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The federal government tabled Bill C-48 on May 16, which aims to bring reforms to Canada’s bail system amid calls from Canadian premiers for changes to prevent repeat violent offenders from being let out on bail.
“We all have a role to play so that Canadians will feel safe throughout the country, and we are aware that too many Canadians do not feel safe. I think all of us know that there is a feeling that crime has worked its way into places we all thought were safe,” Lametti said during a press conference.
Bill C-48 will amend Canada’s criminal code to create a reverse onus provision for any person charged with a serious offence involving violence and the use of a weapon, who was convicted in the last five years of a similar offence. It will also add specific firearms offences to an existing reverse someone’s provision and these are often offences linked to organized crime.
The bill will also expand the reverse onus provision for offences involving intimate partner violence, and require courts to consider if an accused person has any previous convictions involving violence.
In Canada’s justice system, the burden of proof usually rests on prosecutors to convince judges why offenders should stay behind bars. Bill C-48 means in these cases, the onus will be on the offender to prove in court why they should be released on bail.
“Crucially, these proposed reforms signal that repeat violent offenders pose a risk to community safety and should not be released while awaiting trial,” Lametti said.
Lametti said while C-48 is important for increasing public safety, the federal government wants to ensure the law reforms do not make things worse for indigenous and black Canadians, who are overrepresented in Canada’s criminal justice system.
The proposed changes to the Criminal Code come after months of pressure from the provinces and territories to reduce the number of repeat violent offenders who get granted bail. Premiers had unanimously asked the government to expand the reverse-onus provisions.
Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said Bill C-48 directly responds to the concerns raised by the provinces regarding their ability to hold repeat violent offenders to account.
“We’re creating additional safeguards which will make it harder for individuals with extensive criminal histories—particularly when it comes to violence with weapons and intimate partner violence—to be released while they await trial,” he said.