Premier David Eby is welcoming proposed federal bail reform changes that aim to keep repeat violent offenders off the streets, but also urged federal lawmakers to pass them as quickly as possible.
Federal Justice Minister David Lametti tabled “targeted” changes to the bail provisions in the Criminal Code, in the hopes of giving courts more ability to deny bail.
Bill C-48 aims to address serious, repeat violent offenders with firearms, knives, bear spray and other weapons, as well as addressing risks posed by intimate partner violence.
While federal laws can get hung up, Eby said these proposed changes cannot suffer that fate.
“This can’t be a bill that is partisan in nature. It needs to be all hands on deck to ensure that it is responsive to the concerns that we are seeing across the country, that premiers across the country have spoken out about and I don’t think it will be acceptable to anybody from any political party if this bill becomes a political football or gets stuck in Senate,” he said.
Eby said it’s imperative the bill passes in this legislative session. The House of Commons is expected to sit until June 23, with the Senate sitting until June 29 or 30.
The minority Liberal government currently has a confidence-and-supply agreement with the federal NDP until June 2025, which covers health, affordability, climate change, labour, Rrconciliation, tax initiatives and democracy. Itrequires the NDP to vote in support of the government on confidence votes and budgetary matters.
The agreement also includes broad language to consult on legislation and quickly move bills through the House of Commons if both parties agree.
Introduced Tuesday (May 16), the bill follows months of anticipation and appeals from the provincial premiers, with Eby at the fore-front.
It follows several high-profile incidents involving individuals who committed crimes while out on bail.
Other proposed changes in the bill include creating a new “reverse onus,” meaning the accused should instead prove why they shouldn’t be detained. Typically, when someone is seeking bail, the Crown prosecutor should prove why they should be detained.
Changes also including expanding the list of firearms offences triggering reverse onus and broadening the existing reverse onus regime for victims of intimate partner violence, according to a provincial release, which includes praise from Attorney-General Niki Sharma for the legislation.
“We’ve been clear all along that federal action is needed to fix the core of this national issue. Given the challenges we’ve seen, I am glad the federal government has taken B.C.’s concerns seriously.”
Sharma added the province will be looking closely at the details of the bill, but the amendments “broadly cover the types of violence we are seeing in our communities.”