Judges provided with more tools in understanding impacts of race and discrimination on offenders

Iqwinder Gaheer Swearing in ceremony/ Cérémonie d’assermentation deIqwinder Gaheer Ottawa, ONTARIO, Canada on 01 November, 2021. © HOC-CDCCredit: Christian Diotte,

The Federal Government has announced funding of $1.4 million over five years as of April 1, 2021, to Legal Aid Ontario to prepare Impact of Race and Culture Assessments (IRCAs) reports for Black persons and members of other racialized minority groups in Ontario.

IRCAs are pre-sentencing reports that help sentencing judges to better understand the effects of poverty, marginalization, racism, and social exclusion on the offender and their life experience. IRCAs explain the relationship between the offender’s lived experiences of racism and discrimination and how they inform the circumstances of the offender, the offence committed, and the offender’s experience with the justice system.

The funding will help support Legal Aid Ontario in providing IRCA reports for Black and other racialized offenders. This funding is part of the federal government’s commitment to address the overrepresentation of Black and racialized people in Canada’s criminal justice system, and to improve access to justice.

On announcing the funding M.P. Gary Anandasangaree commented:  “Systemic racism and discrimination are painful lived realities for Black and racialized people that can create disadvantages in education, employment, and other areas of life. The funding for Legal Aid Ontario to provide Impact of Race and Culture Assessments will help eliminate systemic barriers and improve access to justice for Black and racialized people in Ontario. This funding will help courts consider the impact of racism and discrimination on a racialized offender’s life trajectory during sentencing in criminal matters.” 

In 2020-21, Black adults (aged 18 years and more), who represented approximately 4% of the adult population in Canada, were

MP Gary Anandasangaree

consistently overrepresented in provincial admissions to correctional services (custody and community services) across reporting jurisdictions, namely Nova Scotia, Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia.

In 2020-21, Black adults accounted for 10% of all admissions in remand in Nova Scotia, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. Black people represent 4% of the Canadian population. (Statistics Canada. Custom request, 2023).

IRCAs work on the premise that a person’s race and cultural heritage are significant factors in considering a racialized offender’s sentence in a criminal matter, since understanding how an offender has been disadvantaged in education, employment and other areas of society is key to making an appropriate sentencing decision.

“Sadly, people in Canada face racism and discrimination, including in our criminal justice system. The funding provided to Legal Aid Ontario will help reduce systemic barriers and improve access to justice for Black and racialized minorities in Ontario through the preparation of Impact of Race and Culture Assessments. These reports are an important tool in making fair and appropriate sentencing decisions,” said M.P. Iqwinder Gaheer