no surprise, as people tend to associate primarily with people of their own race. This is doubly true for aboriginals, considering that they typically reside in their own segregated communities. So, if both of these laws were to be in effect, they would cancel each other out. One law would dictate that violence against aboriginals is to be punished more harshly, but aboriginals are to receive lighter sentences. This law then would only make sentencing stricter for other races, such as white or black.
Furthermore, this bill would only apply to aboriginal females, not males, despite the fact that men are more likely to be the victims of violent crime. According to Statistics Canada, there were 2,500 murdered aboriginals between 1982 and 2011. 71%, or 1,750 of those murdered were men. Dyck, when delivering the speech that accompanied this bill’s introduction to the senate, reasoned that aboriginal women suffer violent crime at a rate higher than the national average and thusly need more protection under the law. If this was the case, why would we not also be including the men?
As for the constitutionality of making sentences harsher based on race, it’s difficult to say. Mandatory minimum sentences have been deemed cruel and unusual punishment for certain offenses, but the charter states that the law, who's object is to "ameliorate [the] conditions of...those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, etc, etc,” is permitted.
This bill is just window dressing to give the appearance of combating a problem, yet would have no real impact on halting violence against aboriginal women. You could make the sentence five years or five hundred years; it doesn’t really matter since the true issue is that these cases aren’t being investigated or going to trial. Our current sentencing guidelines are more than sufficient. Police reform is what’s necessary. A law that police don’t enforce will never be respected. The marijuana haven that is Vancouver is a testament to that.
Bill S-215 should not be passed into law. It’s racist, sexist and worst of all, ineffective.
Riley Thomas is a native Saskatchewanian, and former decorated member of the Canadian Forces. He is currently studying to be a social worker. He's traveled Canada coast to coast and beyond, and has seen the very best and the very worst of society, witnessing firsthand the litany of issues that plague Canada and the world today. He's a voracious reader of domestic and foreign news, and is well-known for not sugarcoating his opinion, and not compromising what he believes to be right. His favourite food is rice.