Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak on behalf of my constituents of Brantford—Brant. In particular, it is very meaningful to me to have this opportunity to opine and provide some thoughts with respect to Bill C-48. In light of the UC motion that was passed, much of my commentary is now moot.
The time I have available provides an opportunity for me to share with this House that Bill C-48 is not the be-all and end-all to addressing the concerns that Canadians, premiers of provinces and territories, police chiefs and presidents of police unions have had for years. The escalating crime rate is out of control, and serious repeat violent offenders have ruled our streets. Bill C-48 is a step, but it is a small step on the path to pure bail reform.
I want to correct a misnomer. I have listened for several hours to several of my colleagues who have the view that the legislation itself is tabled as bail reform. This is not bail reform. This is a legislative amendment to the Criminal Code as it relates to the provisions regarding bail hearings. It takes four additional offences that put the onus on the Crown to prove to the court why detention should be necessary and reverses that onto the accused.
That may sound like a good idea. In fact, it is a good idea. However, it is small comfort, and I will tell the House why. I posed a question to my colleague a few minutes ago about the vast majority of the offenders we have heard about, read about, watched on television and heard about anecdotally from a number of people. They are creating chaos and havoc, killing officers, killing innocent bystanders, killing innocent people and maiming and wounding innocent people who were simply trying to catch a bus or a train, were walking a child to school or were going for lunch. These are individuals who are already subject to reverse onus provisions in the Criminal Code.
I want to explain very briefly that just because there is a reverse onus provision does not mean it is difficult in practical terms to discharge. The whole goal of a bail hearing presided over by a judge or a justice of the peace is to have an assessment of risk, whether it is the Crown trying to establish detention or suggest appropriate terms of release to alleviate that risk, or it is up to the accused and their lawyer to discharge the onus by saying they have a risk but the risk could be mitigated by this particular plan. That is the test.
If the judge or the justice of the peace, after hearing the evidence and submissions, determines that the plan of release proffered by the accused through their defence counsel is reasonable and could satisfy the test within the Criminal Code under section 515, a release is fashioned. That is what has been happening for years. It has allowed serious repeat violent offenders to get arrested and, within hours of being released, commit the same type of crime or other serious crimes, continually getting arrested and released. All of this has its genesis, its origin, in the Liberal soft-on-crime approach. I am not going to get into those details, because I have very limited time.
I also want to address another false narrative that I have heard from the government: that it has heeded to the calls of the premiers of provinces and territories and police chiefs. The government has to a certain degree. Those officers and those premiers did want reverse onus provisions for those four criminal charges. However, they wanted more.
For instance, the Liberals have still not answered the call from all premiers and territories asking for the federal government to conduct a thorough review of Canada's bail system. I have not heard anything from that side of the House. Second, they have ignored calls from law enforcement agencies who are pleading for a Criminal Code definition of a violent repeat offender and a serious prolific offender, and for improvements to the bail hearing process so that serious violent offences are dealt with, with the urgency they require, without bogging down the rest of the court system.
What I wanted to share with the House is that this past July there was a meeting of the National Police Federation. Together with that federation, speakers met with a number of premiers in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They produced a paper called “Smart Bail Initiatives: A Progressive Approach to Canada's Bail System”, which makes a number of recommendations. I hope the Liberal government will listen very carefully to them in facilitation.
For instance, the paper reads, “Recommendation 1: The Government of Canada, in coordination with provincial and territorial governments, should establish a national standing committee on Canadian criminal justice system (CJS) data sharing, which would collect, analyze, and report on current trends, challenges and best practices.” The second recommendation is as follows: “The Government of Canada, provinces, and territories should invest in deploying technologies that are proven effective at monitoring bail condition compliance. This would include an in-depth review of all existing available post-release monitoring technologies, and potentially the development of new technologies.”
One recommendation I highly endorse is recommendation 3: “Any jurisdictions using a Justice of the Peace (JP) to preside at bail hearings should establish a standard qualification for those bail JP positions, which are based on education and legal background, such as a law degree and five years of legal practice experience.” The sad reality is that the vast majority of justices of the peace we have in Canada are not legally trained. They come from myriad backgrounds. When dealing with serious, prolific violent offenders, they need, in my respectful submission, to have a legal understanding. They need to understand all the nuances and to understand how to read and interpret case law to determine what the best practices are in terms of finding that balance between protecting the rights of the accused and protecting the victim and communities. Sadly, that is not done enough.
Recommendation 4 is that “The Government of Canada undertake a national, systematic study of the CJS bail system which examines the most effective bail provisions that promote public safety and meet the CJS' objectives, including ensuring future court appearances and preventing the commission of new offences while on bail.”