By Trevor Busch
Law enforcement agencies along with provincial governments have long sounded a warning about the critical need for bail reform in Canada.
The federal government’s Bill C-48 is under consideration before Parliament, which among other reforms should make it more difficult for offenders to receive bail. Both provincial and territorial governments have pushed for the bill to be fast-tracked.
Bill C-48 targets offenders with a violent criminal past, and was drafted after premiers and the federal Opposition pressured the Liberals for changes.
Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter fully endorses the need for change and to do more to keep violent offenders off the streets.
“Absolutely critical. I would say that bail reform is going to be helpful when we have criminals that are repeat offenders, they get a slap on the wrist, and get out without having any bail requirements or financial costs to set up any bail money. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, the first and primary responsibility of governments; in fact, the first reason why governments are formed is protecting people. And so that is the first responsibility. If we can’t protect the people from criminal elements, then we’re not doing our job. And that is absolutely critical that we get this right.”
Bill C-48 also seeks to expand the reverse onus threshold, which essentially means it would be up to the accused individual to prove to the court why they should be released pending trial, and relieves the Crown of the burden to show why they should remain jailed.
“When you don’t protect the people, people don’t invest, they don’t feel safe in their homes, they don’t feel safe travelling out going out shopping, downtown,” said Hunter. “This is the sort of thing that we have to address in a civil society, that protection or the ability for governments to protect people is absolutely critical. And this is something that I’ve talked to people about.”
Bill C-48 is currently being reviewed in the Senate by a committee.
“While we wait for Bill C-48 to become law, Alberta continues to make sure all criminals, especially repeat violent offenders, are held accountable for their actions,” said Mickey Amery, Minister of Justice, in a statement. “To improve public safety, Alberta’s government is strengthening the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service. New targeted prosecution teams in Alberta’s major urban centres, in addition to changes to the bail practice protocol, are just some of the steps we are taking to address violent crime.”
“The position of the Alberta government is absolutely clear: there is no safe haven in Alberta for criminals. The federal government must bring Bill C-48 into law as soon as possible.”