Mandatory Minimum Penalties

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General Principles

See also: Statutory Maximum Penalties

The Criminal Code give judges a wide range of sentencing options that are to be guided by the sentencing principles rather than constrained by sentencing grids and minimums as occurs in other countries.[1] Judicial discretion is a "central feature of the sentencing process in Canada."[2]

Effect of Minimum on Range of Sentence

It has been agreed upon by several courts that mandatory minimums act as an "inflationary floor" and sets a new minimum punishment for the best offender.[3]

The mininum "introduces a higher starting point" which creates "a narrower range" within which sentencing principles operate. [4]

When Minimums are Applied

It would be wrong to impose the minimum on the least culpable offender in the least serious circumstances and then provide the same sentence upon someone who is more culpable and for a more serious offence where they would have received that sentence under the old regime.[5]

Raised minimums should not create a standard sentence to be "imposed on all but the very worst offender ... in the very worst circumstances".[6]

Minimums cannot be applied retrospectively.[7]

Remand Credit

Section 719(3) permits taking into account remand credit to sentence, and can have the effect of bringing a sentence below the mandatory minimum penalty.[8]

  1. R v Thurairajah, 2008 ONCA 91 (CanLII), per Doherty JA, at para 26
  2. Thurairajah, ibid.
  3. R v Morrisey, 2000 SCC 39 (CanLII), per Gonthier J, at para 75 - discussed in minority decision
    R v Colville, 2005 ABCA 319 (CanLII), per curiam, at paras 21 to 26
    R v Ferguson, 2006 ABCA 261 (CanLII), per Fruman JA, at paras 71 to 72, 85
    R v BCM, 2008 BCCA 365 (CanLII), per Neilson JA
    R v Newman, 2009 NLCA 32 (CanLII), per Welsh JA
    R v Hammond, 2009 ABCA 415 (CanLII), per Watson JA, at para 8
  4. BCM, supra, at para 31
  5. BCM, supra, at para 56
  6. Morrisey, supra, at para 75
  7. R v Serdyuk, 2012 ABCA 205 (CanLII), per Martin JA (2:1)
  8. R v Wust, 2000 SCC 18 (CanLII), per Arbour J
    R v Arrance, 2000 SCC 20 (CanLII), per Arbour J
    R v Arthurs, 2000 SCC 19 (CanLII), per Arbour J

Notice for Minimum Sentences under the CDSA

Notice

8 The court is not required to impose a minimum punishment unless it is satisfied that the offender, before entering a plea, was notified of the possible imposition of a minimum punishment for the offence in question and of the Attorney General’s intention to prove any factors in relation to the offence that would lead to the imposition of a minimum punishment.
2012, c. 1, s. 42.

CDSA


Note up: 8

Constitutionality of Minimums

See also: Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Certain mandatory minimums have been assessed on the basis of cruel and unusual punishments:

Offence Section Min Penalty Finding Cases
Using firearm while committing an offence 85(3)(a) 1 year OK Symbol.png Constitutional R v Stephenson, 2019 ABCA 453 (CanLII), 382 CCC (3d) 285, per curiam

R v Superales, 2019 ONCA 792 (CanLII), [2019] OJ No 5008, per curiam
R v Al-Isawi, 2017 BCCA 163 (CanLII), 348 CCC (3d) 524, per Stromberg-Stein JA

Possession of a restricted or prohibited firearm 95(2)(a)(ii) 5 years X Mark Symbol.png Unconstitutional R v Nur, 2015 SCC 15 (CanLII), per McLachlin CJ

R v Charles, 2013 ONCA 681 (CanLII), per Cronk JA

Possession of weapon obtained by crime 96(2) 1 year X Mark Symbol.png Unconstitutional R v Robertson, 2020 BCCA 65 (CanLII), per Frankel JA
firearms trafficking 99(2) 3 years X Mark Symbol.png Unconstitutional R v Trepanier, 2016 NBPC 2 (CanLII), per Jackson J
Sexual Interference (until 2015) 151(a) 45 days OK Symbol.png Constitutional R v Lonegren, 2010 BCSC 960 (CanLII), 260 CCC (3d) 367, per Barrow J

R v Craig, 2013 BCSC 2098 (CanLII), [2013] BCJ No 2518, per Bracken J

Sexual Interference (prior to 2015) 151(a) 45 days X Mark Symbol.png Unconstitutional R v BJT, 2019 ONCA 694 (CanLII), per Feldman JA
Invitation to sexual touching (I) 152(a) 1 year OK Symbol.png Constitutional

R v EMQ, 2015 BCSC 201 (CanLII), 329 CRR (2d) 29, per Pearlman J

Invitation to sexual touching (I) 152(a) 1 year X Mark Symbol.png Unconstitutional R v Scofield, 2019 BCCA 3 (CanLII), 52 CR (7th) 379, per Harris J

R v Ford, 2019 ABCA 87 (CanLII), 371 CCC (3d) 250, per Martin JA
R v Hood, 2018 NSCA 18 (CanLII), 409 CRR (2d) 70, per Beveridge JA and MacDonald CJ
R v JED, 2018 MBCA 123 (CanLII), 368 CCC (3d) 212, per Mainella and LeMaistre JJA
Caron-Barrette c R, 2018 QCCA 516 (CanLII), 46 CR (7th) 400, per curiam
R v WG, 2019 ONSC 1146 (CanLII), per Gray J
R v HL, 2018 ONSC 1026 (CanLII), 145 WCB (2d) 398, per Harris J
R v AW, 2018 CanLII 94529 (NLPC), per Linehan J

Invitation to sexual touching (S) 152(b) 90 days OK Symbol.png Constitutional

R v CBA, 2020 BCPC 111 (CanLII), per Frame J
R v D(E), 2020 CanLII 42688 (NLPC), per Linehan J
R v Bisson, 2019 ONCJ 576 (CanLII), per Loignon J

Invitation to sexual touching (S) 152(b) 90 days X Mark Symbol.png Unconstitutional

R v CGJ, 2020 BCPC 26 (CanLII), per McCarthy J
R v Pye, 2019 YKTC 21 (CanLII) per Ruddy J
R v Drumonde, 2019 ONSC 1005 (CanLII), per Schreck J

Distribution of child pornography (S) 163.1(3) 1 year OK Symbol.png Constitutional R v Schultz, 2008 ABQB 679 (CanLII), per Topolniski J
Possession of child pornography (S) 163.1(4)(b) 6 months OK Symbol.png Constitutional R v Leroux, 2021 QCCQ 202 (CanLII), per Cote J

R v Redekopp, 2020 BCPC 29 (CanLII), per Morgan J

Possession of child pornography (S) 163.1(4)(b) 6 months X Mark Symbol.png Unconstitutional R v Cole, 2021 BCSC 293 (CanLII), per Williams J

R v Cantin-Fardet, 2021 QCCQ 1056 (CanLII), per Magnan J
R v Nepon, 2020 MBPC 48 (CanLII), per Devine J
R v Booth 2019 BCPC 160
R v Zhang, 2018 ONCJ 646 (CanLII), per Bentley J

Possession of child pornography (I) 163.1(4) 1 year X Mark Symbol.png Unconstitutional R v Walker, 2021 ONSC 837 (CanLII), per Bryne J

R v Hamlin, 2019 BCSC 2266 (CanLII), per Winteringham J

Accessing child pornography (S) OK Symbol.png Constitutional R v Cvitko, 2021 ABPC 52 (CanLII), per Saccomani J
Accessing child pornography (S) X Mark Symbol.png Unconstitutional R v Doucette, 2021 ONSC 371 (CanLII), per Schreck J

R v Quested, 2019 BCPC 95 (CanLII), per Higinbotham J

Accessing child pornography (I) X Mark Symbol.png Unconstitutional R v Walker, 2021 ONSC 837 (CanLII), per Bryne J

R v Hamlin, 2019 BCSC 2266 (CanLII), per Winteringham J
R v Hunt, 2019 CanLII 42426 (NL PC), per Gorman J

Householder permitting sexual activity under 18 171 X Mark Symbol.png Unconstitutional R v Johnson, 2019 ONCJ 224 (CanLII), per Konyer J
Making sexually explicit materials available 171.1(2)(a) OK Symbol.png Constitutional R v Allen, 2018 ONSC 252 (CanLII), per DiTomaso J
Making sexually explicit materials available 171.1(2)(a) X Mark Symbol.png Unconstitutional R v Koenig, 2019 BCPC 83 (CanLII), per Skilnik J
Making Sexually Explicit Materials Available to Child 171.1(2)(b) OK Symbol.png Constitutional R v Clarke, 2018 CanLII 116038 (NL PC), per Gorman J
Making Sexually Explicit Materials Available to Child 171.1(2)(b) X Mark Symbol.png Unconstitutional R v Demers, 2020 QCCQ 2656 (CanLII), per Magnan J
Luring a child 172.1(2)(a) 1 year X Mark Symbol.png Unconstitutional R v CDR, 2020 ONSC 645 (CanLII), per De Sa J

R v Melrose, 2021 ABQB 73 (CanLII), per Renke J

Agreeing to or arranging sexual offence against child 172.2(2)(a) 1 year X Mark Symbol.png Unconstitutional R v CDR, 2020 ONSC 645 (CanLII), per De Sa J
Possession for the purpose of trafficking 100(3) 1 year Unconstitutional R v Ayotte c R, 2019 QCCA 1241 (CanLII), per Gagnon JA
Criminal negligence causing death (firearm) 220(a) 4 years OK Symbol.png Constitutional R v Morrisey, 2000 SCC 39 (CanLII), [2000] 2 SCR 90

R v Dockrill, 2016 NSSC 56 (CanLII), per Arnold J

Manslaughter (with firearm) 236(a) 4 years OK Symbol.png Constitutional R v Penner, 20217 BCSC 1688 (CanLII)

R v Lacroix, 2016 QCCQ 402 (CanLII)

Attempted murder 239(1)(a)(i) 4 years OK Symbol.png Constitutional R v Forcillo, 2018 ONCA 402 (CanLII), 361 CCC (3d) 161, per curiam
Attempted murder 239(1)(a.1) 4 years OK Symbol.png Constitutional R v Ziegler, 2017 ABQB 411 (CanLII), per Renke J
244.2(1)(b) R v Nungusuituq, 2019 NUCJ 6 (CanLII) per Charlesworth J
recklessly discharging a firearm 244.2(3)(a)(i) 5 years OK Symbol.png Constitutional R v Abdullahi, 2014 ONSC 272 (CanLII), per McWatt J
244.2(3)(a)(ii) 7 years OK Symbol.png Constitutional R v Mohamed, 2016 ONCJ 492 (CanLII), per Wadden J
244.2(3)(b) 4 years OK Symbol.png Constitutional R v Itturiligaq, 2020 NUCA 6 (CanLII)
R v Ookowt, 2020 NUCA 5 (CanLII), per Schutz JA
Sexual Assault CBH / Weapon (Under 16) 272(2)(a.2) 5 years X Mark Symbol.png Unconstitutional R v Trottier, 2020 QCCA 703 (CanLII), per curiam
trafficking in persons – no aggravated factors 279.01(1)(b) 4 years X Mark Symbol.png Unconstitutional R v Antoine, 2020 ONSC 181 (CanLII), per Lemay J

R v Jean, 2020 ONSC 624 (CanLII), per R Smith J

279.02(2) 2 years X Mark Symbol.png Unconstitutional R v Webber, 2019 NSSC 147 (CanLII), per Brothers J
286.1(2)(a) 6 months X Mark Symbol.png Unconstitutional R v CDR, 2020 ONSC 645 (CanLII), per De Sa J
286.2(2) 2 years X Mark Symbol.png Unconstitutional R v Joseph, 2020 ONCA 733 (CanLII), per curiam
286.3(2) 5 years X Mark Symbol.png Unconstitutional R v JG, 2021 ONSC 1095 (CanLII), per Barnes J

R v Safieh, 2018 ONSC 4468 (CanLII), 142 OR (3d) 592, per McKelvey J

344(1)(a)(i) 5 years OK Symbol.png Constitutional R v McIntyre, 2019 ONCA 161 (CanLII)

R v McIvor, 2018 MBCA 29 (CanLII), 407 CRR (2d) 255, per LeMaister J
R v Stocker, 2017 BCSC 542 (CanLII), 376 CRR (2d) 361, per Rogers J

344(1)(a)(i) 5 years X Mark Symbol.png Unconstitutional R v Hilbach, 2020 ABCA 332 (CanLII), per curiam (2:1)
344(1)(a.1) 4 years OK Symbol.png Constitutional R v Hailemolokot, 2013 MBQB 285 (CanLII), per Simonsen J
344(1)(a.1) 4 years X Mark Symbol.png Unconstitutional R v Hilbach, 2020 ABCA 332 (CanLII), per curiam (2:1)
Robbery with Firearm 344(1)(a.1) 4 years X Mark Symbol.png Unconstitutional R v Hilbach, 2020 ABCA 332 (CanLII), per curiam (2:1)
346(1.1)(a.1) 4 years OK Symbol.png Constitutional R v Villeneuve, 2007 QCCQ 3748 (CanLII), per Lortie J
Drug Trafficking 5(3)(a)(i)(D) CDSA X Mark Symbol.png Unconstitutional R v Lloyd, 2014 BCCA 224 (CanLII), per Groberman JA upheld 2016 SCC 13 (CanLII), per McLachlin CJ
importation of controlled substances (Sch I) 5(1) NCA 7 years X Mark Symbol.png Unconstitutional R v Smith (Edward Dewey), 1987 CanLII 64 (SCC), [1987] 1 SCR 1045, per Lamer J

The mandatory minimum of 90 days (summary) and 12 months (indictment) for child luring was upheld as not cruel and unusual.[1]

Consequence of Unconstitutional Minimums

Where a mandatory minimum was found unconstitutional, the removal of a minimum "does not operate to diminish the whole previously established sentencing pattern" proportionate to the previous minimum.[1] The removal of the floor will have some "ameliorating effect" on sentencing but not a "wholesale" reduction, which would otherwise defeat the parliamentary intent to characterize the offence as serious.[2] This also means that the sentencing cases decided while the MMP was in force is not relevant to sentencing and those prior to the amendment should still be viewed with caution.[3]

However, elimination of minimums "permits the court to treat the less serious cases less seriously".[4]

  1. R v Mediratta (1988), 29 OAC 333(*no CanLII links) , per Zuber JA, at p. 334
  2. Mediratta, ibid., at p. 334
  3. R v Inksetter, 2018 ONCA 474 (CanLII), 141 OR (3d) 161, per Hoy ACJ, at para 24 ("even if the mandatory minimums are declared of no force and effect, Parliament’s legislative initiatives signal Canadians’ concerns regarding the increasing incidence of child pornography. Sentencing decisions that precede these amendments must be viewed with some caution")
  4. R v Saulnier, 1987 CanLII 2414 (BCCA), 21 BCLR (2d) 232, per Seaton JA, at para 6