The Canadian federal government is again proposing mandatory sentences and stiff penalties for certain drug offences. But evidence shows that they only worsen an already dire situation. Incarcerating people who inject drugs or those who are vulnerable to such a practice contributes to Canada’s worsening HIV/HCV epidemic. Along with over 62 witnesses who made submissions or testified before the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network made its case before the Senate with this submission.

On December 3, the Committee submitted its report on Bill C-15 to the Senate (An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts.) The Senate could have had the chance to inject some hope into Bill C-15 but, unfortunately, the Committee’s amendments currently being considered are purely cosmetic and fail to restore the necessary judicial discretion required to address drug use concerns through drug treatment. The Senate is expected to vote on its version of the mandatory sentencing bill before the holiday recess.