The prime minister’s ignorance of a public safety bill aimed at saving lives is “inexcusable” said local MP Michael Cooper.
The prime minister was in Saskatoon for a town hall meeting Wednesday when he was asked about the Liberals’ stance against Wynn’s law.
According to the Canadian Press, Justin Trudeau told the 750-person crowd that he wasn’t familiar with the bill, but that he had confidence in federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould’s expertise.
“It is disappointing that Prime Minister Trudeau couldn’t be bothered to learn the facts about Wynn’s law before his government vowed to defeat it,” said Cooper in a press release sent Thursday.
Bill S-217, also known as Wynn’s law, was passed in the Senate by a wide margin last fall and is now at second reading in the House of Commons. Cooper is championing the bill that would make it mandatory for the Crown to present an accused’s criminal history at bail.
During second reading debate, which started Nov. 29, 2016, parliamentary secretary Sean Casey announced the Liberals plan to oppose the bill. He cited the potential for delays as the party’s main concern – arguing that the amendment would impose undue burden on the judicial system.
In an interview Thursday afternoon, Cooper said the Liberals’ concerns were unsubstantiated.
Presenting this type of information already falls within a Crown attorney’s duties, explained Cooper. However, the fact that it is being done in the majority of cases and not all cases isn’t good enough – as demonstrated by the death of St. Albert RCMP officer Const. David Wynn, for whom the bill is named.
Wynn was shot and killed by career criminal Sean Rehn, who, despite having 68 prior convictions, was released on bail. Rehn’s lengthy and often-violent criminal history was never mentioned during his bail hearing.
Bill S-217 would ensure the “loophole” that cost Wynn his life is closed, said Cooper.
Wynn’s widow Shelly MacInnis-Wynn also spoke in light of the prime minister’s comments.
“This law affects the whole country,” she said in a statement Thursday. “This is not about choosing political sides it's about saving lives and making our country a safer place to live.”
Last month, she and Cooper launched a petition called Wynn’s Law Now in an effort to garner public support for the bill. Over 4,000 signatures have been collected.
In an emailed statement, the justice minister sympathized with MacInnis-Wynn.
“I recognize the pain caused to the officers’ families, their RCMP colleagues and the St. Albert community and beyond. Situations like these must be avoided,” said Wilson-Raybould.
Although the government supports the objective of the bill, she said the government was examining bail reform as part of a larger review of the criminal justice system and would not be supporting it through second reading.
A vote is expected to occur between late February and mid-March.
Cooper said he would continue to lobby backbench Liberal MPs for their support once parliament resumed activities on Monday.
“I’m hoping common-sense will prevail,” said Cooper. “The government has taken a position, I think it’s the wrong position to take, but it is a private member’s bill and therefore it’s a free vote. I’m hopeful enough Liberal MPs will do the right thing.”