Released on May 19, 2023
This week, the federal government introduced Bill C-48, which would amend Canada's Criminal Code in relation to granting bail to repeat violent offenders.
When Federal-Provincial-Territorial Justice and Public Safety Ministers met in Ottawa in March, they called on the federal government to codify a reverse onus on bail for repeat violent offenders. This followed a unanimous letter by all Premiers to the Prime Minister last November, calling for action to strengthen the country’s bail system.
"It is positive that both reverse onus for repeat violent offenders who use a weapon, as well as strengthened language around judicial consideration of community safety have been added to Bill C-48," Justice Minister and Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre said. "We're hopeful that this language may be considered for all repeat violent offenders and will be reviewing the ongoing impact of these amendments."
A reverse onus requires that an accused demonstrate why detention isn't necessary, which is a more difficult requirement to satisfy.
Bill C-48 also includes language that follows Saskatchewan’s recommendation that a reverse onus be instituted for breach of release orders related to the possession of weapons. Saskatchewan also submitted recommendations on strengthening language around the importance of community safety and requiring judges to provide written consideration of the impacts to public safety when releasing violent offenders on bail.
Bill C-48 amends the Criminal Code to:
- require courts to specifically consider when an accused has a history of violent convictions when making a release order;
- add new reverse onus provisions in s.515(6) for certain (but not all) firearms offences;
- add a new reverse onus provision in s.515(6) for the commission of a violent offence with a weapon, when the accused was previously convicted of a similar offence within the past five years;
- clarify in the bail provisions that a weapons "prohibition order" includes a judge's release order, for the purposes of triggering a reverse onus;
- add those who were discharged of an intimate partner violence offence to the existing reverse onus provision regarding repeat intimate partner violence;
- add a requirement that the judge, when making an order relating to release, include in the record of proceedings a statement relating to the safety and security of the community (previously, the requirement was only for a statement relating to the safety and security of individual victims); and
- include a mandatory five-year review of provisions to evaluate the impact of the reforms.
For more information, contact:Noel Busse
Justice and Attorney General