R v Chambers

The Court of Appeal of Yukon released a decision on October 7, 2014 in <a href="http://www.canlii.org/en/yk/ykca/doc/2014/2014ykca13/2014ykca13.html" title="R. v. Chambers"><em>R. v. Chambers</em></a>, allowing the Crown's appeal from a decision of the Territorial Court of Yukon that found the accused to be eligible for enhanced credit for pre-sentence custody.

The accused in this matter is an Aboriginal man who pleaded guilty to various charges including common assault and uttering threats. The issues on appeal centred on recent amendments to s. 719 of the Criminal Code of Canada that were introduced through the Truth In Sentencing Act. At trial it was held that as a matter of statutory construction, s. 719(3.1) of the Code entitled the accused to enhanced credit for pre-sentence custody. The trial judge also went on to consider a constitutional challenge to s. 719(3.1) under ss. 7 and 12 of the Charter, finding that the provision was overbroad and had a disproportionate impact on Aboriginal offenders (thereby breaching s. 7 of the Charter), and that it created a disproportionate disadvantage for Aboriginal offenders relative to the offender population overall (thereby breaching s. 15 of the Charter). The Yukon Court of Appeal overturned the trial decision, finding that the trial judge erred in both her statutory interpretation of s. 719(3.1) and her determination of the constitutional challenges raised in this matter. The Court of Appeal held that although the unique circumstances of Aboriginal offenders (also known as "Gladue factors") must be considered when crafting a fit and proportionate sentence, these factors need not be taken into account at every point of an Aboriginal individual's interactions with the justice system. The Court of Appeal held that the need to consider these factors in sentencing only amounts to a statutory duty rather than a constitutional imperative. In its view, the trial judge's analysis under both ss. 7 and 15 of the Charter was "tainted" by the same "faulty premise" that "Gladue factors are to be considered whenever an Aboriginal person interacts with the criminal justice system".