Gun law ruling restores fair sentencing

By Jasminee Sahoy

Lawyer Mark Persaud, right, seen with federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay, praised the gun law ruling.
Lawyer Mark Persaud, right, seen with federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay, praised the gun law ruling.

Many young Black men were victims of gun violence, a number with a Caribbean background. Community leaders made a plea on the three levels of governments for a ban on guns.

In 2008, new gun sentencing rules were enacted as part of a sweeping omnibus bill introduced by the federal Conservatives. The Ontario and federal governments argued the move was an effort to combat a serious danger posed by the proliferation of handgun possession cases.

Former prosecutor and prominent Toronto lawyer Mark Persaud in an invited comment said the decision “reflects a principled and balanced approach to sentencing on gun related crimes. It must be remembered that the majority of the court upheld the sentences that were the subject of the appeal but recognized that there could be unusual circumstances where the mandatory minimum sentence would be cruel and unusual punishment.”

He added that “the majority of the court in effect upheld lengthy sentences for gun-related crimes but recognized that a one-size- fits-all approach would be inappropriate.”

A statement from Justice Minister Peter MacKay said the government will review the decision to determine “next steps towards protecting Canadians from gun crime and ensuring that our laws remain responsive.”

The chief justice wrote: “The government has not established that mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment act as a deterrent against gun-related crimes. Empirical evidence suggests that mandatory minimum sentences do not, in fact, deter crimes.”

In one of the appeals which was looked at a young Toronto man with no criminal record was sentenced to three years after pleading guilty to possession of a loaded firearm. The judge said that without the mandatory minimum, he would have sentenced Hussein Nur to two-and-a-half years.

In the second case, Sidney Charles pleaded guilty to firearms offences after he was found in his rooming house bedroom with a loaded and unlicensed semi-automatic handgun. He was sentenced to five years because he had two previous convictions.