Hate Crimes, Sentencing
For many offences, the Criminal Code prescribes only maximum sentences, giving judges wide latitude to determine fit penalties. Judges consider a broad array of aggravating and mitigating factors in sentencing. One aggravating factor is the motivation of racial or group hatred for an offence.
Parliament has embodied this common-law principle in statute. Section 718.2 of the Criminal Code provides, in part, that "evidence that [an] offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or any other similar factor" is an aggravating circumstance in sentencing considerations.
Section 718.2 encountered some political opposition. Claims were made that it promoted or provided special protections for the listed groups. Proponents countered that the provision did not substantially change the law, and that the protection of persons from hate-motivated attacks was not equivalent to promoting any but a law-abiding lifestyle.