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Supreme Court sets out factors for sentencing Aboriginal offenders

March 23, 2012

Special considerations should be weighed when judges sentence Aboriginal offenders

In two decisions, R. v. Ipeelee and R. v. Ladue, the Supreme Court of Canada has set out the special factors judges must consider when sentencing Aboriginal offenders who breach Long Term Offender orders. Mr. Ladue and Mr. Ipeelee were sentenced to three years in prison for breaching conditions related to drug and alcohol use.

The Court’s decision

The Court held that judges must pay particular attention to the circumstances of Aboriginal offenders in order to find a proper sentence. Judges must take notice of how the history of residential schools, displacement and colonialism has contributed to problems such as lower income, unemployment and substance abuse, and take these into account when assessing the blameworthiness of the offender. In addition, the Court found that judges should search for sentencing alternatives that are culturally appropriate.

The Court also emphasized that rehabilitation is a key component of the long term offender regime, and sentences must be proportionate to the crime. It found that three years of imprisonment for the use of intoxicants was too harsh of a penalty to impose on a person a person struggling with addiction.

Kelly Doctor represented the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, an intervenor in the appeal.

Read the decision.


Kelly Doctor

Practice Areas

Aboriginal Law, Appeals & Judicial Review, Criminal Law