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Broken Promises: A Response to Stenning and Roberts’ “Empty Promises”.

Roach, Kent
June 4, 2015

Source: (2002) Saskatchewan Law Review. 65: 1.

In 2001 the Saskatchewan Law Review published an article by Philip Stenning and Julian Roberts entitled ‘Empty promises: Parliament, the Supreme Court, and the sentencing of Aboriginal offenders.’ Stenning and Roberts argued that the section of the Canadian Criminal Code instructing judges to give particular attention to the situation of Aboriginal offenders is bad criminal justice policy. Their article attracted considerable attention from the national media, scholars, and policymakers. In response the editorial board of the law review invited a number of experts to comment on the Stenning and Roberts article. This paper by Jonathan Rudin and Kent Roach represents their participation in that colloquy. Rudin and Roach argue that the data Stenning and Roberts relied upon do not support their conclusions that the over-representation of Aboriginal offenders in prison is not a national problem and that Aboriginal offenders already receive shorter sentences than comparable non-Aboriginal offenders. Rudin and Roach maintain that the proper purpose of the relevant section of the Criminal Code is to reduce Aboriginal over-representation in prison. Furthermore, they assert that the section of the code can be justified by theories that relate Aboriginal over-representation to the unique experience of colonialism.


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