Keeping Up Is Hard to Do:
A Trial Judge’s Reading Blog


In R. v. Penner, 2023 BCCA 191, May 8, 2023, the British Columbia Court of Appeal concluded that the four-year minimum mandatory sentence contained within section 236(a) of the Criminal Code [manslaughter committed with a firearm] did not violate section 12 of the Charter, concluded as follows (at paragraphs 90 and 91):

The four-year mandatory minimum captures conduct that warrants general deterrence and strong denunciation. The careless use of a firearm poses grave risk to the public. Parliament is entitled to enact mandatory minimum sentences that signal that a disregard for the life and safety of others in handling firearms is “simply not acceptable”: Hilbach at para. 71, quoting Morrisey at para. 47 (emphasis in the original); Morrisey at para. 54. In Hilbach, Martin J. observed that in this context, courts have emphasized the need for denunciation and deterrence “… both to convey our society’s abhorrence of gun violence and to communicate to potential offenders that a significant sentence accompanies the use of a gun to commit violence”: at para. 73.

The mandatory minimum sentence in s. 236(a) of the Criminal Code is not excessive in relation to Parliament’s legitimate sentencing objectives. There are no reasonable alternatives that would fulfill Parliament’s sentencing objectives of denunciation and deterrence given the gravity of the offence and the significant moral culpability of offenders who commit it. Parliament’s prioritization of denunciation and general deterrence is justified in this context: Morrisey at para. 43; Hilbach at para. 71–72.