This article explains how Bill S. 10 may create one and two-year mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes in Canada. Us Americans, with five and 10-year penalties for drug offenses, might be tempted to dismiss such "light" sentences as no big deal, but with our cultural obsession with over-punishing, I don't think we're qualified to judge. Besides, it's the principle behind mandatory sentences -- not just their length -- that is offensive to ideals of justice. Judges should decide your fate, not legislators, regardless of whether the mandatory minimum is two years or ten.
There look to be some big problems with the proposed sentences:
... it’s the low-level street dealers who should be alarmed. As there’s no minimum amount of cocaine required to trigger the mandatory sentence, someone who sells even a 10th of a gram of cocaine for $10 and who has a previous conviction for a “designated substance offence” will be swept up by the new laws. Street dealers are middlemen who facilitate the exchange, while the buyers and suppliers actually control the level of drug use in Canada.
If the Harper government wants to incarcerate street dealers, then it should be forthright and say so. But the government is mobilizing our legitimate fear of organized crime as a Trojan horse against minor drug offenders, the most disorganized of criminals. This is an unnecessary manipulation of public sentiment that punishes the people who have the least impact on the strength of the drug trade.
And we get to officially add mandatory minimums to the list of things America is famous (infamous) for overseas:
It’s absurd to adopt a trend from a country that incarcerates the highest proportion of its population in the world, and one that’s starting to move away from the culture of mandatory minimums. Americans just have too many non-violent offenders in jail, and they haven’t even come close to winning their war on drugs.We don't know about you, but we'd love to live in a country that's not known for locking up so many people so indiscriminately, at such a high cost.
Canada, a word of advice from FAMM: this is one area in which you really don't want to be like us.