ontario news watch

Civil liberties, justice reform groups troubled by House’s fast-tracking of bail bill

OTTAWA — Two of Canada’s leading advocacy groups on civil liberties and justice reform say it is troubling that the House of Commons opted to pass a Liberal bail-reform bill in one shot Monday, skipping committee study of the legislation and sending it straight to the Senate.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the John Howard Society of Canada both say they met last Friday with Justice Minister Arif Virani and expressed concerns with measures proposed by Bill C-48.

They are part of a coalition of civil society organizations that argues the bill’s proposal to expand reverse-onus provisions could lead to more Black and Indigenous people being held in pre-trial detention. 

Canada’s justice system requires prosecutors to prove why someone should stay behind bars, but the legislation would instead put the onus on some offenders to prove why it would be safe for them to be let out of prison.

The Liberals introduced the bill after pressure from police, victims’ rights groups and all of Canada’s premiers to introduce tougher bail measures as a way to tackle violent crimes and in response to several high-profile incidents. 

Virani says he rejects any suggestion that the government agreed to fast-track the legislation for political reasons and defended the bill as having support from all provinces and territories.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 19, 2023. 

The Canadian Press