The federal government’s Charter statement for its proposed bail reforms says there is “just cause” to deny bail if certain requirements are met.
Justice Minister David Lametti introduced a bill last month that would make it harder for some repeat violent offenders to seek pretrial release by putting the onus on them to prove why they should be granted bail.
Lawyers have raised concerns the law could be subject to a challenge under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees that anyone who is charged with a crime will not be denied reasonable bail without just cause.
The legislation would introduce reverse-onus bail conditions for people charged with serious violent offences involving a weapon, in cases where the person was convicted of a similar violent offence within the last five years.
Prosecutors in such cases would no longer have to show judges why an accused person should stay behind bars. Rather, the accused would have to demonstrate why bail is justified.
The Charter statement says the proposed law targets situations where an accused person is likely to pose a serious risk to public safety if they get bail.
It says there is “just cause” to deny bail if the measure is applied narrowly and if the denial is needed to promote the overall proper functioning of the bail system.
“The reverse onuses would result in a targeted restriction on the entitlement to bail under specific and narrow circumstances, rather than an absolute denial of release,” the statement said.
The Liberals introduced reforms after months of pressure from provincial and territorial premiers, police groups, victims’ rights groups and opposition parties to address ongoing concerns with Canada’s bail system.
David Fraser, The Canadian Press