Is sentencing different if I’m Black?

1. Give the judge information about anti-Black racism

The rules at a sentencing hearing are not very strict. This means you can give the judge almost any kind of information that helps them make a good decision.

For example, at a sentencing hearing, you can give the judge letters of support that people wrote about you to talk about your character. They might say that you're hardworking and reliable. You can't usually do that during a .

If you're Black, you can also give the judge information about:

  • systemic anti-Black racism, and
  • how you've been personally affected by anti-Black racism.

Systemic racism refers to racism that is part of a system or process, such schools, workplaces, health-care settings, and housing. You can read more about systemic anti-Black racism on the Black Legal Action Centre’s website.

Showing how you’ve been affected

To show how you've been affected by anti-Black racism, you can give the judge a written report from an expert in racism. The expert first talks to you about your situation and then writes the report to explain how you've been affected by racism.

This type of report is often called an Impact of Race and Culture Assessment (IRCA). But the specific name of the report does not matter. If you get a similar report with a different name, you can still give the judge your report.

IRCAs and similar reports are not yet commonly used in Ontario. But the Canadian government and the higher-level courts want all courts to start using these types of reports more often. You can ask your lawyer or about how to get an IRCA or similar report.

Rules about an IRCA or a similar report

Your IRCA or similar report should be written by an expert in anti-Black racism. The Sentencing and Parole Project may be able to help you to find an expert to write your report.

The expert is not on your side or on the Crown Attorney‘s side. They're neutral. They can only write facts, not opinions.

Your IRCA or similar report should explain what systemic anti-Black racism is, and how you've been personally affected by it.

Another option

If you can't get an IRCA or a similar report for your sentencing hearing, you can give the judge a copy of another report about systemic anti-Black racism. This report is attached to the court's decision in the R v Morris case. See Appendix A, starting on page 23 of the decision.

The Ontario Court of Appeal, which is the highest court in Ontario, has said that judges in Ontario should read the report in R v Morris.

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