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LILLEY: Trudeau government won’t act despite calls for bail reform

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You can add police chiefs in Calgary, Peel, Durham, Brockville, North Bay and the York area to those of Toronto Police Chief Myron Demkiw to call for bail reform in Canada.

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The chiefs also generally have grassroots support, as the four largest police unions in Canada came out last month to say enough is enough and that violent crime must be addressed after a spate of police killings.

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The police voices are joined by major city mayors and all of Canada’s prime ministers, who are also calling for changes to the bail system to deal with repeat offenders.

But what is really being asked here?

“As a matter of principle, the judiciary must keep anyone who endangers public safety off the streets. And that starts with meaningful changes to the penal code, an area that falls solely within the jurisdiction of the federal government,” Canadian premier ministers wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in mid-January.

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While the Premiers generally called for reform and expressed an interest in working with the federal government, they made a specific request for reverse bail conditions for anyone charged with “the offense of possession of a loaded prohibited or restricted firearm in Sec. 95 of the (Penal) Code.” In a reverse burden situation, those accused of a crime must show why they should be granted bail, unlike Crown prosecutors who must show why suspected criminals should be given bail up to their process that freedom should be denied.

Demkiw also sent his own letter to Trudeau last week, echoing the comments of all 13 prime ministers while adding his own queries.

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Demkiw called for the law to be amended to allow only judges, not justices of the peace, to hear bail cases on serious weapons allegations.

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He also called for anyone who kills another person by firing a gun in a crowded area to be charged with first-degree murder, which carries a life sentence with no right to parole for 25 years. Additionally, Demkiw wants judges sentencing someone convicted of firing a gun in a gathering setting — like a nightclub — to have the power to require the guilty person to serve at least two-thirds of their sentence before she is entitled to parole. In such cases, convicted criminals can now run for probation after serving a third of their sentence.

The Trudeau government has said it is open to discussion, but that has been its position since provincial justice ministers raised the issue last March. Some provinces are now acting on their own, with Ontario Premier Doug Ford saying he will soon make changes in his province.

In British Columbia, NDP Premier David Eby has been very critical of the federal bail changes in Bill C-75 and called for problems to be fixed. Meanwhile, his administration is building task forces of police, prosecutors and probation officers to target repeat offenders.

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