OPP head says bail reform could have saved a young officer, as others doubt evidence

OTTAWA – The pinnacle of the Ontario Provincial Police believes one in every of his younger constables would nonetheless be alive had the Liberals’ bail-reform laws been regulation, he instructed a Senate committee Thursday.

However associations representing Black and Indigenous legal professionals warned senators there’s a lack of proof to help how the proposed reforms would make neighborhoods safer.

And so they assert {that a} mountain of analysis exhibits far too many Black, Indigenous and in any other case marginalized individuals are already behind bars – an issue they are saying the laws may worsen.

OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique appeared earlier than a Senate committee finding out Invoice C-48, the Liberals’ proposed bail-reform bundle.

He instructed senators he believes the slaying of Const. Greg Pierzchala may have been prevented had his accused killer been in custody.

“I do imagine wholeheartedly that this invoice, if utilized as meant, would have prevented (his) loss of life.”

The taking pictures loss of life of the 28-year-old constable final December renewed calls from police leaders like Carrique for lawmakers to enact more durable up entry to bail for violent, repeat offenders.

The federal Conservatives additionally pressed Prime Minster Justin Trudeau to take motion and inside weeks, the premiers of all provinces and territories demanded reforms.

Courtroom paperwork present that Randall McKenzie, one in every of two individuals charged with first-degree homicide in Pierzchala’s killing, had been initially denied bail on separate assault and weapons costs, however was later launched after a assessment. A warrant had been issued for his arrest after he failed to indicate up for a court docket look.

The Liberal invoice proposes increasing reverse-onus provisions to offences involving a weapon, together with sure kinds of firearms, in addition to to these associated to intimate accomplice violence convictions and even discharges.

A reverse onus shifts the burden off of Crown prosecutors from having to show to a provincial choose why an accused individual ought to be stored in detention whereas they’re awaiting a trial. As a substitute, accused individuals must present why they need to be launched into the group.

A consultant from the Canadian Affiliation of Chiefs of Police applauded the Liberal invoice as much-needed throughout Thursday’s listening to.

However its measures have prompted concern for civil liberties organizations, prison legal professionals and teams such because the Indigenous Bar Affiliation and the Canadian Affiliation of Black Legal professionals.

Christa Huge Canoe, a member of the Indigenous legal professionals’ group, instructed senators that Indigenous girls who’re victims of home violence are sometimes charged by police when an officer responds to an incident.

She mentioned shifting requiring such girls to show why they need to be launched earlier than trial carries the potential for hurt.

“There isn’t any empirical proof that this invoice goes to realize the general public security targets that it goals to,” mentioned Theresa Donkor of the Canadian Affiliation of Black Legal professionals.

“I utterly perceive that when any particular person life is misplaced that is a tragic circumstance and it is definitely one thing that we wish to keep away from. However the circumstances that we’re seeing within the information are definitely outliers. It isn’t that each single individual that’s launched on bail goes out and commits one other crime.”

Each she and Huge Canoe instructed senators that Black and Indigenous accused individuals are already vastly overrepresented in Canada’s jails.

Donkor warned that the Liberal authorities dangers undermining its personal efforts to deal with the racial discrimination that results in such statistics.

Justice Minister Arif Virani has defended the laws by emphasizing that its measures are particularly concentrating on repeat, violent offenders.

Throughout testimony on the Senate committee earlier this week, Virani pointed to help for the invoice from provinces and police leaders and inspired the Senate to cross it shortly.

He additionally requested senators to pay attention to how the Home of Commons handed the invoice with unanimous consent, permitting it to proceed to the Senate with out additional debate or examine by a committee of MPs.

On Thursday, the Senate committee mentioned the invoice’s potential affect on Authorized Assist providers, since those that reside in poverty and lack correct sources can have a more durable time accessing bail if the onus is on them to show the necessity for their very own launch.

Boris Bytensky, a consultant for the Legal Legal professionals’ Affiliation, warned that the measures may even have penalties on court docket sources.

If extra individuals are in pre-trial detention, that would add strain to an already overwhelmed system, he mentioned, and result in the withdrawal or staying of some costs if courts can not tackle them in time.

The invoice may backfire and have the other impact on public security than what the federal government is intending, Bytensky advised.

“Everyone shall be ready longer within the detention centres to get their bail hearings. And the one who could also be in there for a comparatively minor infraction that is been alleged will then be sitting face-to-face for various days with people who … have a a lot lengthier prison historical past,” he mentioned.

“Individuals go in and are available out way more harmful than after they went in.”

He added that if somebody loses their job or a spot in a therapy program as a result of they’re sitting in remand, “that is additionally going to make you extra harmful instantly due to all of the totally different stresses you are going to face in your life.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first revealed Sept. 28, 2023.