Lawyers meet to discuss legal reform

Lawyers and policy-makers came together in Whitehorse last week to talk about ways to improve Canada’s laws. About 65 delegates from across the country attended the 94th annual Uniform Law Conference of Canada.

Lawyers and policy-makers came together in Whitehorse last week to talk about ways to improve Canada’s laws.

About 65 delegates from across the country attended the 94th annual Uniform Law Conference of Canada.

The conference addressed legal matters in areas of civil and criminal law.

Lane Wiegers, the director of prosecutors for Public Prosecutions Saskatchewan, is the incoming chair of the criminal section.

This year, 27 resolutions were brought forward by the delegates in the criminal section, proposing changes to Canada’s criminal code or other legal matters.

The discussions at the conference help inform policy changes at the federal level, Wiegers said.

The federal delegation to the conference includes lawyers and policy-makers from the Department of Justice Canada.

They study the resolutions that are passed, and often these “become the roots of legislative change down the road,” Wiegers said.

There is no theme to the conference, and each delegation can bring forward any change that they believe will improve Canada’s laws.

One of the issues under discussion was mandatory minimum sentencing.

A working group presented a paper comparing the usage and exceptions to mandatory minimums in different jurisdictions. They looked mainly at the U.S., New Zealand, Australia and England.

Currently in Canadian law, there are no exceptions to mandatory minimum sentences written into the legislation, although their may be other avenues for judges to get around them, Wiegers said.

However, “the idea of the exemption in other jurisdictions isn’t anything novel,” said Wiegers.

The purpose of the discussion this year was primarily to “get a handle on what other jurisdictions are doing.” The working group will continue to examine the issue over the course of the year, and may choose to bring a resolution about what Canada should do specifically at next year’s conference.

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