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Canadians have recently heard a lot about mandatory minimum sentences (MMS) for criminal and drug offenses. A survey concerning the MMS was conducted by the federal government. This has resulted in some commentators wondering if the Liberals will do what’s necessary to roll back the MMS and fulfill their campaign promise. Seeing as the MMS was put forth by the previous government. This question is timely since next week Parliament resumes. StatsCan’s well-known Juristat provided information last month that gave a detailed overview of MMS and its effects.

Backlogs In Courts

The motivation to roll back the MMS was the increasing problem of backlogs in the court system. The federal government is also looking to address this issue with a reclassification of offenses as well as preliminary inquiries and more.

Struck Down

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled against MMS for repeat drug traffickers. It has found this to be unconstitutional. The decision overturns a former policy put in place by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The previous MMS policy forced judges to give a minimum of a year in jail to individuals found guilty of more than a single drug trafficking offense during a ten year period.

Civil Liberties Advocates

Civil liberties advocates argued against MMS because they believed the law is cruel and unusual punishment. This would make it a Charter violation. Civil liberties advocates feel MMS disproportionately harmed drug addicts as well as marginalized people. They also believe these laws tied the hands of judges and made it impossible for them to use their discretion when it came to providing fair sentencing.


One of the main aspects of the debate is the number of MMS that have been struck down by the courts as cruel and unusual punishment as well as unconstitutional. There have been a few court challenges to the MMS recently. The focus has been on the MMS established within the previous decade. This has resulted in a significant increase in the number of judgments providing an opinion about the constitutionality of MMS.

Tracking MMS maintains a sentencing database. They currently can track which MMS has been struck down with their database. It lists MMS based on the questionable constitutional ground as well as which ones have been firmly upheld. The creators of realized there wasn’t one place available for individuals to conveniently check if a specific MMS is still in effect. They decided it was important to create such a place and put it online.


This database was made free because it was information already available and provides information on an important public debate; the role of MMS in the Canadian Criminal Justice system. The promotion of this new database was done with the release of an infographic designed to illustrate the MMS and sinking and sailing ships. It has been made available free and is not intended for commercial use. The goal is to have a significant number of views and cause some conversation concerning MMS. It is anticipated it will be a useful awareness tool initiating debate long into the future.

This database will make it possible for people to hold informed conversations about MMS. It will make them aware of the many important aspects of MMS and create important awareness on the subject.

If you have been charged with a criminal or drug offence you need representation. A competent lawyer like Julian van der Walle can be the difference between jail time and freedom. Contact him today to discuss your case and learn about your options.

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