Together with our community partners and expert advisors, Peacebuilders Canada has provided letters of endorsement to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to support Bill C-5.

Peacebuilders maintains that Bill C-5 is an important step to improving the criminal justice system and enhancing outcomes for marginalized communities. Bill C-5 removes several mandatory minimum penalties, and gives judges the necessary discretion to proportionately account for the individual and systemic circumstances contributing to involvement in criminality. It also recognizes drug use as primarily requiring health and rehabilitative interventions – a position that has been adopted by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the Ontario Medical Association, and others.

Firearm offences and drug offences are serious societal ills – however, they are also nuanced and highly entrenched with social conditions and social marginalization. Existing mandatory minimums more greatly marginalize vulnerable communities with poor police relationships. Bill C-5 better situates sentencing judges to proportionately respond to these lived realities.

With respect to drug offences, studies have demonstrated that Black communities are overpoliced, despite evidence suggesting that Black people are no more likely to engage in such activity. We know, from our own research and experience, that over criminalizing Black youth for these social and health issues needlessly disrupts positive life-course development and community wellbeing.

Presumptively treating drug use as a health issue and expanding judicial discretion is a welcome change; it is a better way to redress the marginalization of Black communities, and most consistent with notions of fairness, equality, and justice. As an organization with over 17 years’ experience improving access to justice for young people and advocating for systemic change, Peacebuilders recognizes the critical role of Bill C-5 and applauds its’ referral to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Social Justice and Human Rights.