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Judges must consider history when sentencing aboriginals: Supreme Court

Sentencing judges who do not carefully consider lenient or creative sentences for aboriginal offenders are violating the law, the Supreme Court of Canada said in a major aboriginal law decision today.

Releasing rulings in a pair of much-anticipated cases that go to the heart of separate treatment for aboriginal offenders, the court said that considering factors such as cultural oppression and a history of abuse in the residential school system must be central to the sentencing process.

“When sentencing an Aboriginal offender, courts must take judicial notice of such matters as the history of colonialism, displacement, and residential schools and how that history continues to translate into lower educational attainment, lower incomes, higher unemployment, higher rates of substance abuse and suicide, and of course higher levels of incarceration for Aboriginal peoples,” a 6-1 majority said.

The court said that the promise of a landmark 1998 decision that mandated distinctive treatment for aboriginal offences has not been met.

Read on....

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