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Canada, the federal government open to amending bail laws

TORONTO – The federal government is opening up the possibility of amending bail laws: “We will review amendments to the Penal Code,” Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti told CTV. “The Provinces have asked us to do it, the (provincial) ministers of Justice have asked us to do it and we are thinking about it”. 

Doubts about the correct functioning of the bail system emerged when OPP agent Grzegorz Pierzchala was killed – last December 27 – by a man who was wanted by the police because he had not shown up for a court hearing, on August, while out on bail: for him, the charges were of assaulting a policeman and illegal possession of a gun. Now he will also have the murder charge.

The case of the killed officer has attracted much criticism, in particular that of the conservative leader Pierre Poilievre, who has called on the government to “modify its capture and release on bail policy”. In January, the premiers of all 13 provinces also signed a letter urging federal liberals to take “immediate action” to reform the country’s bail bond system. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded that his government was looking “carefully” and “quickly” into the matter, while Lametti accused the conservatives of politically exploiting the tragedies, stressing that “these are not simply amendments to the Federal Penal Code, but of facts that also concern the provincial administration. That man – said Lametti referring to the wanted man who killed the policeman – had violated his bail conditions and should have been arrested earlier”.

OPP commissioner Thomas Carrique was particularly critical of the current bail rules: “Changes must be made to the legislation and decisions must be made that give due weight to public safety” Carrique told CTV. “I think we have the necessary momentum to make responsible and meaningful changes that will really have a positive impact on public safety. These changes – continued Carrique – should include a greater restriction when an offender is a violent repeat offender and has already shown a propensity to use of firearms. We, as police chiefs, across the country, are calling for greater restrictions on the most dangerous criminals, so that the safety of police officers and citizens is guaranteed”.

According to data from Statistics Canada, the country experienced a 5% increase in violent crime in 2021, largely driven by an 18% increase in sexual assaults. Homicides also increased in 2021 to 788, which is 29 more than the previous year. “Change is needed now,” Carrique said.  “We can’t go on like this”.

The Minister of Justice, Lametti, confirmed that the government will work “in good faith” but also added that “Canadians have the right to bail. It is a pre-norm right, a long-standing common right, because you are innocent until proven otherwise”.

In the pic above, Minister David Lametti in a photo posted on his Twitter page / @DavidLametti

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