July 18, 2024

Obligate Law

Professional Law Makers

Reforms to strengthen Canada’s bail system and help keep communities safe to become law

3 min read
Reforms to strengthen Canada’s bail system and help keep communities safe to become law

December 5, 2023 – Ottawa – Department of Justice Canada

The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that the criminal justice system effectively keeps everyone in Canada, and the communities they live in, safe. This means ensuring our bail laws keep people safe, strengthen public confidence in the justice system and respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Today, the Honourable Arif Virani, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, announced that legislative amendments to the Criminal Code to improve Canada’s bail system and promote public safety, received Royal Assent. These changes will come into effect on January 4, 2024.

These targeted changes to our bail system will help improve the safety of people and communities from coast to coast to coast. These changes target serious repeat offenders who use weapons, like knives and bear spray, as well as those accused of repeat intimate partner violence (IPV). Today’s amendments make it more onerous for accused persons to get bail if it is alleged that they engaged in serious violent offending involving weapons, specific firearms offences, or IPV. The amendments focus on reverse onus provisions, which refer to circumstances where an accused would be detained while awaiting their trial unless they can prove that they are not a flight risk, or that their release would not pose a risk to public safety or undermine public confidence.

Specifically, the reforms:

  • create a new reverse onus targeting repeat violent offending involving weapons
  • expand the list of firearms offences that trigger a reverse onus
  • broaden the existing reverse onus regime for persons accused of IPV
  • clarify the meaning of the term “prohibition order” in an existing reverse onus for offences involving weapons
  • require courts to consider an accused person’s history of convictions for violence when making a bail decision
  • commit to a parliamentary review of these measures after five years of the legislation receiving Royal Assent.
  • require courts to state on the record for any bail decision that they have considered the safety and security of the community in relation to the alleged offence, thereby increasing accountability to the public.
  • require courts to state on the record for any bail decision how they have considered the particular circumstances of Indigenous accused and accused from vulnerable overrepresented populations, as required by section 493.2 of the Criminal Code.

These changes are the result of our close cooperation with all levels of government in an area that Canadians care about deeply. The provinces and territories play a critical role in administering the bail system and in ensuring it operates as intended, so collaboration must continue to ensure everyone in Canada feels safe in their communities.

The Government of Canada recognizes that law reform is only one part of a broader solution. Improving community safety requires improved data collection, policies, practices, training and programs to foster safer communities and address the root causes of crime.

Today’s reforms to Canada’s bail system are an important additional step needed to strengthen public confidence in a criminal justice system that protects everyone.

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