By Roger Love

The Supreme Court of Canada will soon decide the fate of the mandatory one-year jail sentence for trafficking certain drugs. The mandatory minimum has come under fire by civil liberty groups for constituting cruel and unusual punishment, arbitrary imprisonment and restricting security of the person contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The case at issue concerns Ryan Joseph Lloyd, a drug addict in his mid-20s, who lived in Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside. He was found in possession of less than 10 grams of three drugs, enough to be charged with three counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking. He was eventually convicted and faced no less than 12 months in jail because he had a prior conviction for trafficking within the last 10 years. The British Columbia Court of Appeal sentenced him to 18 months. The appeal of this sentence has reached our top court, in part because it sparked debate over how our courts deal with markers of disadvantage, including addiction, poverty and race.

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