Conditional Sentence Order – In 1996, Bill C-41 substantially reformed sentencing in Part XXIII of the Criminal Code of Canada. The bill introduced, among other things, an express statement of the purposes and principles of sentencing, provisions for alternative measures for adult offenders, and a new type of sanction, the conditional sentence of imprisonment.
Generally speaking, a conditional sentence order is a term of custody served in the community as an alternative to imprisonment.(1) Some conditions that may be imposed include supervision, firearms prohibition, abstaining from substances, as well as reporting. If any conditions are breached, however, the court may convert the conditional sentence into a sentence of incarceration.
According to the leading case on conditional sentencing, R v. Proulx, “Bill C-41 in general and the conditional sentence in particular were enacted both to reduce reliance on incarceration as a sanction and to increase the use of principles of restorative justice in sentencing…Once the prerequisites of s. 742.1 are satisfied, the judge should give serious consideration to the possibility of a conditional sentence in all cases by examining whether a conditional sentence is consistent with the fundamental purpose and principles of sentencing set out in ss. 718 to 718.2. This follows from Parliament’s clear message to the judiciary to reduce the use of incarceration as a sanction. A conditional sentence can provide significant denunciation and deterrence. As a general matter, the more serious the offence, the longer and more onerous the conditional sentence should be. There may be some circumstances, however, where the need for denunciation or deterrence is so pressing that incarceration will be the only suitable way in which to express society’s condemnation of the offender’s conduct or to deter similar conduct in the future...Generally, a conditional sentence will be better than incarceration at achieving the restorative objectives of rehabilitation, reparations to the victim and the community, and promotion of a sense of responsibility in the offender and acknowledgment of the harm done to the victim and the community.”(2)
(1) Julian V. Roberts and Kent Roach. Conditional Sentencing and the Perspectives of Crime Victims:
A Socio-Legal Analysis. (2005), 30 Queen’s L.J. 560 – 600.
(2) R. v. Proulx,  S.C.J. No. 6
In 2009, Bill C-42: An Act to amend the Criminal Code (Ending Conditional Sentences for Property and Other Serious Crimes Act), was introduced August 6, 2009. The bill amends section 742.1 of the Criminal Code, which deals with conditional sentencing, to eliminate the reference to serious personal injury offences. It also restricts the availability of conditional sentences for all offences for which the maximum term of imprisonment is 14 years or life and for specified offences, prosecuted by way of indictment, for which the maximum term of imprisonment is 10 years, including: s.144 (prison breach); s.172.1 (luring a child); s.264 (criminal harassment); s.279 (2) and (33) (kidnapping and forcible confinement); s.279.02 (trafficking in persons for a material benefit); s.283 (abduction by parent/guardian of persons under 14 years of age); s.334(a) (theft over $5,000); s.3a8(1)(e) (breaking and entering a place other than a dwelling-house); s.349 (being unlawfully in a dwelling-house); and s.435 (arson).