CASW Applauds Reintroduction of Federal Legislation to Repeal Mandatory Minimum Penalties for Drug Offences
Ottawa, ON – December 7, 2021 – Today, the Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW) applauds the reintroduction of legislation to repeal mandatory minimum sentences specific to drug offences – and is hopeful this signals the necessary expansion of harm reduction approaches to public health issues in Canada. Bill C-5 would allow for greater flexibility and judicial discretion, including the use of conditional sentences and diversion measures to better support and recognize individual journeys and circumstances.
“Especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exacerbated the ongoing opioid epidemic, we expect all party support to quickly expedite this legislation into law” said CASW President, Joan Davis-Whelan. “CASW has consistently advocated for the elimination of mandatory minimums as a crucial step in the federal government’s public health approach to substance use.”
Since their expansion by a previous government in 2012, mandatory minimum penalties have worsened the opioid crisis while contributing to the near doubling of federally incarcerated Indigenous people in Canada. Further, mandatory minimum sentencing for substance related charges contradicts commitments to uphold and implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
Further, to ensure the dignity, health, and safety of everyone in Canada – and as a piece of the ongoing journey of reconciliation – CASW firmly advocates for the decriminalization of the personal use of substances, as well as the decriminalization of sex work.
“Neither substance use nor sex work are criminal issues and it’s time for the federal government to treat them as such– they have a right to an approach rooted in the social determinants of health and safety” added Davis-Whelan. “We look forward to working with this government to build upon their strong public health track record with a bold and just vision for the future.”
To read CASW's full position paper, click here.