Saskatchewan supports Ottawa's plan to reform bail laws
The Saskatchewan government is signalling its support of the federal government's plans to reform Canada's bail laws, saying the changes answer its calls to strengthen the country's system.
This week, the federal government introduced Bill C-48, which aims to make it harder for some repeat violent offenders to seek pretrial release by putting the onus on them to prove why they should be granted bail. It will also add some firearms offences to existing reverse-onus provisions, and expand the provision of that measure in cases where the alleged crimes involve intimate partner violence.
The federal Liberals introduced the proposed changes in response to mounting pressure from provinces, police associations and victims' rights groups to strengthen the system amid a spate of high-profile crimes.
Justice and public safety ministers called on the federal government to “codify a reverse onus on bail for repeat violent offenders” during a March meeting in Ottawa.
“It is positive that both reverse onus for repeat violent offenders who use a weapon, as well as strengthened language around judicial consideration of community safety, have been added to Bill C-48,” Saskatchewan Justice Minister and Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre said Friday in a statement.
“We're hopeful that this language may be considered for all repeat violent offenders and will be reviewing the ongoing impact of these amendments.”
The province said Bill C-48 includes language that follows Saskatchewan's recommendation that a reverse onus be instituted for breach of release orders related to the possession of weapons.
Saskatchewan also submitted recommendations on strengthening language around the importance of community safety and requiring judges to provide written consideration of the impacts to public safety when releasing violent offenders on bail.
Brian Sauve, president and chief executive of the National Police Federation, said in a statement that the new bill is a “good first step,” but improving the system will require more resources, data collection, policy development and monitoring.
The association representing Canadian police chiefs also endorsed the Liberals' legislation.
Federal Justice Minister David Lametti previously said the government is trying to strike a balance between public safety and the presumption of innocence.
The Statistics Canada index measuring the severity of crime in the country shows the rate of violent crime has dropped six per cent over the past 10 years and more than 30 per cent over the last 20 years. But the rate has crept up almost every year since the Liberals came into power, and it is higher now than it was in 2015 when they first formed government.
Violent crime is the highest in Prairie provinces.
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre responded this week, saying he would go a step further if he was prime minister and waive applicable offenders' rights to a bail hearing in the first place.
Poilievre said he would bring in laws that would require repeat violent offenders who are newly arrested for violent crimes to remain behind bars throughout their trial — “jail, not bail.”