By Al Beeber
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Will the federal government tighten bail restrictions to the satisfaction of the provinces and law enforcement agencies?
Mike Ellis, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services for the Alberta government, is waiting to see.
Ellis said earlier this month after a town hall meeting in Lethbridge that if promised substantive and immediate changes aren’t made to Bill C75, the province will be asking that the bill be repealed.
In March, the Liberal government promised to make getting out on bail more difficult for some criminal offenders. Those changes are aimed at repeat violent offenders.
On March 10, Ellis, Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro and ministers from other provinces were in Ottawa to discuss the bail system with Lametti.
“Public safety is top of mind, not just for people in Alberta but for people around Canada,” said Ellis in an interview after the meeting.
“The concerns that we hear is about repeat violent offenders, people that are part of that catch-and-release bail system,” added Ellis.
“We have a bail system that has been altered by the federal government, by the federal Liberal/NDP alliance in 2019. The bill was called Bill C75. They lowered the bar when it comes to bail hearings and that’s why people are being released that normally would have been held in custody before Bill C75 came into force,” said Ellis.
“So not exclusive to Alberta, right across Canada, violent repeat criminal offenders, people that have committed crime after crime after crime are being released and they are re-offending and continuing to re-offend. So myself and Minister Shandro and every other minister in Canada related to public safety and justice were asked to come to Ottawa several weeks ago.
“Our position in Alberta was this: the administration of justice has fallen into disrepute. The people in not just Alberta, but in Canada, have lost faith in the justice system,” said Ellis.
Unless Ottawa makes substantive and immediate changes to the Criminal Code, “we will be asking that Bill C75 be repealed,” added Ellis.
He said Lametti and federal Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino indicated they would make changes to the code but “the devil’s in the details. We don’t know, we haven’t seen the bill and we don’t know what changes they are going to make that are actually going to make a difference. So my response to that is essentially ‘hey, we all as provinces agreed to sign on that they have the commitment that they are going to make these changes. However, if it doesn’t have the effect that we hope – which is again to stop the revolving door justice system that is occurring, to stop the violent repeat criminal offenders from being released on the streets – then again we will ask that Bill 75 be repealed,” the minister added.
Changes to Bill C-75, according to the federal justice department “streamline the process by increasing the types of conditions police can impose on accused so as to divert unnecessary matters from the courts and reduce the need for a bail hearing when one is not warranted.”
The amendments also legislate what Ottawa calls a principle of restraint for police and courts “to ensure that release at the earliest opportunity is favoured over detention, that bail conditions are reasonable, relevant to the offence and necessary to ensure public safety.”