Laws designed to enhance Canada's bail laws arrived in the Senate this week after it received unanimous consent in the House of Commons, but some legal observers are concerned about how fast it is moving through Parliament.
Bill C-48 was introduced in May by then-justice minister David Lametti, who was replaced by Arif Virani in a cabinet shuffle in July.
The bill creates changes to the bail system and places the burden on specific offenders - known as'reverse onus' - to prove they should be released from jail, including those who have been involved in violent crimes with weapons. It also proposes extending the use of reverse onus in intimate-partner violence, so it would apply in cases where an accused person was previously discharged for the offence.
The federal Conservatives have been intensely critical of the Liberal government on crime and justice. Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre has said that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has a 'catch and release' bail policy and has pointed to incident such as the killing of OPP constable Greg Pierzchala late last year. Randall McKenzie, one of two men charged with first-degree murder in the death of the officer, was out on bail at the time.
Mary Campbell, a former senior official at the federal Public Safety Department, said she has seen no evidence to back up her claims that the bill will have the desired effect on public safety.
If the Senate is doing its job, it will hold full hearings, she said. She called the bill's passage, without studying at committee a'sad day' in the House of Commons.
's so important to me,' she said.
The criminal lawyers' association, Daniel Brown, said that people of means might be able to meet the new reverse onuses by imposing strict supervision and release conditions,thereby deepening inequities in the justice system.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association said in a statement that it was concerned that the House of Commons skipped the normal procedure of studying substantial legislation in committee before passing Bill C-48.
Michael Spratt, a criminal defense lawyer, said the bill 'window dressing' unlikely to have much effect on public safety and criticized Mr. Virani for his willingness to bypass the usual process of studying a bill.
Spratt said the Senate should now ask questions, including whether there are constitutional implications.
Mr Virani has defended the bill's compliance with the Charter and said the legislation received input from premiers and attorneys-general across the country. He said that everyone in the House of Commons has decided to work on a non-partisan basis to keep Canadians safe.