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Creative Sentencing

Three men looking over seedlings in compartments on a table in an indoor nursery

The creative sentencing process arises when an investigation results in a prosecution and the offender subsequently either pleads guilty or is found guilty. "Creative sentencing" is a catch-all term used to describe the various options in a section of legislation that covers court orders relating to penalty. This section appears in various pieces of legislation and includes:

  • Any other measures the court may see fit to secure the offender’s good conduct
  • Bond or other monetary payment
  • Community service orders
  • Compensation orders
  • Providing specified information
  • Publication orders
  • Remediation orders
  • Stop orders

Judges presiding over cases decide if they want a creative sentence and if the proposed ideas are suitable. The judge alone can approve the creative sentencing recommendations brought forward by the Crown prosecutor and defence counsel.

Each project idea arises from the unique circumstances of the case. An attempt is made to link the funds to the geographic region where the offence occurred. And the prosecutors try to ensure that a link between the project and the type of offence exists. The form of such a link is hard to predict because of the variety and uniqueness of the environmental offences that are prosecuted in Alberta.

The amount of money dispersed each year through creative sentencing also varies widely, depending on the severity of the offences and the size of the companies involved. In addition, cases can take months, if not years, to proceed from the investigation stage to the sentencing stage. For these reasons, creative sentencing is not a regular, dependable source of funding for non-governmental organizations.

Creative sentencing is not like an out-of-court settlement and does not imply a less serious punishment. Creative sentencing is part of the punishment an environmental offender can face after a finding of guilt. While there are statutorily recognized diversion programs available for Criminal Code offences, creative sentencing does not fall into that category. Participation in a creative sentencing project can never justify withdrawing charges or agreeing to a reduced sentence.

Please see the FAQs page for answers to some common questions that potential recipient organizations have about the creative sentencing process.

Creative Sentencing Reports

As of 2014-2015 the Creative Sentencing Report is now part of the annual compliance assurance report.


For further information on creative sentencing, contact:


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Updated: May 11, 2018