Mandatory Minimum Sentences in Canada: Know Everything

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Criminal law or any law can’t guarantee what could be the exact settlement of a case. It merely responds to a certain event and associated activities having a concrete base.

Therefore, the severity of crimes introduces different levels of the sentence. But is that practiced exactly every time? We’ll focus in this article on how the mandatory minimum sentences in Canada work, keeping in mind the matter.

The Idea of the Mandatory Minimum Sentence in Canada

Crime and punishment are connected. The practice has been worldwide that a person has the only way to expunge their crime unless forgiven. That is punishment defined by a sentence.

Naturally, the question may come how we can ensure if the punishment manifests equality or justice for both the victim and the accountable for a crime. Maybe, as an endeavour the idea of a mandatory minimum sentence came to ensure the minimum justice or discourage criminal acts. But, first comes the definition.

In short, a mandatory minimum crime is a predetermined lowest but obvious term for each serious or violent crime that the convict will have to go through once they are proven guilty.

How many Mandatory Minimum Sentences are there in Canada?

The Canadian Criminal Code specifies that a minimum sentence of one year in jail must be served for 29 offences. The bulk of these mandatory minimum sentences was established in 1995 as part of a package of laws relating to weapons known as Bill C-68.

Additionally, there are required minimum sentences for various offences such as child prostitution, gambling, creating pools, and drinking and driving. Every year, private members’ proposals to increase additional minimum sentences for offences including joyriding and repeat violent offenders are submitted to the Canadian Parliament.

Purpose of the Mandatory Minimum Sentence in Canada

Before going into the main topic, let’s take a glance at the objectives of sentences.

  • To officially condemn crime and criminal
  • To discourage engaging in a crime
  • To isolate criminals from society when it’s necessary
  • To help the offenders regain the normal life
  • To ensure compensation for the victim
  • To build a sense of responsibility in the offenders and also the severity of their criminal acts upon the community

Our further discussion will clarify mandatory minimum sentences and the effects.

Mandatory Minimum Sentences in Canada for Different Crimes

According to the Department of Justice, Canada, there are 29 offences for which imprisonment is the minimum sentence. Below are given mandatory penalties for various crimes.

Attempted Murder

We all agree that a murderer shouldn’t be spared without punishment. Some may wonder what could be the highest and the lowest sentence for that.

When it comes to the minimum sentence, the convicted person will get four years of imprisonment if s/he attempts to murder someone with a firearm.

The punishment can be extended to 5 years. That is when the criminal uses a restricted firearm or belongs to any criminal organization.

Being involved in this heinous act for the second time will add 2 more years of imprisonment, that is 7 years in total.

DUI- Impaired Driving

First-time impaired driving will cause the prohibition of driving for a year, and that’s the minimum punishment. DUI offence for the second time will result in 30 days of jail time and a 24-month probation period for driving.

The punishment rate increases by 12 months of probation, and the imprisonment can be for 120 days if convicted for the second time. However, the judge can expand the sentences if they consider the offence deserves the punishment.

Robbery with a Firearm

Armed robbery has a minimum of 5 years imprisonment for the first time. If there is a subsequent offence, 2 more years will be added.

Drug offence

Trafficking or carrying for trafficking drugs will be the reason for at least 1 year of imprisonment. The carrying amount exceeding 3kg or found with drugs near places like schools where the children are predominantly found will get a sentence of 3 years minimum.


The minimum mandatory sentence for kidnapping using a firearm (non-restricted) is four years. Being a non-parent and kidnapping children under 16 years or carrying a restricted firearm adds 1 year to the punishment.

Involving in the same offence again or being a person of any criminal organization, the convicted person will receive a 7-year minimum sentence.

Human trafficking

The minimum sentence for human trafficking will be at least five years if the offence involves kidnapping or aggravated assaults or causing the victim’s death or if the age of the kidnapped person exceeds 18.

Use of a Firearm

Carrying a firearm for the first time while doing any crime has a punishment of a minimum of 1 year imprisonment, and the second offence will take 3 years.

Discharging a weapon to harm anyone will cause 5 years sentence if the firearm is a restricted one. Repeating the crime will cause 7 years of imprisonment.

Sexual Offences

The minimum mandatory sentence for the person responsible for a sexual offence carrying a restricted weapon and intending to harm the victim will be 5 years for the first time and 7 years for the second time.

Possession of Child Pornography

The minimum sentence for this crime is 90-days if it is a summary offence. In case of an indictable offence, the penalty will be 6 months. There can be some differences considering several factors.

More About the Mandatory Minimum Sentence in Canada

Some situations may confuse or hesitate a person in determining the overall situation. We have discussed some of them below.

If the mandatory minimum sentence is life imprisonment

We better mention that only life imprisonment as a minimum sentence will be for the cases of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, and high treason. A convicted person as a first-degree murderer will be eligible for parole after 25 years.

Having a life sentence, a second-degree murderer must wait 10 years before parole. With a prior record of murder, in this case, the mandatory sentence will be extended to 25 years.

Being a prisoner of a life sentence, the convicted person can appeal to a higher court or may request ministerial review for pardon.

Pros and cons of the mandatory minimum sentence


  • It minimizes crimes
  • Unjust sentencing can be less
  • It eliminates personal bias
  • Mandatory minimum sentences preserve the social safety


  • It limits the intervention of the judge
  • The appliance is not always appropriate
  • There can be a lot of misuse of it
  • A person can do coercion through this
  • Mandatory minimum sentence often doesn’t allow to consider the whole scenario
  • It can increase the cost for a taxpayer
  • A person might be convicted and sentenced by mistake or in a wrong way

Last Words

More criminals in prison don’t mean the crimes are minimized. Also, less severe punishment can be more effective for people to correct themselves and return to a normal social life where people will accept them.

Not everyone agrees on everything about mandatory minimum sentences in Canada. You may find differences in practice, or the clauses could change. As updating a law is a natural matter. Maybe soon, we may see several reformations.


What crimes have mandatory minimum sentences in Canada?

As serious convictions, we can mention crimes like murder, impaired driving, sexual offence, etc. These have mandatory minimum sentences in Canada.

What is a sentence that has a mandatory minimum?

Selling marijuana and having a gun (handgun) at that time can be the reason a judge will give 10 years sentence. Here, a drug trafficking conviction and carrying a gun at the time of sale will separately prompt 5 years sentence. It can be an example of a mandatory minimum.

Do mandatory minimum sentences deter crime?

No. Mandatory minimum sentences don’t deter crime.

How do you avoid mandatory minimum sentences?

The government may consider pardoning if the convicted person calls for a plea and admits their guilt. That will follow several conditions, such as if the crime was not deleterious or if the person has no previous criminal history.