Judges need to ensure stricter bail principles are being upheld: minister

Click to play video: 'Judges need to ensure stricter bail principles are being upheld: Justice Minister'
Judges need to ensure stricter bail principles are being upheld: Justice Minister
WATCH ABOVE: Crime has been on the rise, according to Statistics Canada’s Violent Crime Severity Index. RCMP officials have told Global News that 53 per cent of the homicides committed in their jurisdiction have been perpetrated by someone on community release, parole or probation. ‘The West Block’ host Mercedes Stephenson interviews Justice Minister Arif Virani about his government’s bail reforms for violent repeat offenders. Minister Virani also addresses the recent attacks at two Jewish schools and a synagogue – Jun 2, 2024

Justice Minister Arif Virani says he wants to ensure principles meant to guide bail decisions are being upheld as police anecdotally report high rates of people on bail reoffending.

“Bail decisions are made by justices of the peace and provincial court judges around the country. They’re meant to be guided by basic principles. Two of the basic principles are, is that person a flight risk, do we think that we’re not they’re not going to come to court if they’re released? And secondly, are they a risk of reoffending?” Virani said in an interview with The West Block host Mercedes Stephenson.

“The fact that we’re seeing people who are let out on bail and then subsequently returning because they are, in fact, reoffending, means that we need to ensure that those principles are being properly applied by justice of the peace and by provincial court judges.”

At the start of January, amendments to Canada’s bail legislation came into force, reversing the onus for certain people accused of violent offences such as those charged with firearms offences and intimate partner violence. Reverse onus means the accused needs to demonstrate why they should be eligible for bail, rather than the onus being on Crown prosecutors to prove to a court why someone shouldn’t be eligible for bail.

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Virani said the goal of this legislation, Bill C-48, is to “make it more difficult” for “serious repeat violent offenders” to get bail.

Last week on The West Block, two senior police officers said they are waiting for more data before making a pronouncement on whether they see a change in what they and their colleagues have been experiencing.

“Between 2019 and 2022, in the RCMP jurisdiction, 53 per cent of those that committed a homicide were on some form of community release,” RCMP deputy commissioner Jodie Boudreau said.

“I can tell you from my own experience in Winnipeg, we see about 20 per cent of those that we’re arresting for violent offences that are, in fact, on bail. So that will be something that, collectively across the country, we’ll really try to watch,” Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police president and Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth said on the show.

Click to play video: 'Is bail reform keeping violent offenders off streets? Hard to tell, police say'
Is bail reform keeping violent offenders off streets? Hard to tell, police say

Crime rates have been on the rise in Canada since 2014, according to Statistics Canada, save for a sharp drop-off in 2020 during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Crime rates once again began to climb in 2021.

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Property crime remains the most prevalent, but violent crime has been on a consistent upward trajectory without a similar drop in 2020, based on Statistics Canada data.

Crime rates are still well below their peak in the early 1990s, with 10,342 incidents per 100,000 people in 1991. The 2022 crime rate was 5,668 crimes per 100,000 people.

“I think there’s no doubt that violent crimes have been increasing in terms of their crime severity index,” Virani said.

“I would say what we’re trying to do is address the problem on multiple fronts. So we’re making investments in things like border security and gun trafficking, making investments in things like guns and gangs, task forces.”

Rising rates of vehicle thefts have been in the police and political spotlight recently, with Virani touting $121 million to combat the issue. He stressed the strategy is to focus more on trying to bring down the organized crime rings driving the issue, as opposed to just arresting thieves.

“There are orchestrated criminal organizations that are domestic and international that are actually masterminding all of this criminality that we are seeing,” Virani said.

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‘Vile act’: Trudeau, Ford condemn shooting at Toronto Jewish girls school

Meanwhile, this week saw more instances of rising antisemitism in the wake of Hamas’s attack on Israel on Oct. 7 and response to that country’s actions in Gaza. Two Jewish schools, one in Toronto and another in Montreal, were shot at.

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According to Statistics Canada, Jews have been the most targeted religious group in police-reported hate crimes, with 502 incidents in 2022.

Virani says he believes police are doing everything they can to address these issues, and decried an overall rise in hate-related incidents.

“We’re seeing rising incidents of antisemitism. We’re seeing incidents of Islamophobia. We’re seeing, unfortunately, targeted attacks also towards racialized groups, women, LGBTQ2 communities,” Virani said.

“These are all of concern. The statistics that have been presented, particularly in the GTA region of Toronto, have been staggering, a 130 per cent increase over the last five years. That demonstrates the need to act.”

Muslims are the second-most targeted group, according to Statistics Canada, with 108 police-reported hate crimes in 2022. According to a November 2023 Senate report on Islamophobia, an additional 1,723 crimes were motivated by racial or ethnic hatred involving Muslim people in 2021.

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