Manitoba promises more Crown attorneys to focus on violent crime and guns

WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is adding 10 positions to its prosecutions service, with a special focus on violent and gun-related crime.

Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen says the new positions are to include Crown attorneys who will specialize in areas such as organized crime and firearms trafficking.

Crown attorneys in the province have long complained about high workloads and Goertzen says the new personnel could be in place within a few months to ease the burden.

He says the added positions will cost the province $1.4 million a year.

The announcement is the latest in a series of crime-related promises made by the Progressive Conservative government amid rising crime rates in both urban and rural areas.

In November, the province announced $3 million for a new specialized police unit to track down violent criminals, including those wanted on arrest warrants.

Goertzen said there's a growing need to address gun-related crime.

"With 3D or ghost guns becoming more prolific, both in Manitoba and across Canada, this has highlighted the need to have individuals … who can provide timely information," Goertzen said Tuesday.

Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth welcomed the announcement and said he hopes the prosecutors can also focus on dealing with new bail guidelines and help prevent violent offenders from being released as often.

A recent federal law codified a "principle of restraint" that was affirmed in a Supreme Court of Canada case, which emphasized the release of detainees at the earliest reasonable opportunity and on the least onerous conditions, based on the circumstances of each case.

"We're certainly experiencing some of that, where we encounter someone in the community as part of a criminal investigation, only to discover that they're already on bail for a violent or a gun-related offence," Smyth said Tuesday.

Some provinces have called on the federal government to establish a "reverse onus" system for specific firearm offences that would require the person seeking bail to demonstrate why they should not remain behind bars.

Federal Justice Minister David Lametti said he would give the idea serious consideration. It is on the agenda of a meeting of federal, provincial and territorial justice ministers scheduled for March 10 in Ottawa.

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

Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press