This sentence really stood out to me:
"If this information is new to you, don't worry. The issue of unequal justice in favour of aboriginals seldom comes to the fore because, to be frank, most violent crime com-mitted by aboriginals is committed against other aboriginals. So the issue doesn't pierce non- aboriginal consciousness."
No justice in leniency shown to aboriginal offenders (external - login to view)
By Lorne Gunter, National Post January 5, 2012
According to Canadian law, judges must pay particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal offenders in order to reduce the overrepresentation of aboriginals in the justice system.
They must do so even if aboriginal offenders' lawyers do not raise the issue of their clients' race at trial. They must also make allowance for offenders' status in regard to whether offenders live on or off a reserve.
That has been the reality since the 1999 Supreme Court of Canada's decision in the case of R. vs. Gla-due, which gave broad interpretation to Criminal Code requirements for sentencing judges.
If this information is new to you, don't worry. The issue of unequal justice in favour of aboriginals seldom comes to the fore because, to be frank, most violent crime com-mitted by aboriginals is committed against other aboriginals. So the issue doesn't pierce non- aboriginal consciousness.
That likely explains the justifiable public outrage at the ultra-light sentence given in late December to Richard Smoke for a vicious beating he laid on a homebuilder during the violent occupation of a new residential subdivision near Caledonia, Ont., in the summer of 2007.
One morning, Sam Gualtieri found three aboriginals camped out inside one of his projects. When Gualtieri confronted the trio, he was attacked. Several of his bones were broken, including some in his face and head. He sustained permanent brain damage and still has trouble reading, speaking and walking.
For this vicious attack - which Ontario Superior Court Judge Alan Whitten described as "just a notch below culpable homicide" - Smoke was given a sentence of not quite three years, with time served.
This special treatment isn't unusual for aboriginal offenders. But the federal government shouldn't let it stand, either. The federal Justice Department must appeal Smoke's sentence all the way to the Supreme Court in the hope that it will reverse, at least partially, the lunacy and inequity foisted on the country by its 1999 predecessor.
The Gladue decision, which established the practice of preferential treatment for aboriginal offenders, came at the end of a period of particularly irrational sentimentality from the court in regard to aboriginal issues.
Aboriginals do not need special treatment in court; nor has the special treatment they have received over the past 14 years done much to reduce the rates of aboriginal crime or violence.
Moreover, while aboriginals may be overrepresented in prison relative to their share of the population (21 per cent of prisoners versus four per cent of the population), they are not overrepresented relative to their involvement in crimes.
About one in five crimes in which the race of the suspect is identified is committed by an aboriginal, just as about one in five prisoners is aboriginal.
The kind of preferential treatment from which Smoke benefited only encourages would-be First Nations offenders to commit crimes, because they know the consequences will likely be light.
At the same time, it is an insult to people like Sam Gualtieri - victimized once by a man with a two-by-four and again by the court system that denied him justice.