Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada v. Cheyenne Sharma
(Ontario) (Criminal) (By Leave)
Canadian charter (Criminal) - Right to life, liberty and security of person, Right to equality, Discrimination based on race, Criminal law, Sentencing - Charter of rights — Right to life, liberty and security of the person — Right to equality — Discrimination based on race — Criminal law — Sentencing — Whether ss. 742.1(c) and 742.1(e)(ii) of the Criminal Code infringe the right to equality of Indigenous offenders under s. 15 of the Charter — Whether the introduction of conditional sentences in the 1996 amendments to the Criminal Code created a “benefit” for Indigenous offenders from which Parliament cannot derogate without violating s. 15 of the Charter — Whether limiting the availability of conditional sentences for serious offences as defined by their maximum penalty is overbroad in violation of s. 7 of the Charter — Whether any breach of ss. 7 or 15 can be justified under s. 1 — Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46, ss. 742.1(c) and 742.1(e)(ii).
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In 2016, the respondent Ms. Sharma, an Indigenous woman, pled guilty to importing two kilograms of cocaine, contrary to s. 6(1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (“CDSA”). Ms. Sharma sought a conditional sentence of imprisonment, and challenged the constitutional validity of the two-year mandatory minimum sentence under s. 6(3)(a.1) of the CDSA and of ss. 742.1(b) and 742.1(c) of the Criminal Code, which make conditional sentences unavailable in certain situations. The sentencing judge found that the two-year mandatory minimum sentence under s. 6(3)(a.1) of the CDSA violated s. 12 of the Charter and could not be saved under s. 1. The judge therefore declined to address the constitutional challenge to s. 742.1(b), and he dismissed the s. 15 challenge to s. 742.1(c). Ms. Sharma was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment, less one month for pre-sentence custody and other factors.
Ms. Sharma appealed and, with the Crown’s consent, also brought a constitutional challenge to s. 742.1(e)(ii) of the Criminal Code. A majority of the Court of Appeal allowed the appeal. Sections 742.1(c) and 742.1(e)(ii) were found to infringe both ss. 7 and 15(1) of the Charter, and the infringement could not be justified under s. 1. The majority held that the appropriate sentence would have been a conditional sentence of 24 months less one day, but as the custodial sentence had already been completed, a sentence of time served was substituted. Miller J.A., dissenting, would have dismissed the appeal and upheld the sentence of imprisonment.
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