St. Albert-Edmonton MP Michael Cooper said he is disappointed the Liberal government is putting partisan politics ahead of public safety by opposing Wynn’s law.
On Tuesday, the Liberal government expressed concerns over Bill S-217, also known as Wynn’s law, saying it could “unnecessarily complicate and lengthen the bail process.”
Sean Casey, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Justice, said although he supported the objective of the bill, it would impose too great a burden on the judicial system. Therefore, government would not support the bill at second reading.
“While I think that the Senate public bill’s proposed amendments are well-intentioned, they are not the solution to this complicated issue,” said Casey. “Rather they would import delay and confusion and would likely have unintended legal and operational consequences for the bail process.”
But Cooper, who is sponsoring the bill through the House of Commons, believes the decision to oppose what he calls “common-sense legislation that will save lives” has more to do with politics than the efficiency of the justice system.
“The Liberals provided no compelling reason to oppose Wynn’s law,” said Cooper. “Instead, for partisan reasons, they have abrogated their responsibility to protect the public.”
Bill S-217 aims to close a “loophole” in the Criminal Code by making the presentation of an accused’s criminal history mandatory during a bail hearing.
It is named after fallen St. Albert RCMP officer Const. David Wynn. Wynn was shot and killed by career criminal Sean Rehn, who was out on bail despite having 68 prior convictions including 12 compliance and breach offences.
Rehn’s lengthy and often-violent criminal history was never mentioned during his bail hearing.
Casey argued that bail proceedings, which are high volume and often conducted on short notice, require the flexibility currently provided by the code. Requiring prosecutors to lead certain information, rather than leaving it up to their discretion, adds undue burden on the justice system, which could lead to delays and the eventual staying of criminal charges.
In response to these concerns, Cooper told the House the information was “literally a keystroke away.”
“I would submit that between pulling up the criminal record of an accused and CPIC, which deals with outstanding charges, that information is readily available,” said Cooper.
Cooper said he would continue to lobby backbench Liberal MPs for support.
“This should not be a partisan issue,” he said.
Casey also argued that improving the bail system required a comprehensive approach that engaged all stakeholders, like the one currently being undertaken by the Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould.
The NDP share many of the same concerns as the Liberal government, said justice critic Matthew DubĂ© during debate, but will support the bill through second reading.
“It is important, given the tragedy that led to the presentation of this bill,” said DubĂ©, “that we give it fulsome debate through the committee process.”
DubĂ© hopes that committee work will help to address the question of potential delays, as well as how the decision could affect the overrepresentation of aboriginal populations in the federal penitentiaries.
Both the Liberal and NDP parties raised serious concerns about the reliability of the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC), the country’s criminal justice information-sharing system.