BENCHPRESS | Sentencing, Supervising and Schooling.

AuthorSteingard, Jessica

Systemic Racism in Sentencing

R v Kandhai, 2020 ONSC 3580

Mr. Kandhai was charged with and pled guilty to one count of possession of a prohibited firearm with accessible ammunition and one count of a breach of a firearms prohibition order. At the sentencing hearing, the defence asked for 3 years while the Crown requested 4 to 5 years.

Justice Harris relied on a social history report that considered systemic racism. Social history reports, or enhanced pre-sentence reports, are relatively new and not widely used. They differ from conventional pre-sentence reports in that they "provide necessary and accurate information about the complex backgrounds of individuals and provide a clearer path to rehabilitation."

In particular, the Court reviewed the report and considered the impact of:

  1. Kandhai having grown up in poverty in Flemingdon Park (a community in Toronto); and

  2. Kandhai's exposure to anti-black racism from a young age.

    The author of the report interviewed Mr. Kandhai four times as well as his parents and brother. The report highlighted Mr. Kandhai started hanging out with "negative peer influences" and was charged for the first time in 2010 after starting secondary school. He is now 25 years old and has a lengthy criminal record.

    Justice Harris considered the link between Mr. Kandhai's background and his moral blameworthiness. He summarized as follows: "Mr. Kandhai was not compelled to make the choices he did but his alternatives were circumscribed by his environment and the dearth of opportunities that were open to him" (at para 64). Justice Harris noted the over incarceration of African Canadians and drew careful analogies with the over incarceration of Indigenous individuals. He concluded:

    " Applying Mr. Kandhai antecedents to the contextual approach established in Ipeelee, one's head would have to be in the sand not to acknowledge that Mr. Kandhai's responsibility is affected in some measure by the racism and poverty in the community in which he grew up. " The decision? The Court found 4 years was appropriate.

    Liability of Social Hosts

    McCormick v. Plambeck, 2020 BCSC 881

    In September 2012, seventeen-year-old Calder McCormick attended a party on Salt Spring Island in B.C. Twin sisters hosted the party at their home while their parents stayed in their room upstairs. The Facebook event page for the party asked guests not to drink and drive. The sisters' parents had strict rules: car keys of anyone who drove would go into a bowl, the...

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