CHAPTER 9: SENTENCING AND PAROLE IN CANADA: PRACTICES AND
THE STRUCTURE OF THE CANADIAN COURT SYSTEM
- some of the major roles of courts in Canada include hearing
evidence presented at trial, determining guilt and innocence, and
rendering sentencing decisions across a wide range of criminal
and civil cases.
- The court system in Canada is relatively complex, is made up of
many types of courts that are separated by jurisdiction and
levels of legal superiority.
- Jurisdiction: courts in Canada can be split up to
provincial/territorial and federal courts, conceptualized
as a 4 lvls hierarchy of legal superiority.
- Tribunals are the bottom layer of courts but, but are not officially
part of the Canadian court system.
- The lowest lvl (lvl 1) of actual court hierarchy in Canada consists
of provincial/ territorial courts (sometimes referred to inferior
courts)- they can hear appeals from tribunal courts.
- Next lvl (lvl 2) up in the provincial/ territorial jurisdiction includes
provincial/territorial “superior” courts. Primary role= act as the
court of first appeal for courts at the lowest level of hierarchy.
These courts try most serious criminal and civil cases—that often
- Both provincial/territorial courts often specialize in particular
areas (e.g., family law)
- (lvl 3) At the federal level (the federal court of Canada), serves to
review administrative decisions made by federal administrative
tribunals (e.g., related to matters such as immigration)
- (lvl 4) top of hierarchy= Supreme Court of Canada: created in
1875, the SCCC consists of 8 judges plus the chief justice, who
are all appointed by the federal government. The SCCC, is the
final court of appeal in Canada, and lower Canadian courts are
bound by its ruling, also provides guidance to fed. Gov. on law-
related matters, such as the interpretation of the Canadian
- Aboriginal overrepresentation: the discrepancy between the
relatively low proportion of aboriginal people in the general
Canadian population (3%) and the relatively high proportion of
aboriginal people involved in the criminal justice system (17%).
- Problem seen across the country, but more of a problem in
- 3 factors appear to contribute to aboriginal overrepresentation:
- 1) aboriginals commit more crime than other ethnicities
- 2) aboriginals appear to be processed by criminal justice in a different way, could be systematic and or overt racism.
- 3) aboriginals on average in Canada are more economically
disadvantaged. (It is known that aboriginals are more likely than
non-aboriginals to be serving time in prison for fine defaults.)
- things being done in Canada to reduce overrepresentation
- BILL C-41= all available sanctions other than incarceration
should be considered for all offenders, with particular attention
to the circumstances of aboriginal offences.
- SCC- ruling had been that the development of courts in Canada
that focus on processing aboriginal offenders. BOX 9.1- Gladue
Courts- special cultural considerations and adverse background
conditions are taken into account when assessing the case of
aboriginal people on trial. Works to mitigate/ reduce culpability of
offender. (e.g., substance abuse, poverty, lack of employment)
- Consideration of Gladue factors will sometimes result in the
application of restorative justice: an approach for dealing with
the crime problem that emphasizes repairing the harm caused
by crime. Based on the philosophy that when victims, offenders,
and community members meet voluntarily to decide how to
achieve this, transformation can result. The primary objective
is to prevent further damage from occurring (community safety).
Restorative justice diagram
Community + offender= competency development (restorative
Victim + offender= Accountability (restorative justice)
Victim + community= community safety (restorative justice)
SENTENCING IN CANADA
- sentencing process: the judicial determination of legal
sanction upon a person convicted of an offence.
The purpose of sentencing
- obvious goal of sentencing is to change the behaviour of
convicted offenders and the behaviour of potential offenders who
reside in the community.
- Specific deterrence: Offenders are sentenced to reduce the
probability that they will violate the law again in the future.
- General deterrence: sentencing to reduce the probability that
members of the general public will offend in the future.
- Sentencing provides fertile ground for many issues of
human behaviour for psychologists to explore.
- Objectives of sentencing include:
- Imposing sanctins to provide a safe and just society
- To denounce unlawful conduct
- To separate offenders from society
- To assist in rehabilitating offenders
- To provide reparations (e.g., the offender pays the victim or the community) for harm done to victims or the community.
- Following facts clear about sentencing:
- Judges often consider more than 1 goal when handing down a
- These goals can at times be incompatible with each other.
- Different judges across Canada likely hand down different
sentences for different reasons, even when dealing with similar
offences/offenders. ( e.g., one judge will chose to hand down a
sentence for rehabilitation, t