Ontario Judge Gives Black Man ‘Lenient’ Sentence Because Of ‘Systemic Issues’

David Krayden | Ottawa Bureau Chief

Ontario Superior Court Justice Shaun Nakatsuru gave a black man a light sentence because the judge believes Kevin Morris was a victim of systemic racism. As the National Post reports, Nakatsuru quoted from a report that he urged be read by “every judge on every sentencing of a black offender.”

The report says, “Young black Canadians who view the system as unjust are less likely to believe they should abide by that system’s rules,” which is a conclusion Nakatsuru says “is inescapable.”

In his own words, the judge explained, “I can understand why a man of your background — a young black man suffering from trauma with such limited opportunities; with feelings of despair; being influenced by others — may think that I will have that gun,” Nakatsuru writes.

Similarly, he did not see Morris running from police as a reason to enhance his sentence, accepting “systemic issues that have led to distrust between the police and Black men.”

The judge gave Morris a 15-month sentence, which Nakatsuru allowed was “lenient.” A jury had convicted the 26-year-old of possession of loaded, prohibited gun and other related crimes. The Crown was expecting Morris to get at least four years in prison.

But not so. Nakatsuru said even Morris running away from the police could be explained because “systemic issues … have led to distrust between the police and black men.”

He acknowledged, “It seems like not a day goes by without the media reporting yet another gun tragedy, sometimes very horrible ones. It happens in every neighborhood. It happens in my own. None are immune from gun violence.”

But the judge said that “reason must control emotion in sentencing … because … a sentence … must also be about the offender.”

Even though the prosecution strongly argued against it, Nakatsuru offered the conclusions of a report entitled “Crime, Criminal Justice and the Experience of Black Canadians in Toronto,” as part of his sentencing.

The judge read passages from the report that says black Canadians remain affected to this day by the experiences of slavery and segregation — even though both systems were exceptional in Canadian history. The authors — and the judge — suggested that this legacy has promulgated systemic racism in Canadian society that reduces a black person’s access to better education, jobs and justice.

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