Posted on August 24, 2021

Judges Must Consider Systemic Racism When Sentencing Black Offenders

Danielle Edwards, Canadian Press, August 23, 2021

A recent Nova Scotia Court of Appeal decision on sentencing for Black offenders will help the justice system recognize the full extent of the injustices facing African Nova Scotians, an anti-racism advocate said Monday.

Last week’s ruling, which requires trial judges during sentencing to consider the historical disadvantages and systemic racism experienced by Black offenders, is “a turning of the tides,” said Robert Wright, executive director for the African Nova Scotian Decade for People of African Descent Coalition.


Justice Anne S. Derrick, on behalf of a Court of Appeal panel, ruled that compelling judges to inquire about the systemic issues facing African Nova Scotians could help reduce the levels of incarceration in that community. The ruling followed a change to the Criminal Code in 1996 requiring judges during sentencing to consider the particular circumstances of Indigenous offenders.

“This is not a conventional appeal,” Derrick wrote in the 5-0 ruling. “We are not being asked to find the sentencing judge erred in law or imposed a manifestly unfit sentence.

“The moral culpability of an African Nova Scotian offender has to be assessed in the context of historic factors and systemic racism, as was done in this case.”

The decision involved the case of Rakeem Rayshon Anderson, an African Nova Scotian man who was found guilty on five firearm-related charges in June 2019. Police had found a .22-calibre revolver in his waistband following a traffic stop in November 2018.

Provincial court Chief Judge Pamela Williams in February 2020 handed Anderson a conditional sentence of two years less a day, along with two years’ probation. She said her sentencing decision was supported by the results of an Impact of Race and Culture Assessment (IRCA) involving Anderson.