Shandro: Bail not appropriate for every person accused of a crime

At a media roundtable on March 15, Tyler Shandro, Justice Minister and Attorney General of Alberta, discussed bail reforms.

“(We’ve) been advocating, for over a year, for bail reform,” Shandro said at the roundtable. “That became more of an issue last October when there was a conference of justice ministers and public safety ministers in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. I think the provinces impressed upon the federal government that legislative changes needed to be made into the Criminal Code to undo some of the consequences of the federal government changing the bail regime in 2019 with C-75,” stated Shandro.

He believes the federal government went too far and the changes made with C-75 have made our communities less safe.

Shandro says it took from October 2022 until a week ago for a follow-up meeting to occur with David Lametti, Justice Minister of Canada. In January, premiers from each province and territory signed a joint letter demanding a reverse onus be added for repeat offenders and those accused of a serious crime.

At the March meeting, Lametti committed to move as quickly as possible to amending the criminal code and adding reverse onus. He also invited all the provincial leaders to submit suggestions for further changes they feel need to be made.

“That is a huge shift from when they weren’t going to make any changes at all,” said Shandro. “The federal government is listening to the provinces now. I will be submitting to Minister Lametti further suggestions on how to be amending the bail regime in the criminal code.”

When questioned about capacity in Alberta remand centres and correctional facilities, Shandro replied, “bail is not appropriate for every person accused of a crime.”

“Pre-trail custody is appropriate for folks who are repeat offenders or those accused of a serious crime,” he said.

He continued by saying there were cases of those who were in pre-trial custody and were released back into the community on bail, and some re-offended the same day. From the information he has, adding reverse onus won’t affect the numbers as the system is built to handle those in pre-trial custody.

Additionally, residential addiction treatment units are being added to remand centres. Shandro wasn’t certain how many remand centres currently have the units but said the goal is for all to have at least one.

“(The units are) encouraging folks for the opportunity to enter into recovery or enter into programming when they are in a correctional facility so they can learn what the triggers were and hopefully get out of the cycle of continuing to re-offend,” continued Shandro.

The federal government in session, and as Lametti has committed to adding reverse onus as quickly as possible, Shandro is expecting it will be tabled soon.

“If it doesn’t happen in this session, there will be a lot of Canadians and a lot of law enforcement members throughout the country who will be really upset.”

SAMANTHA JOHNSON, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News