Strengthening Canada’s bail system to help keep communities safe
May 16, 2023 - Ottawa - Department of Justice Canada
The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that the criminal justice effectively keeps everyone in Canada, and the communities they live in, safe. This means ensuring our bail laws maintain public safety, instill public confidence in the justice system, and respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There are specific challenges facing our bail system posed by repeat violent offending, firearms, and other dangerous weapons that need to be addressed.
Today, the Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, joined by the Honourable Marco Mendicino, Minister of Public Safety; the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities; the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health; Gary Anandasangaree, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada; and Randeep Sarai, Chair of the Justice Committee and Member of Parliament, introduced legislation to improve Canada’s bail system and promote public safety.
Bill C-48 proposes to make targeted changes to the Criminal Code’s bail regime to ensure our communities stay safe. The changes would address repeat violent offending with weapons including knives and bear spray, gun violence, and intimate partner violence (IPV). The proposed reforms would make it more difficult for accused persons to get bail if it is alleged that they engaged in serious violent offending involving weapons, specific firearms offences and IPV. The Bill focuses on reverse onus provisions, which refer to circumstances where an individual would be detained while awaiting their trial unless they can prove to the court that their detention is not required. The proposed changes seek to improve the safety of people and communities across Canada.
Specifically, the Bill proposes to:
- create a new reverse onus targeting repeat violent offending involving weapons
- expand the list of firearms offences that trigger a reverse onus
- broaden the existing reverse onus regime for victims of intimate partner violence (IPV)
- clarify the meaning of the term “prohibition order” in an existing reverse onus for offences involving weapons
- require courts to consider an accused person’s history of convictions for violence and the safety of the community when making a bail decision
- hold a parliamentary review of these measures after five years of the bill receiving royal assent
The proposed changes are the result of ongoing cooperation and collaboration with the provinces and territories who play a critical role in administering the bail system and in ensuring it operates as intended. The proposed reforms are also informed by engagement with other partners and stakeholders, including law enforcement and Indigenous partners.
As recognized at the March 2023 Federal-Provincial-Territorial Meeting of Ministers responsible for Justice and Public Safety, law reform is only one part of a broader solution. Cross-government collaboration is needed to ensure all Canadians can feel safe in their communities. That requires solutions other than law reform, such as improved data collection, policies, practices, training and programs to foster safer communities and address the root causes of crime.
The Government of Canada is doing its part. It is making significant investments to prevent crime and keep communities safe, and address the causes of crime as well. This includes the recent announcement of $390 million in programs to help stop firearm crime and gang violence. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is investing up to $10 million per year from 2022-23 to 2024-25 and up to $6.5 million in 2025-26 to support projects that prevent family violence and support the health of survivors. In addition, PHAC invests more than $8 million per year to prevent gender-based violence. This includes health promotion initiatives to prevent child maltreatment, and teen and youth dating violence, and to equip service providers to respond safely to gender-based violence.
Canadians deserve to be safe and feel safe in their communities and to have confidence that the criminal justice system will protect them and work as intended. The proposed reforms are an important additional step to achieve those goals.
“We told Canadians that our government would step up and do its part to address how the justice system deals with repeat violent offending. Bill C-48 does that. It responds to the challenges posed at the bail stage by repeat violent offending, including offending involving firearms and other dangerous weapons like knives and bear spray. We know this law reform is only part of the solution. We are working closely with our colleagues across all levels of government to ensure that people are safe and feel safe wherever they live in Canada. That means being clear-eyed about crime, and what causes it."
The Honourable David Lametti, P.C., K.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
“Today’s announcement is a central part of our government’s comprehensive plan to keep Canadians safe. This begins with strong borders and support for law enforcement, where we’ve added resources, deepened cooperation with the United States and just last week announced nearly $400 million to fight gun crime and gang violence. It includes strong laws like today’s reforms, our ban on assault-style firearms and Bill C-21 – Canada’s most significant action on gun violence in a generation. Finally, it involves strong prevention strategies to stop crime and violence before it starts.”
The Honourable Marco Mendicino
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
“The amendments to the Criminal Code we are introducing today respond directly to the concerns raised by provincial and territorial governments regarding Canada’s bail system, and the need to pay particular attention to repeat violent offenders. Our government will continue to work in partnership with provinces and territories to keep Canadians safe.”
The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc
Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities
“Our government is committed to keeping our communities safe while ensuring that all people in Canada have access to the culturally-sensitive and trauma-informed mental health, substance use and addictions services they need and deserve. That includes providing support for survivors of violent crime, as violence and trauma can profoundly impact the mental health of people, families and our communities. We are ensuring free supports are available, like Wellness Together, 24/7.”
The Honourable Carolyn Bennett
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health
Bail is when a person charged with a criminal offence is released from custody while awaiting their trial. An individual can be released with or without conditions and if conditions are imposed, they must be followed. Not everyone who is charged with a crime receives bail.
Under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, all accused persons have the right to liberty and are presumed innocent until they are proven guilty. This means that an individual charged with an offence has the right not to be denied reasonable bail without just cause.
Canada’s criminal justice system is a shared responsibility of the provinces, territories and the federal government. The federal government is responsible for enacting criminal law, while provincial and territorial governments are responsible for the administration of justice, including most bail hearings and enforcement of bail conditions, as well as for most remand facilities. Several provinces have recently taken steps to address the issue of repeat violent offenders.
The federal Ministers of Justice and Public Safety convened the March 2023 special meeting of Federal-Provincial-Territorial (FPT) Ministers to discuss ways all governments could take action to strengthen the bail system.
Office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Department of Justice Canada
Office of the Minister of Public Safety
Public Safety Canada
Press Secretary and Senior Communications Advisor
Office of the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities
Senior Communications Advisor and Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Carolyn Bennett
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health
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