IRCAs are pre-sentencing reports that inform judges of the disadvantages and systemic racism faced by Black and other racialized Canadians. First developed in Nova Scotia in 2014 (with R v “X”), IRCAs have been used primarily for Black offenders, both adults and youth, at the sentencing stage of the criminal process. In Ontario, they are primarily referred to as Enhanced Pre Sentence Reports (EPSRs).
IRCA Reports and the Courts
The IRCA report provides information on the historic and intergenerational trauma and understanding of the accused’s community while articulating the circumstances of the individual for a judge to make informed sentencing and release decisions. IRCAs help sentencing judges to better understand the effect of poverty, marginalization, racism, and social exclusion on the offender and their life experience. They help explain the relationship between the offender’s lived experiences of racism and discrimination and how those experiences inform the circumstances of the offender, the offence committed, and the offender’s experience with the justice system.
IRCA reports may recommend alternatives to incarceration and/or culturally appropriate accountability measures within a sentence of incarceration.
In 2021 the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal delivered R v Anderson, a pioneer case that stated that the history of racism and marginalization must be considered in criminal cases. The Court found:
In order for an IRCA to be “credible”, it must be prepared to a “professional and authoritative standard” (para 109). This means an individual with specialized knowledge about systemic and background factors must be the author of these reports.
aspects of IRCA cannot be challenged, such as the existence of racial prejudice, since it is an established fact that the aforementioned continues to occur every day in Canadian society (para 111). The court even goes so far as announcing that a failure to consider an IRCA “may amount to an error of law” (para 118).
the application of IRCAs ensures that a sentence is proportionate to both the gravity of an offence and the moral culpability of an offender (para 114).
Since R v Anderson, the use of IRCAs to inform sentencing decisions has expanded to other jurisdictions and in August 2021, the Canadian Federal government announced their endorsement of IRCAs and proposed funding to provide these reports across the country. Also in 2021, Ontario Court of Appeal in R v Morris provided a slightly different approach to IRCAs than R v Anderson. In paragraphs 143 to 147, the court lays out the need to present an objective assessment, while avoiding appearing to take on the role of advocate for the offender.
As of 2023, Legal Aid BC has begun training for lawyer’s and judges to implement these reports in the BC Court system.
- R. v. "X", 2014 NSPC 95
- R. v. Jackson, 2018 ONSC 2527
- R v Anderson, 2021 NSPC 10
- R v Anderson, 2021 NSCA 62
- R v Chol, 2022 ABPC 41
- R v Morris, 2021 ONCA 680
- Anderson, Andrea S. Analysis: Considering social context evidence in the sentencing of Black Canadian offenders 2022 45-6 Manitoba Law Journal 152
- Impact of Race and Culture Assessments - Legal Aid BC
- Supporting Impact of Race and Culture Assessments - Government of Canada
- Presentencing Impact of Race and Culture Assessments receive Government of Canada funding - Government of Canada
- Impact of Race and Culture Assessment - African Canadian Civic Engagement Council
- Implementing 'Impact of Race and Culture Assessments' in the Sentencing of Black Nova Scotian Offenders: R v. Anderson - The Court
- Sentencing & Parole Project