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House of Commons ‘dropped the ball’ on rushing Liberal bail-reform bill, Senate hears

OTTAWA — The Liberal government’s representative in the Senate is encouraging the Upper Chamber to pass its bail-reform bill “expeditiously,” while acknowledging the picture of what bail looks like in Canada is incomplete. 

Sen. Marc Gold confirmed during a debate today that the bail-reform package will be studied by a Senate committee, after the House of Commons gave unanimous consent Monday to pass the bill without study by MPs.

Many senators are voicing concerns about the potential effects of the bill and the fact members of Parliament declined to study it, with Prince Edward Island Sen. Percy Downe saying MPs “dropped the ball.” 

The move to fast-track the legislation also prompted concern from civil-society groups who say its measures could worsen the overrepresentation of Black and Indigenous individuals behind bars, and lead to more people making false guilty pleas so they can leave pre-trial detention.

The Liberals brought in the bill, which would make it harder for certain offenders to get bail, amid widespread pressure from provincial premiers and police chiefs for Ottawa to toughen up existing laws. 

Gold said the bill targets people charged with serious violent offences, but he acknowledged that not enough data is currently being collected about what bail looks like in Canada right now. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 21, 2023. 

The Canadian Press

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