Reforms to strengthen Canada’s bail system and help keep communities safe to become law

News release

December 5, 2023 - Ottawa - Department of Justice Canada

The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that the criminal justice system effectively keeps everyone in Canada, and the communities they live in, safe. This means ensuring our bail laws keep people safe, strengthen public confidence in the justice system and respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Today, the Honourable Arif Virani, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, announced that legislative amendments to the Criminal Code to improve Canada’s bail system and promote public safety, received Royal Assent. These changes will come into effect on January 4, 2024.

These targeted changes to our bail system will help improve the safety of people and communities from coast to coast to coast. These changes target serious repeat offenders who use weapons, like knives and bear spray, as well as those accused of repeat intimate partner violence (IPV). Today’s amendments make it more onerous for accused persons to get bail if it is alleged that they engaged in serious violent offending involving weapons, specific firearms offences, or IPV. The amendments focus on reverse onus provisions, which refer to circumstances where an accused would be detained while awaiting their trial unless they can prove that they are not a flight risk, or that their release would not pose a risk to public safety or undermine public confidence.

Specifically, the reforms:

  • 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 persons accused of 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 when making a bail decision
  • commit to a parliamentary review of these measures after five years of the legislation receiving Royal Assent.
  • require courts to state on the record for any bail decision that they have considered the safety and security of the community in relation to the alleged offence, thereby increasing accountability to the public.
  • require courts to state on the record for any bail decision how they have considered the particular circumstances of Indigenous accused and accused from vulnerable overrepresented populations, as required by section 493.2 of the Criminal Code.

These changes are the result of our close cooperation with all levels of government in an area that Canadians care about deeply. The provinces and territories play a critical role in administering the bail system and in ensuring it operates as intended, so collaboration must continue to ensure everyone in Canada feels safe in their communities.

The Government of Canada recognizes that law reform is only one part of a broader solution. Improving community safety requires improved data collection, policies, practices, training and programs to foster safer communities and address the root causes of crime.

Today’s reforms to Canada’s bail system are an important additional step needed to strengthen public confidence in a criminal justice system that protects everyone.


“Our government is unwavering in its commitment to keeping repeat violent offenders off our streets and to keep everyone in Canada safe. Canadians should know that their voices have been heard as we strengthen our bail system. The changes we made target serious repeat offending involving weapons such as guns and knives, as well as those accused of repeat intimate partner violence. Everyone in Canada must be and feel safe, whether they are dropping their kids off to school, on public transit or grabbing a coffee. I want to thank all elected members who have acted in the best interest of public safety, as well as our invaluable partners and stakeholders, such as law enforcement and Indigenous partners, who helped inform this legislation.”

The Honourable Arif Virani, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

“When Premiers brought forth concerns regarding aspects of our bail system, we agreed with them – and got to work on introducing legislation that would address those concerns. With the passage of this bill, it will now be harder for individuals with extensive criminal histories, particularly when it comes to violence with weapons and intimate partner violence, to be released while they await trial. This is a balanced approach that will help keep Canadians safe.”

The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc
Minister of Public Safety, Democratic Institutions and Intergovernmental Affairs

“We are committed to promoting health and mental well-being while also protecting public safety. Our government supports increasing access to person-centered, culturally sensitive and trauma-informed mental health and substance use services, which includes providing support for survivors of violent crime and those impacted, while recognizing the need to keep our communities safe. We will continue to work with our partners to help protect Canadians while also providing compassionate care to those who need it.”

The Honourable Ya'ara Saks
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health

Quick facts

  • 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. The Charter also protects the right of an accused person 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.

  • These amendments were developed in close collaboration with all provinces and territories, including at a special meeting of Federal-Provincial-Territorial Ministers responsible for Justice and Public Safety on March 10, 2023

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Chantalle Aubertin
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Media Relations
Department of Justice Canada

Jean-Sébastien Comeau
Press Secretary and Senior Communications Advisor
Office of the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc
Minister of Public Safety, Democratic Institutions and Intergovernmental Affairs

Media Relations
Public Safety Canada

Alexander Fernandes 
Press Secretary and Senior Communications Advisor 
Office of the Honourable Ya’ara Saks
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health

Media Relations
Health Canada

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