Bail-reform legislation doesn’t go far enough, Manitoba justice minister says

Manitoba justice minister Kelvin Goertzen. Global News / File

Manitoba’s justice minister says there are some positives to new federal bail-reform legislation, but that while some concerns around bail will be addressed, it won’t crack down on youth crime.

Kelvin Goertzen told 680 CJOB’s The Start that the federal government also needs to review the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA), which is two decades old.

“We needed to make changes when it came to adult bail — looking at what’s happening on the youth side, I don’t disagree with (federal justice minister David) Lametti. To some extent, there have been some good things happening on the youth criminal justice side for some years,” he said.

“We’re seeing some things change and I think it’s going to require us to re-look at that as well.”

Story continues below advertisement

The bill, introduced by Lametti Tuesday morning amid pressure from premiers, police and victims’ rights groups, includes reverse-onus bail conditions for those charged with violent weapons offences. If passed there would be conditions for people convicted in the last five years of a similar offence.

Goertzen said it doesn’t go as far as he and other justice ministers were hoping for.

“On the issue of reverse onus … an individual has to have been convicted of a violent offence in the last five years, and that violent offence had to carry a penalty of 10 years or more,” Goertzen said.

“We were hoping to open that up a little bit more so that it would capture more individuals.”

Lametti said he’s heard those calls, and while it’s not out of the question, he thinks the YCJA has worked reasonably well thus far when it comes to striking a balance between incarceration when necessary and helping young offenders get back on their feet.

Click to play video: 'Bail reform legislation is ‘targeted’ to avoid disproportionate impacts on overrepresented groups: Lametti'
Bail reform legislation is ‘targeted’ to avoid disproportionate impacts on overrepresented groups: Lametti

“Most people, I think, are trying to target the kinds of programming that works with youth and with young offenders in order to keep them out of the revolving door that is the criminal justice system in the first place,” he said.

Story continues below advertisement

Although he agrees the bill doesn’t go as far as justice ministers and others were hoping, Ken Dueck of Winnipeg’s Inner City Youth Alive said there’s reason for optimism based on what he’s heard so far.

“If this gets enacted the way it sounds like (it will) be, I think it could have a positive effect,” Dueck told 680 CJOB’s Connecting Winnipeg.

Dueck said he’s one of the many people who has been vocal — and angry — about the revolving-door system currently in place, and he’s hopeful that anger has prompted the federal government to act.

“There needs to be some anger driving this thing, and I’m really glad to see that this has finally come through now,” he said.

“It’s good to see some changes, but the jury’s still out on how this will be lived out in the community.

“We got into a place of unintended consequences, where individuals who shouldn’t have been released were being released and committing another crime. It doesn’t go quite as far as ministers of justice were hoping for, but it does go a lot further than we were.”

Click to play video: 'Feds table bail reform targeting repeat violent offenders'
Feds table bail reform targeting repeat violent offenders

Sponsored content