An Act to amend the Criminal Code (detention in custody)
In committee (House), as of March 8, 2017
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This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.
This enactment amends the Criminal Code to
(a) expand the grounds for the justification of detention in custody; and
(b) require that, in any proceeding under section 515, the prosecutor lead evidence to prove the fact that the accused has failed to appear in court when required to do so and the fact that the accused has previously been convicted of a criminal offence or has been charged with and is awaiting trial for another criminal offence.
- March 8, 2017 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
Statements By Members
March 8th, 2017 / 2:15 p.m.
Len Webber Calgary Confederation, AB
Mr. Speaker, later today, Bill S-217, Wynn's law, will come to a decisive vote. Members of the House will decide if the death of RCMP Constable David Wynn was in vain or if his death was the catalyst for meaningful change. Members will vote. They will decide if we are willing to lose another life, or lives, or if we will take responsible steps to protect Canadians. Members will cast a vote to keep a flawed justice system or a vote to improve our justice system.
We have the opportunity to honour the legacy of Constable David Wynn. We have the opportunity to make our streets safer. We have the opportunity to fix a loophole in our justice system. We have the opportunity to make a positive difference.
I encourage all colleagues to seize that opportunity and support Bill S-217.
Private Members' Business
February 22nd, 2017 / 5:35 p.m.
Marco Mendicino Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill S-217. As we have heard, this bill, which proposes changes to certain bail provisions under the Criminal Code, was introduced in reaction to the senseless shooting of a police officer in St. Albert, Alberta.
Words fail to express the sadness felt by all Canadians when a police officer is killed in the line of duty.
Constable David Wynn's family suffered an unimaginable loss, and I want to offer my sincere condolences to Shelly MacInnis-Wynn, her three boys, and the entire RCMP community.
As a former member of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, I have studied the many challenges facing first responders in the line of duty. We must ensure that all Canadians are protected by our criminal justice system.
While I support the bill's laudable objectives, I am unable to support Bill S-217, as I believe it would interfere with the proper functioning of our bail system by eroding at the independence of the crown and adding further delays in our courts.
Constable David Wynn tragically died and Auxiliary Constable Derek Bond was seriously injured after being shot by Shawn Rehn. Rehn, who killed himself after the shooting, had a lengthy criminal record, including crimes of violence and failure to comply with court orders. Months before the shooting, Rehn was arrested. He was not, however, detained in custody at that time. There was no crown counsel present at the bail hearing and the court was not made aware of Rehn's criminal record.
Clearly, it is important that those who preside over bail hearings have all of the relevant information before determining who should be detained in custody prior to trial.
As we know, in response to Constable Wynn's murder, the Alberta government did a comprehensive review of the entire bail process in that province.
Last April, the Alberta government released a report entitled “Alberta Bail Review: Endorsing a Call for Change”. This report, produced after consultation with key stakeholders, makes over 30 recommendations. The recommendations range from operational changes to resource allocation. Notably, the Alberta report does not call for the legislative changes proposed in Bill S-217. The report recognizes the complexity of both the problem and the solutions and the importance of engagement with stakeholders in the criminal justice system.
Here in this House members will recall that the Prime Minister has asked the Minister of Justice to conduct a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system, including the bail system. Specifically, the minister has been asked to strengthen bail conditions in cases of domestic assault, with the goal of keeping victims and children safe. The minister has been working diligently on these important priorities for over a year now and is continuing to work on their implementation, in collaboration with our federal, provincial, and territorial partners and criminal justice stakeholders.
As part of this strategy, the minister has completed a series of round tables in nine provinces and territories where reforming bail procedures is a subject of concern for many stakeholders. While public safety of course remains a top priority, major concerns have also been raised about the efficiency of our courts.
I understand that similar concerns have been raised before the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, which is also studying delays, and I look forward to reading the final report.
Let me turn to the bill itself. Bill S-217 proposes two changes to the Criminal Code bail regime.
First, under clause 1, it proposes to modify the grounds for detention under subsection 515(10) of the code by adding specific consideration of the accused's record to the third ground for detention. Under this ground, detention is justified when it is necessary to maintain confidence in the administration of justice. It is not clear why this consideration would be specified under the third ground, which provides a discrete basis for denying bail. The accused's record is already considered under each ground for detention and at multiple junctures in the bail process, both under the primary and secondary grounds. This amendment would therefore cause duplication and unnecessary confusion in the already established bail provisions, and it would benefit no one.
Second, clause 2 of Bill S-217, the one that has garnered the most attention, proposes an amendment that would mandate prosecutors to lead specific evidence, evidence of the accused's personal record, outstanding charges and breaches. Prosecutors would be required to lead evidence to “prove the fact” of a prior record, prior offences against the administration of justice, or outstanding charges.
This a higher evidentiary burden than is currently required. In other words, the bill could make it more difficult to detain an accused person in custody rather than under the existing provisions of the Criminal Code.
For instance, formalizing the evidentiary process could result in prosecutors having to call additional witnesses or lead additional affidavit evidence at every bail hearing. We know that the bail system simply cannot operate effectively in this way.
The bill process strives for accuracy in decision-making, but because of the volume of cases currently before the courts, the process also places a premium on efficiency, expediency, and flexible rules of evidence.
We must trust that crown attorneys will call the relevant evidence that they determine is needed and relevant and in the manner that they choose. The Criminal Code does not dictate what evidence a crown attorney should call. To do so raises the issue of crown discretion and independence, an essential feature and constitutional principle within our criminal justice system. Mandating crown attorneys to lead specific evidence would arguably encroach on this discretion. They must act independently in carrying out their responsibilities as officers of the court, as quasi-judicial officers of the court.
Of equal concern is the potential for these amendments to make it harder for prosecutors to quickly and efficiently prove past criminal activity. It is unclear how clause 2 would be interpreted. It could result in the presiding justice at a bail hearing scrutinizing the prosecutor's decision as to whether to introduce certain evidence and how it is introduced. This could potentially compromise trial fairness and the effectiveness of the bail hearing. At the very least, an amendment of this nature would require consultation and engagement with prosecutors who exercise their discretion ethically and professionally every day in bail courts across this country and who benefit from the current flexibility in the rules of evidence to ensure the best case is presented.
It is essential that our police and the public are kept safe from accused persons who belong in custody prior to trial. This requires that the courts, police, and crown attorneys have the relevant information about the accused, the victim, and the circumstances of the offence in a timely way. This cannot however, be accomplished with piecemeal legislation such as the one currently before the House. It requires a comprehensive strategy for bail reform and consultation with stakeholders who work with these provisions every day.
To summarize, the impact on the effectiveness of the criminal justice system has to be considered when any amendment to the Criminal Code is proposed.
The Supreme Court of Canada has emphasized the importance of bail hearings being held expeditiously and the rights of individuals to reasonable bail. This flexibility is an important factor to keep in mind when considering the amendments proposed in the bill. It allows the prosecutor in a bail hearing to lead evidence that is credible and trustworthy, but that might not otherwise be admissible according to the usual rules of evidence at trial. This includes evidence of prior criminal activity, outstanding charges, and administration of justice offences.
The Supreme Court has also repeatedly emphasized the independence of prosecutorial discretion, itself a fundamental principle under our Constitution. By removing that discretion of the crown to determine which evidence it will lead at the bail hearing, the bill arguably undermines that principle.
As a former federal prosecutor, I know that my fellow prosecutors benefit from the flexibility in the rules of evidence at bail hearings to ensure that the correct evidence is put before the justice quickly and efficiently. Victims of crime also benefit from the timely disposition of cases.
While I cannot support the bill, I do want to thank the sponsors of it for all of the work that they have done. Reform of the criminal justice system benefits from the input and involvement of as many Canadians as possible.
Private Members' Business
February 22nd, 2017 / 5:45 p.m.
Glen Motz Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill S-217, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (detention in custody). It has also become known as Wynn's law.
I would remind the House that this bill was named in honour of Constable David Wynn, who was shot and killed in the line of duty in Alberta, another senseless loss of a police officer that in this specific case was absolutely preventable.
I want to thank my hon. colleague, the member for St. Albert—Edmonton for introducing the bill, and for what he has contributed to the debate.
I personally attended the funeral of Constable Wynn. He died in the line of duty while I was a serving member of the Medicine Hat Police Service. I remember that we in the policing community, along with most of this nation, were shocked and outraged by, yet again, another failure of our justice system to protect our communities.
The amendments proposed in Bill S-217, as passed in the Senate, are intended to mitigate similar situations from happening in the future. The man Constable Wynn was attempting to arrest was out on bail, despite having over 30 outstanding charges before the courts, and a lengthy criminal record of over 50 convictions.
What is significant in this case, however, is that none of these previous convictions and outstanding charges had been mentioned during his latest bail hearing, allowing him to be released from custody yet again.
Bill S-217 amends section 515 of the Criminal Code to expand the grounds for detention and custody to include the fact that the accused has previously been convicted of criminal offences or is awaiting trial on other charges.
It also amends section 518 of the Criminal Code to require the crown to lead evidence of the accused's criminal record and outstanding charges at a bail hearing. Currently, across most jurisdictions in Canada, criminal records are routinely introduced at bail hearings. At issue, however, is the fact that the introduction of these records is not mandated or required by law. By simply changing the wording of section 518 of the Criminal Code from may to shall, Bill S-217 ensures that justices will have the information they need to make an informed decision on bail hearings.
During previous debate on Bill S-217, and heard earlier in my colleague's previous comments, the Liberal government has expressed some concerns. In its view, ensuring that decision-makers in the bail process had relevant information is not a simple task.
The Liberals say it is difficult because it requires up-to-date information management systems and fully trained prosecutors, police, and justices. They were concerned that the bill would create policy and legal implications that could result in a bail system that would not function properly for anyone. They also believe that the proposed changes would ultimately impart delay and confusion, and would likely have unintended legal and operational consequences for the bail process.
In an effort to alleviate and address these concerns, I rely on my 35 years of recent policing experience in order to bring operational real life knowledge to this debate.
It is important for members of the House and the Canadian public to understand the basics about the release of an accused person from custody pending trial, commonly known as bail. The present philosophy of the release provisions in the Criminal Code is that accused persons should not be held in custody except in unusual circumstances.
In simple terms, the release pending trial of an accused person is generally affected in two separate and distinct ways. First, depending on the offence and circumstances, an accused may be released prior to his appearance in court by the police, unless police officers have yet to establish the identity of the person, need to secure or preserve evidence of or relating to the offence, or they must prevent the continuation or repetition of that offence or the commission of another offence, or they believe on reasonable grounds that the person being released from custody will fail to attend court.
If the officer is content that the above have been satisfied, depending on the seriousness of the offences committed, the officer has various release avenues available to compel the accused's attendance in court.
On the other hand, there are basically four instances where police officers cannot release an accused, and it would be wrong to suggest they do so using their own release powers. These include where an officer believes it is necessary in the public interest not to release, and where the accused does not fall into certain categories of offences such as serious criminal offences punishable by imprisonment for more than five years. The other two circumstances relate to warrants without a release endorsement and warrants for serious offences committed in other provinces.
In these circumstances, an accused may be released as a result of a judicial interim release having been held by a justice or a judge as defined in the Criminal Code. The term judicial interim release simply means that a justice gives judicial consideration based on the facts and law to allowing the right of the accused not to be detained in custody prior to his trial. This is one of the most important areas where a justice must exercise judicial discretion. In all matters involving judicial discretion, a judge is independent of the crown and the defence.
For most accused persons held in custody by the police, this is their first appearance before a justice and it is the key stage in determining their status respecting release or detention. The justice will consider all facts presented by the crown and the defence and render a decision. During a bail hearing the justice currently may take into consideration any other charges that the accused is already facing.
Some of the considerations that are relevant for a justice in determining the issues of release have to do with the accused's record. The fact that the accused has a record does not necessarily in itself order detention. It is only relevant if it relates to the charge before the justice. Other issues include whatever charges the accused might be facing. Does the individual have previous offences for failing to appear or violating bail release conditions? Is the individual already detained in custody in respect of another matter? What is the gravity and nature and danger of the charges the individual is currently facing?
There are two basic grounds for a justice to consider for detention. The primary ground is: is it necessary to ensure the accused's attendance in court? It is only after after the justice rules on the primary ground that he may go on to consider secondary grounds. The secondary grounds are: is it necessary in the public interest or for the protection and safety of the public, which includes the probability that the accused will commit another offence or interfere with the investigation?
Public interest involves many considerations, not the least of which is the public image of the criminal justice system; the apprehension and conviction of criminals; the attempts at deterrence of crime; and, ultimately, the protection of Canadians who are socially conscious and law-abiding. This cannot be overemphasized too strongly. Much has been written about the attitude of citizens concerning accused persons being released and subsequently arrested on allegations of committing further offences.
It is important to note that as a matter of good practice, the police agency will always provide the justice with all relevant information, as indicated above, which should be considered at a bail hearing. In my experience, these records are readily available to police through various national, provincial, and local information management systems. Apparently unknown by the Liberal government, these systems that the justice system and law enforcement agencies rely upon are current and up-to-date, as lives depend on them. Anything otherwise would be irresponsible.
Further, the suggestion that changing the wording as proposed in Bill S-217 is not a simple task as it would require fully trained prosecutors, police, and justices diminishes the already proven proficiencies with which these professionals currently perform these tasks now on a daily basis.
I am of the belief that Bill S-217 would strengthen the criminal justice system and protect the lives of law enforcement and Canadians through the requirement of ensuring justices have all relevant accused record information to make informed decisions on public safety. I fully support this excellent bill and encourage all members of the House to do the same.
Private Members' Business
February 22nd, 2017 / 5:55 p.m.
Pierre-Luc Dusseault Sherbrooke, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak to Bill S-217, which was introduced by a senator and is now being debated here in the House, as we continue our study and consider passing this bill to amend the Criminal Code. We became quite accustomed to changes to the Criminal Code under the previous government. I want to thank my NDP colleagues who worked so hard examining this issue.
First of all, I want to offer my condolences, as most members have done, to Mr. Wynn's family. Constable Wynn was regrettably killed by someone who had been released on bail while awaiting trial. It is in this context that we are debating Bill S-217; we are trying to correct the flaw that made it possible for the accused in question, who had committed very serious crimes, to be released pending trial, at which point he sadly committed the acts we are all well aware of now. I therefore want to offer my condolences to the family.
I would also like to say that the NDP will be supporting Bill S-217 at second reading so that it is studied in committee. It is our role as legislators to thoroughly study issues, not just in the House when we give our speeches, but mainly in committees, where we study proposed legislation in depth.
In this case, we will focus mainly on the effects of this bill on our judicial system. It is important that this be studied by a committee; as such, we will support this bill at second reading so we can consider the wealth of evidence related to the issue.
Many people are concerned about the proposed legislation. Naturally, police forces are very concerned and expressed their concerns when the bill was before the Senate. The legal community is also very concerned by this issue because the bill would add a step prior to the release of an accused person awaiting trial.
Many people are concerned about this, which is why it is important to have an in-depth study in committee to determine the repercussions of this proposal. For example, some experts say that this could slow down the process. We certainly do not want that, especially when the justice system is already so slow when it comes to hearing crown prosecutors and defendants. There is already a backlog in processing court cases across Canada. It is important to address this issue because it could affect the length of proceedings.
This could have repercussions on the work of police, who are extremely important people in our communities. Crown attorneys could also be affected. I am therefore in favour of Bill S-217 and I think we will have the opportunity to look at its impact.
There are other issues that I wanted to raise and that could help inform the committee members. It will be important to ask the experts to address the issue of presumption of innocence, which is the foundation of our current system.
That is why accused persons are released in many cases. Of course, they will appear before a judge at some point, and that is when the crown and the defendant will present their arguments. In the end, it is up to the judge to determine whether the person is guilty or not.
It is important to consider the fact that, in our system, everyone is presumed innocent until a judge determines otherwise. This issue must be discussed because there is no need to keep people in custody until they have been found guilty of a crime. Since there are hundreds of crimes set out in the Criminal Code, it would not make any sense to keep everyone who has been accused of a crime in custody awaiting trial.
There are mechanisms in place to allow accused persons to go free because not all of them are a danger to the public. As I said, there are hundreds of crimes. There are economic crimes, fraud. The judge analyzes each situation and makes a decision on a case-by-case basis. Allowing accused persons to go free while they await trial does not always present a danger to the public.
We need to look closely at this situation, so as not to put too much of a burden on our justice system and our prisons. Keeping more accused persons in custody for longer periods will not be without consequences. In this debate, it is important to keep in mind that every accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, we need to give judges the discretion to decide whether the accused constitutes a danger to the public and the community.
In the case before us, the situation is profoundly sad, because the individual released had been charged with several serious crimes and then went on to reoffend by committing an even more serious crime.
Mechanisms exist that give judges the discretion to say that an accused person constitutes a danger to society and must remain in custody awaiting trial. Judges should have that discretion.
If our policies and our laws are too restrictive, we will be removing the judges' discretion to make that decision. Judges are in the best position, because they are the ones who speak directly to the accused and take all the facts presented to them into account.
There certainly is a need for an ideal mechanism, as laid out in Bill S-217, to take into account the accused's criminal record, including previous convictions and failures to appear in court. That can help the judge determine whether the accused is at risk of failing to appear again. If the accused does not appear in court when required to do so, an arrest warrant must be issued. There are consequences for that.
As we debate this bill, it is extremely important to keep in mind that judges must have as much discretion as possible to make informed decisions based on the facts of a given case. They are the judges. There is a reason we call them judges. They are the ones who judge whether accused individuals should be detained in custody or whether they can be released while awaiting trial.
In this debate, I want all of us to think about giving judges as much discretion as possible because they, not we in the House of Commons, are in the best position to evaluate each case based on the facts before them and to decide whether to release the accused or detain them in custody.
My time is up, but I hope to see the next installment of this debate in committee very soon.
Private Members' Business
February 22nd, 2017 / 6:05 p.m.
Shannon Stubbs Lakeland, AB
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to speak in support of Bill S-217, also known as Wynn's law. I want to congratulate and commend all of the hard work of my colleague the member for St. Albert—Edmonton in advancing this bill, as well as the comprehensive case that the member for Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner made earlier based on his long experience as the chief of city police. Our advocacy speaks volumes to both the family of Constable Wynn and the thousands of other families who have lost loved ones to previously convicted criminals.
For most Canadians, Saturday, January 17, 2015, was just a normal day. We were doing errands, visiting with family and friends, or going to work, but for the Wynn family, it was a day that changed their lives forever. It was the day Constable David Wynn was stolen from them. As we all know by now, in the early morning hours that day, Constable David Wynn and Auxiliary Constable Derek Bond were patrolling in St. Albert, Alberta, checking licence plates outside of a casino. After finding one flagged as connected to an outstanding arrest warrant, they went into the casino to arrest Shawn Rehn.
A career criminal with a dangerous past, Rehn had several warrants out for his arrest, one having only been issued a few days earlier. He had at least 100 offences dating back to 1994 and many of those charges included confrontations with police officers. Since 2010, Rehn had been sentenced to a total of 10 years in jail for offences that varied from possession of a prohibited firearm, to breaking and entering, and theft, yet he was not serving time in prison. He was walking the streets. He turned from career criminal to murderer in four seconds, all because of a loophole, a loophole that we, as legislators, can fix before this happens again.
We can and we must do more than express sadness, as our Liberal colleagues said earlier. We must act so we can stop this from happening again, because there is no question that Constable Wynn's murder was preventable. Rehn should never have been given bail, but in September 2014, after an arrest on several charges, which included possession of a prohibited weapon and an outstanding arrest warrant for failing to appear in court, he had been released on $4,500 bail.
During the hearing, there was no mention, no consideration of Rehn's lengthy criminal past, no mention of how, in 2009, Rehn attacked an ex-girlfriend. He choked her, ripped out her hair, and broke her collar bone. He forced that girlfriend and her infant daughter to sleep in a room with him while he held a loaded gun, because he was feeling paranoid. Was this recounted during his bail hearing? No. Neither was the fact that he was subject to a lifetime firearms ban, that he posed a flight risk, and that he had demonstrated over and over again complete and utter disregard for previous court orders.
This bill makes sense. It seeks to amend section 518 of the Criminal Code, which says that a prosecutor “may” lead evidence of a bail applicant's criminal history. This bill would change the word “may” to “shall”, making it mandatory for prosecutors to lead with any evidence relevant to accused criminals' pasts.
The bill would further amend the same section to include previous convictions, outstanding charges, and failures to appear as criteria that may be considered to deny an accused bail. Wynn's law would protect everyday Canadians. It would protect all of us and law enforcement officers from those who should not be out on the streets, like Rehn, by ensuring informed decisions can be made, enabled by knowledge of the criminal record of an accused. It is common sense and it is just.
This bill has received overwhelming support from communities all over Canada. The Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada, the Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness, and the former minister of justice and attorney general of Alberta, Jonathan Denis, who was in cabinet at the time of Wynn's murder, all support this bill. It easily passed the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee unanimously. Then the Senate passed the bill by an overwhelming majority. Rank and file law enforcement officers have given their support to this legislation, but incredibly, inexplicably, the Liberals do not agree and vowed to vote against this life-saving bill.
In November, the member for Charlottetown, when he was parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice, said Wynn's law would “unnecessarily complicate and lengthen the bail process” and remove discretion from the crown. The Minister of Justice has also said, “The measures that are articulated in this bill are measures that are in place at this time”, but they are not. This just is not the case.
Of course, many prosecutors do present criminal history at a bail hearing, but some do not, and that is the problem. That is the problem we can fix.
Bill S-217 would not impose any undue burden or complications on the crown or on law enforcement. It would not infringe on the discretion of a judge or justice of the peace at a bail hearing to make a determination on the question of bail. Decisions would still be made based on the specific facts and circumstances of the individual case, with a complete picture of the accused and the risk to Canadians.
This is not about politics. It is about a life that could have been saved and many others that could be saved as a result. I urge my colleagues opposite to do the right thing and support this bill so that another mother does not have to explain to her kids that a loophole helped kill their dad, that a preventable measure could have saved a life.
RCMP officers and all levels of law enforcement and first responders serve Canadians selflessly 365 days of the year. My mother-in-law, Dianne Saskiw, worked in the Two Hills RCMP detachment centre for almost 40 years. She has seen first hand the officers' brave and compassionate dedication and sacrifice and the important role of RCMP officers in Alberta's rural communities. Here in the House of Commons, it is incumbent on us to ensure that there are safeguards in place to protect those who choose a life of service and risk to themselves for all Canadians.
Constable Wynn's widow, Shelly MacInnis-Wynn, has been a tireless champion of this bill. On behalf of all Canadians, this strong woman is advocating for the successful passage of Wynn's law. Her determination and her courage are unwavering. Last summer, Ms. MacInnis-Wynn gave powerful and emotional testimony at the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee. She asked those present to close their eyes for four seconds. She said:
In those four seconds, a constable was taken away from his community, a husband was taken away from his wife, a father was taken away from his three sons, and a son and a brother was taken away from his mother and sisters—in four seconds.
Every day I wake up wishing that I could take those four seconds back, but I can't. There is nothing I can do to change that.
Every day I have to live my life alone, not have Dave by my side enjoying the moments we were supposed to have together as a family and as husband and wife.
Every day his children have to experience new things and new milestones without their dad.... They don't have any more chances to make new memories.
Changing this one simple word could save a lifetime of happiness for somebody else, and that somebody else could have easily been you. Dave was the unfortunate one that happened to be there that night, but it could easily have been anybody else.
Four seconds represents the time when Ms. MacInnis-Wynn went from being a wife to a widow. In four seconds, her world was shattered. In four seconds, a sister lost a brother, parents lost their son, a wife lost a loving husband, and three young sons lost their hero. All of their lives changed forever.
It will take less than four seconds to stand up and vote yes for Wynn's law, less than four seconds to vote for a law that would prevent future senseless murders and that would protect innocent Canadians everywhere. On behalf of the people of Lakeland, I urge my colleagues to do so.
Private Members' Business
February 22nd, 2017 / 6:15 p.m.
Kerry Diotte Edmonton Griesbach, AB
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise today to speak to Bill S-217, known as Wynn's law.
I would like to start by offering my sincere condolences and sympathies to Constable David Wynn's widow Shelly MacInnes-Wynn, and her entire family.
I would also like to thank the member for St. Albert—Edmonton for his tireless work on Wynn's law. He has done an incredible job.
When Constable Wynn was shot and killed in the line of duty, it pointed to a dangerous loophole in the Canadian justice system. His killer Shawn Rehn was a career criminal who was out on bail. His killer was granted bail despite the fact that he had more than 50 prior criminal convictions, 38 outstanding charges, as well as arrest warrants for failing to appear in court. That is incredible. It seems unreal that an accused with this type of criminal record would be granted bail. However, we now know that his extensive criminal history was not brought to the attention of the person presiding over his bail hearing, which is shameful. While it is common practice that the prosecutor provide a judge or justice of the peace with the bail applicant's criminal history, it is not legally required. It is difficult to imagine that Shawn Rehn would have been granted bail had his full criminal history been disclosed.
It is an absolute tragedy that Constable Wynn had to die. His death could have been prevented. This tragedy points to a serious loophole in our Criminal Code that must be addressed. The safety and security of Canadians should be the priority for any government. We cannot go back and prevent the death of Constable Wynn, but we can respond in the present by closing the loophole that led to his death. I believe that Wynn's law is the logical response to this tragic event. Wynn's law would require prosecutors to disclose a bail applicant's criminal history at a bail hearing. It is very simple. It would also mandate that failures to appear in court must be disclosed. This legislation introduces a simple measure that has the potential to save lives and increase public safety.
My constituents in the neighbouring riding of Edmonton Griesbach have been very vocal in their support of this bill. At community events, many have told me that they strongly support passing this legislation. I have also received written feedback from hundreds of constituents with respect to Wynn's law. I would like to share some of the feedback that I have received from my constituents on Wynn's law.
Doris wrote, “It's only common sense that previous charges be included in bail hearings, especially in cases where [there is] a long record of breaking laws and ignoring court dates.”
Stanley wrote, “It will help stop innocent lives [from] being taken by dangerous criminals. Plus a lot of lives could have been saved if this law had been in effect long ago.”
Jeanne wrote, “I find it 'criminal' not to pass this law. Shame on the Liberals! Do the right thing!”
Cathy wrote, “Wynn's law is a must!!!”
Susan wrote, “Judges can't make proper decisions without full disclosure of a criminal's history. Get this law put through. Police and public safety should always come before a dangerous criminal.”
I cannot stress enough to the House that these are real people with real feedback. I am speaking for them.
Bob wrote me to say, “This [Constable Wynn] could be any one of us. The judge definitely needs to be aware of a criminal's past history in order to bring about a fair judgment”.
Wendy wrote me to say, “Judges need full disclosure of the criminal's past in order to make a decision that is best for society, not for the criminal”.
Daryl wrote me to say, “Not passing this law is irresponsible and an insult to law-abiding citizens”.
Herb wrote me to say, “Wynn's law should be passed immediately”. I hear Herb.
Glen wrote me to say, “[Wynn's law] should have been done years ago”.
Al wrote me to say, “[Wynn's law], it's a no-brainer bill”.
Perhaps that last comment summarizes it the best. Wynn's law is common-sense legislation. Our judges and justices of the peace cannot be expected to make a fair ruling at a bail hearing without all of the relevant facts.
Again, Wynn's law is a no-brainer. My constituents get it. Canadians across the country get it. Why do the Liberals not get it?
It is time the Liberal government put the safety and security of law-abiding Canadians ahead of criminals.
Private Members' Business
February 22nd, 2017 / 6:20 p.m.
Arnold Viersen Peace River—Westlock, AB
Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to rise to speak to Wynn's law as well. I would like to thank the member for St. Albert—Edmonton for bringing the bill forward. He has been a tireless champion on it, and has worked with me in my riding as well to raise awareness of the issue. I would like to thank him for all his efforts.
This issue hit us pretty close to home in northern Alberta. I will start by backing up a bit. We all remember the events that took place in 2005 in Mayerthorpe, where four police officers were gunned down. That was right near my riding. That was something that rocked the nation at the time, so the day that David Wynn was killed brought back all those memories.
I know my own communities were reeling with those memories. We all thought those days were behind us, that we were not going to see another police officer fall in the line of duty in northern Alberta again. However, there we were a few short years later, and another fallen officer. I remember the day well when we heard on the radio that a police officer had been checking licence plates in the parking lot at the casino, and that had led to him being gunned down.
For me, that was an introspective point in my life. I thought about my time as an automotive mechanic. I was working in Barrhead. I thought that guy probably went to work today thinking it was just another day of work, the same as I did. I am sure he kissed his wife goodbye, and said goodbye to his sons, but never thought he would not see them again in the evening, or whenever he got off his shift. That is a powerful feeling. He was of a similar age to what I am now, and I know the feelings I have every evening when I come home and see my kids. David Wynn is a real story of humanity. The fact that he chose the career as a police officer to protect his community is profound.
I would like to thank all those who stand in the line of duty, protecting our communities and working hard every day. Some of my colleagues with whom I sit here have done that as well. I take my hat off to them. Through the process of the bill progressing, I have had an opportunity to chat with the member for Yellowhead, who is a former police officer. He worked in the RCMP for over 25 years. He has some great stories about protecting communities and things like that. He also says there are some more ugly sides to it. The bill we have before us today, termed Wynn's law, elicits those feelings of the times when we really see where our police force members put their lives on the line, quite literally.
I remember just sitting in my vehicle that day. I heard it over the radio on my drive to work in the morning. I remember thinking, what are we going to do next? How do we solve a problem like this? For me, at the time it seemed beyond my grasp to see how we would solve an issue like this. There are people out there for whom there seems to be no solution.
Today, we cannot reverse the actions of this individual. We cannot reverse the life taken, but we can, in honour of his memory, stand up in this place. That is one of the huge privileges we all have as we stand or sit in this place. We have the ability to see wrongs of the past, and issues that have places and areas in law where we can actually make a big difference. I know this is one of the things I continually say whenever anyone asks me why I pursued becoming a member of Parliament, it is to make a difference, to do something good in the world.
Bill S-217, in light of the situation around it, entitled “Wynn's law” is, to me, the whole reason why we are here today. It is to solve some of these problems we see in the world, to make the world a better place, and work to close a loophole.
I am sometimes frustrated by lawyers. The very first time I met the member for St. Albert—Edmonton, I asked him what he did, and he told me he was a lawyer. I said that we need more rule of law and less rule of lawyers. However, there are times when having a keen legal mind on some of these things, and seeing how we can, through the rule of law, solve some of these problems in the world, is much appreciated.
I typically see things from 30,000 feet, in broad strokes. With this particular bill, just a change of the word “may” to “shall” could make all the difference. It could make the difference between someone being out on the street and later killing someone and someone being kept incarcerated so that he or she is not out on the street gunning down police officers. That, to me, is profound.
I take my hat off to the member for St. Albert—Edmonton for even knowing about this in the first place, although I will say that if members need to know anything, the member for St. Albert—Edmonton is a walking encyclopedia. There is no doubt about that, particularly when it comes to this place. If members want to know the name of the riding a member represents and how many votes that person won by, they should ask the member for St. Albert—Edmonton. He will tell them lickety-split. There is no doubt about that. It is no wonder he would come up with such a profound bill in this place. He knows the workings of this place well. He has been at it a long time. I take my hat off to him.
I am fairly emotionally attached to this whole issue, but I was at a bit of a loss as to how to deal with it. At the time, I was not even considering being elected, but now that I am here, I am very happy to be standing in this place and arguing in defence of Wynn's law. It is a concrete action that could be taken to do two things: to recognize the sacrifice of Mr. Wynn and to make sure that it does not happen again.
We know that after the fallen four in Mayerthorpe happened, we all said, “Never again”, and we honoured their memory. There is now a national memorial in the town of Mayerthorpe that I drive by often. However, the passing of David Wynn struck just too close to home.
I plead for everyone to support the bill. I think it is a bill that is long overdue. It is a monument to the hard work of the member for St. Albert—Edmonton but would also be a monument to David Wynn, who lost his life on that fateful day.
Private Members' Business
February 22nd, 2017 / 6:30 p.m.
Michael Cooper St. Albert—Edmonton, AB
Mr. Speaker, let me just say at the outset that I want to acknowledge the hard work of Senator Bob Runciman in championing this bill in the Senate, as well as my predecessor, Brent Rathgeber, who introduced a similar bill in the last Parliament.
The essence of Bill S-217, known as Wynn's law, is about changing one word in the Criminal Code, one word, to change a loophole that cost Constable David Wynn his life when he was murdered, a loophole that imposed a life sentence on Auxiliary Constable Derek Bond, who forever will have to live with the consequences of being shot at close range.
Constable David Wynn should be with us today, but he is not, and Auxiliary Constable Bond should not be living a life sentence of hell, but he is. The change of one word in the Criminal Code could have made all the difference, and that one word change is to change “may” to “shall” in section 518 of the Criminal Code to make it mandatory for prosecutors to lead evidence of the criminal history of bail applicants.
The criminal history of bail applicants is always relevant and material to determine the question of bail. It is always relevant and material because without such information, it is not possible for judges or magistrates to properly exercise their discretion as to whether someone should be kept behind bars or let out on to the street, and yet, section 518 of the Criminal Code provides that it is discretionary whether this information is brought forward. It simply does not make sense, and Wynn's law would fix that.
There have been some who have said that Wynn's law is unnecessary because the criminal history of bail applicants is almost always put forward. I say to those critics that simply is not good enough. It is not good enough for Constable Wynn, who is no longer with us. It is not good enough for Constable Wynn's family, who lost a husband, a father, and a brother. It is not good enough for my community of St. Albert, which lost a brave constable who ultimately gave his life to keep my community safe. It is not good enough for Auxiliary Constable Bond and his family, whose lives have forever been changed.
It simply is not good enough that the criminal history of bail applicants is almost always put forward. The criminal history of bail applicants must always be put forward so that what happened to Constable Wynn and Auxiliary Constable Bond never happens again.
Some critics of Wynn's law say that it would cause delay in our justice system. I say how could that be, given that such information is a keystroke away and, at most, a phone call away?
In closing, let me say that we must never forget Constable Wynn and Auxiliary Constable Bond. We have a responsibility as parliamentarians to close this fatal loophole in the Criminal Code. We owe it to Constable Wynn, and we owe it to Auxiliary Constable Bond, and we owe it to Canadians.
Private Members' Business
November 29th, 2016 / 6:35 p.m.
Michael Cooper St. Albert—Edmonton, AB
moved that Bill S-217, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (detention in custody), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise this evening to sponsor Bill S-217, known as Wynn's law, named in honour of the late Constable David Wynn, who was shot and killed in the line of duty.
On January 17, 2015, in the early morning hours, Constable Wynn and Auxiliary Constable Derek Bond were undertaking a routine inspection of licence plates outside a casino in St. Albert. In the course of undertaking that inspection of licence plates, they discovered a licence plate that was connected to an individual for whom there was an arrest warrant. As a result, Constable Wynn and Auxiliary Constable Bond proceeded into the casino to arrest the individual. Upon entering the casino to apprehend the individual, shots were fired at Auxiliary Constable Bond, who was shot, and tragically, Constable David Wynn was shot and killed.
Any time a police officer is murdered in the line of duty, it is not only a tragedy; it is an outrage. However, what makes the murder of Constable Wynn that much worse is that it was completely preventable. Constable Wynn's killer was out on bail at the time. He was out on bail notwithstanding the fact that he had more than 50 prior criminal convictions, including convictions for weapons offences and multiple violent offences. On top of 50 prior criminal convictions, he had at least 38 outstanding charges, and to top it off, he had numerous failures to appear in court. Yet, there he was, out on the streets in our community of St. Albert unbeknownst to the public.
The murder of Constable Wynn prompted the RCMP commissioner to ask how it was that someone with the criminal history of Constable Wynn's killer could walk among us. The reason someone like Constable Wynn's killer could walk among us, and was walking among us, was that the criminal history that he had was not disclosed at the bail application hearing; not the 50 prior criminal convictions, not the at least 38 outstanding charges, not the multiple failures to appear, not anything. One of the reasons why the criminal history of Constable Wynn's killer was not disclosed is that section 518 of the Criminal Code provides that it is discretionary for a prosecutor to disclose the criminal history of someone seeking bail. Bill S-217 seeks to close this glaring loophole in the Criminal Code by requiring prosecutors to lead evidence of the criminal history of an accused, including prior convictions, outstanding charges, and failures to appear.
There is no doubt in my mind, and there is no doubt in the mind of Shelly MacInnis-Wynn, the widow of the late Constable David Wynn, that had Wynn's law been the law at the time that Constable Wynn was murdered, Constable Wynn's killer would have been kept behind bars where he belonged and Constable Wynn would be alive today.
At this time I would like to talk a bit about what Bill S-217 would do and what it would not do.
Bill S-217 would not impose any new undue burden on prosecutors. It would not impose any new undue burden on law enforcement. It would not in any way take away or interfere with the discretion of a magistrate or a judge to determine the question of bail based upon all of the facts and circumstances in each individual case. Bill S-217 would ensure that all information that is relevant and material at a bail application hearing would be brought forward to the attention of the judge or justice of the peace, so that the judge or justice of the peace could make a proper determination on the question of bail, something that clearly did not happen in the case of Constable Wynn's killer.
It is absolutely inconceivable that a bail application could be determined without having information on an accused's criminal history, without having information about the fact that the accused seeking bail has numerous outstanding charges and numerous failures to appear. Yet that is precisely the situation we face today with it being discretionary to lead such evidence under the Criminal Code. That is precisely what Bill S-217 seeks to fix.
I would like to acknowledge a few individuals. First of all, I want to acknowledge Senator Bob Runciman for his hard work and leadership in drafting Bill S-217 and for shepherding it through the Senate with the unanimous support of the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee and the overwhelming support of the Senate.
I would also like to acknowledge my predecessor, Brent Rathgeber, for his leadership in introducing a similar bill in the last Parliament following the murder of Constable David Wynn.
Most importantly, I would like to acknowledge and thank Shelley MacInnis-Wynn for her determination and her courage in lending support to Bill S-217, including appearing before the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee, where she gave very powerful evidence.
This is, to put it simply, a common sense piece of legislation. It should be a no-brainer. That is why Bill S-217 passed the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee unanimously. It is why the Senate passed the bill by an overwhelming majority. It is why the bill has received the endorsement of key stakeholders, including the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada and the Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness. It is why rank and file law enforcement officers have given their support to this legislation, dozens of whom have written to me to lend their support. The former minister of justice and attorney general for the Province of Alberta, who was the minister of justice at the time that Constable Wynn was murdered, has indicated to me that he supports this legislation.
Bill S-217 is important legislation. It is much-needed legislation. It would close a glaring loophole in the Criminal Code, a loophole that resulted in the death of Constable Wynn, a loophole that resulted in Shelly MacInnis-Wynn becoming a widow, a loophole that has caused Constable Wynn's three boys, Nathan, Matthew, and Alexander, to grow up without their father, a loophole that has taken away a tremendous RCMP officer and a dedicated volunteer in the St. Albert community.
As I close, I would like to read into the record some of the very powerful testimony of Shelly MacInnis-Wynn as she testified before the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, testimony that Senator Runciman said, after more than 35 years of holding public office, was perhaps the most powerful testimony he had ever heard. Ms. MacInnis-Wynn stated:
In those four seconds, a constable was taken away from his community, a husband was taken away from his wife, a father was taken away from his three sons, and a son and a brother was taken away from his mother and sisters—in four seconds. Every day I wake up wishing that I could take those four seconds back, but I can’t. There is nothing I can do to change that. Every day I have to live my life alone, not have Dave by my side enjoying the moments we were supposed to have together as a family and as a husband and wife. Every day his children have to experience new things and new milestones without their dad.... They don’t have any more chances to make new memories.... Changing this one simple word could save a lifetime of happiness for somebody else, and that somebody else could have easily been you. Dave was the unfortunate one that happened to be there that night, but it could easily have been anybody else.
What happened to Constable Wynn should not have happened, but we cannot roll back time. What we can do, what we must do, and I would submit what we are duty bound to do as members of Parliament, is do our very best to ensure that what happened to Constable Wynn and the pain that Constable Wynn's family will endure forever are never experienced by another Canadian and never experienced by another Canadian family ever again.
The best way to help make that a reality is to pass Bill S-217, Wynn's law. In the name of and in honour of Constable David Wynn, I implore members of the House to join the Senate, to do what is right, and to pass Bill S-217. Let us get it done.
Private Members' Business
November 29th, 2016 / 6:50 p.m.
Sean Casey Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise to speak at second reading debate on Bill S-217, an act to amend the Criminal Code, detention in custody.
The Senate public bill was introduced in response to the tragic events in Alberta in 2015. I want to again express my deepest sympathies to the family of Constable Wynn and to expressly thank Shelly Wynn, David Wynn's wife, for her testimony before the Senate committee. The pain to the officer's family, RCMP colleagues, and the St. Albert community and beyond is immeasurable.
I also want to indicate at the outset that I support the objective of the proposed bill. Decision-makers in the bail process need all relevant information to make timely and appropriate decisions as to who should be released on bail. Ensuring this is not a simple task. It requires up-to-date information management systems and fully trained prosecutors, police, and justices.
Unfortunately, I am not of the view that the bill before us today meets its objective. I am concerned that the Senate public bill would create policy and legal implications that could result in a bail system that would not function properly for anyone.
The Criminal Code provides the framework for determining whether an accused is released or detained prior to trial. After an arrest, police may decide to release the accused with or without conditions. If not released by police, the accused is brought before a justice for a bail hearing. In some cases, the crown will consent to the release of the accused on certain conditions. However, in other cases, the justice will decide to detain the accused or release him or her, often after imposing conditions, such as a curfew or an obligation to report to police. These important decisions about pre-trial release are made daily in countless courtrooms across Canada.
When making any amendment to the bail provisions, it is important to note that the bail process varies widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions, such as New Brunswick, use only judges to make release decisions. Other jurisdictions, such as Ontario, heavily rely on justices of the peace in their bail courts.
There are also significant differences in who attends the bail hearing. Alberta, for example, where this tragedy occurred, is the only jurisdiction in which police officers assume the role of prosecutor at most first-appearance bail hearings. I understand that this practice occurs to a much lesser degree in parts of Saskatchewan and British Columbia. It was, in fact, a police officer who consented to the release of Mr. Rehn, the offender who ultimately killed Constable Wynn.
In response to this tragedy, the Alberta government has conducted a full review and continues to examine the role of police officers in bail hearings. The amendments proposed in Bill S-217 were not recommended in the Alberta report, nor have they been raised by the provinces and territories, which have been extensively reviewing the bail process.
The bill before us, Bill S-217, proposes two amendments to the Criminal Code bail provisions.
Clause 1 proposes expanding the grounds on which the courts rely to determine who should be detained prior to trial. Currently, under the Criminal Code, there are three general grounds under which bail can be denied: first, if the accused is a flight risk, meaning the accused may not show up for court; second, for public safety reasons; and third, to maintain confidence in the administration of justice.
Bill S-217 would expand the third ground to specifically include consideration of an accused's criminal record and outstanding charges.
If we ask anyone working on the front lines in our criminal courts, they will tell you that the criminal record and outstanding charges are key considerations in almost every case and at almost every stage of the bail process. From the moment someone is stopped by police, right up to considerations on bail pending appeal, the record of the accused is assessed. These factors are automatic considerations under the first ground for detention, that detention is necessary to ensure that the accused attends court, and also under the second ground, that detention is necessary to ensure that the public is protected.
Injecting consideration of the accused's record specifically into the third ground for detention, as suggested in Bill S-217, creates uncertainty for the multiple other bail provisions that do not specifically reference the criminal record.
The Supreme Court of Canada, in the 2015 case of the Queen v. St-Cloud, has recently considered and clarified the constitutionality of these grounds of detention.
This bill would open the provision to new judicial scrutiny and interpretation after the Supreme Court has just settled it. Clause 2 of the bill proposes to remove crown discretion from section 518 and require crowns to lead evidence to prove the fact of prior convictions, outstanding charges, failures to appear, or offences against the administration of justice at bail hearings.
Currently, under section 518(1)(c), the crown is given broad discretion as to what evidence can be led at bail hearings, as well as how evidence is presented to the court. Bail proceedings that are high volume and conducted on short notice require this flexibility.
By mandating crowns to provide specific evidence and raising the evidentiary burden with the words “to prove the fact”, Bill S-217 may unnecessarily complicate and lengthen the bail process; crowns may require adjournments to formalize evidence; and hearings could take longer. No one in the criminal justice system, including victims, would benefit from excessive delay and the staying of criminal charges.
Similar concerns about the proposed amendments creating delay and resource issues were raised by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police when they testified before the Senate committee on this bill. These concerns would most likely also be echoed by prosecutors and defence counsel, the front-line workers in our justice system.
Legislative changes, such as those suggested, require fulsome consideration of these important perspectives. As part of her mandate to review the criminal justice system and, more specifically, the bail process, the Minister of Justice is working with stakeholders, including her provincial and territorial counterparts, to make this critical component work effectively so that all Canadians, including our first responders, are appropriately protected.
Our government is also working to enhance the efficiency of the bail system. No one wants to see serious criminal charges stayed because of unreasonable delay, which is what can happen if bail decisions are not made in an effective, timely way.
It is a complex issue that has no one single answer and involves all actors in the criminal justice system.
While I think that the Senate public bill's proposed amendments are well-intentioned, they are not the solution to this complicated issue. Rather, they would import delay and confusion and would likely have unintended legal and operational consequences for the bail process.
I want to be clear. Bail is a critical stage in the criminal justice process. As this tragedy in St. Albert demonstrates, decisions made at bail can have far-reaching, devastating consequences.
While I appreciate its objective, the government does not support the bill. Effecting meaningful change would require a comprehensive response that considers stakeholders' perspectives and fully assesses the legal and policy implications for the bail process.
Private Members' Business
November 29th, 2016 / 7:10 p.m.
Rob Nicholson Niagara Falls, ON
Madam Speaker, it is my honour to rise in the House to speak to Bill S-217, an act to amend the Criminal Code (detention in custody). The bill would make it mandatory for prosecutors to provide all of the facts concerning previous criminal convictions, current charges, and failures to appear in court. Under existing legislation, prosecutors are not compelled to divulge such evidence.
Members heard the story of my colleague about the concerns that arose when 42-year-old RCMP Constable David Wynn was murdered by a career criminal in St. Albert, Alberta, in January 2015. Constable Wynn struggled to survive for four days before succumbing to death in an Edmonton hospital, leaving behind his wife and three sons to try and make sense of the senseless.
The criminal's career history spanned two decades, with over 100 offences dating back to 1994. It should be noted that the criminal had failed to appear in court after three separate warrants were issued for his arrest in 2014. How is it that a man who has been convicted of everything from breaking and entering, theft, evading police, dangerous arrest, assault, escape from custody to holding a homeowner at gun point while forcing him to empty out his bank account is not in custody?
The bill would serve to prevent high-risk offenders from committing further criminal acts while awaiting trial. It would require prosecutors to show that the accused had been previously convicted of a criminal offence or had already been charged and was awaiting trial for another criminal offence.
In addition, the Crown would also be required to provide evidence that an accused had failed on one or more occasions to appear in court when required to do so, as well as show the circumstances of the alleged offence or offences. This would fall under a statutory requirement to advance the evidence, obligating the Crown to do so. The principle of detention pre-trial would already be established so a habeas corpus concern would be unlikely. The bill would focus on detaining high-risk offenders while pending trial.
The Conservatives have always put Canadians and their safety first, while upholding the rights of victims and their families. Bill S-217 would ensure the safeguarding of those rights.
In 2014, the former Conservative government made history and enacted the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, which for the first time ever saw the rights of victims established into law at the federal level. This bill is a complement to the Canadians Victims Bill of Rights.
I would like to touch on a case that shook the community of Fort Erie in my riding of Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake and Fort Erie. It is the story of an 81-year old retired businessman and friend of mine, Blake Nicholls, who was murdered by a career criminal with 50 prior convictions, including arson, armed robbery and theft. In fact, this individual was wanted in another jurisdiction for allegedly attacking his then girlfriend with a hammer.
The man attacked my friend Mr. Nicholls with a hammer out of misdirected revenge. He became enraged after he discovered that Blake Nicholls had warned a neighbour woman to steer clear of him. He then attacked Nicholls with a hammer, striking him 16 times. The criminal then ransacked the home of Mr. Nicholls as he lay dead on the living room floor. He showed no remorse. Nor did he demonstrate even a modicum of repentance. Blake Nicholls had merely attempted to be a good and caring neighbour, as he had been during his entire life. His three children and six grandchildren are left not only mourning his loss but must also live with the lifelong trauma in knowing that their loved one's life was cut short in such a brutal and inhumane way.
Had this bill been law, perhaps Constable Wynn and Blake Nicholls would still be with us today. As parliamentarians, we have a solemn duty to make and enact laws that will protect Canadians. The justification for detention in custody was evident in both these cases, yet these career criminals, who shared 150 convictions between them, were not incarcerated but were free to continue their respective business of criminality.
If previous convictions are disclosed at bail hearings, it would give judges and justices of the peace the tools they need to help keep our streets and neighbourhoods safe. It should also be noted that the legislation would not make huge changes to the Criminal Code. It would assist the judiciary in our country to make sound decisions based on complete evidence and would in no way infringe upon judicial discretion to grant bail.
The legislation puts victims first. The Conservative Party has always put victims first and has the full support of Constable Wynn's widow, Shelley Wynn. In fact, it was Mrs. Wynn who helped initiate the legislation. The bill is consistent with the previous government's passing of the Canadian Bill of Rights.
Canadians expect that we will fulfill our duty as legislators to ensure the laws of our country fully protect citizens. The Wynn family and the Nicholls family are counting on it. It is the obligation of the House to support this legislation.
Private Members' Business
November 29th, 2016 / 7:15 p.m.
Tom Kmiec Calgary Shepard, AB
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on Bill S-217, an act to amend the Criminal Code, detention in custody. I will be supporting it.
We are talking about an incident that happened in St. Albert, Alberta. This news story was talked about in my constituency. It was talked about in Calgary. From one city to another, we never want to see police officers die in the line of duty when they are serving their community. To me it is common sense. This amendment would have saved David Wynn's life. It would have indeed also avoided the injury to the other officer, the auxiliary constable involved. The rap sheet of Mr. Rehn, who was the assailant in this situation, should have been cause enough for him to have been denied bail. It should be much harder for habitual criminals to make bail.
Again, like Senator Runciman and my colleague from St. Albert—Edmonton have said, the key of this bill is in clause 2, in which it states the “prosecutor shall” instead of “may”. This will make a huge difference during bail hearings and ensure that we avoid a repeat of what Constable Wynn's family had to go through. No family should ever have to go through that.
On this, I have a Yiddish proverb I would like to use, “When scholars vie, wisdom mounts”. I do not feel this debate has risen to that level of scholarship yet, after hearing the contributions made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and the reasons why the government would not be supporting the bill.
This is a case where a constable was shot and killed in the line of duty. Auxiliary Constable Derek Bond was shot and injured. Let us not forget these were two people who were serving their community, where one was killed and one who was injured and had to go through much hospital care in order to return to work.
Shawn Rehn was the individual involved in this. I went through the reports that were written on this by the Alberta government. In his charge history between 1994 and 2014, he had been charged with 206 offences. The charges that topped the list were 103 property offences, 13 violent offices, 24 weapons offences, 46 compliance and breach offences, six driving offences, seven drug offences, and seven offences against administration of justice. His conviction history again is pretty spectacular for a career criminal: 66 offences where he was found guilty, including three offences against administration of justice, 41 property offences, and the list goes on. He had 27 outstanding offences that he was charged on when he made bail, set at $4,500 bail at the time. That basically should have made it impossible for him to be out in the community. He was wanted on outstanding warrants for his arrest as well, and he still made bail.
The amendments proposed in Bill S-217, as have been considered and passed by the Senate and brought to the House, would indeed avoid this situation in the future.
The shooting also prompted many questions about provincial bail procedures because the hearing was conducted without a Crown lawyer representing the prosecution, which is quite common in the province of Alberta. It is a standard practice there.
We heard mention of certain Alberta studies and recommendations made by different provinces. I look specifically to Alberta and what we do, because this bill would have a major effect on how Alberta would carry out the administration of justice.
The report on Shawn Rehn is called “A review of the involvement of the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service” by Kimberly Armstrong, deputy attorney general and acting deputy minister, Alberta justice, and solicitor general for the province. That report did not deal with federal matters because that was not the focus area. The focus was on what the province could control. Therefore, they strictly dealt with recommendations for provincial administration of the judicial system.
We set the Criminal Code in the chamber. It is passed by the Senate and approved by the Governor General. We set Criminal Code provisions and the provinces administer justice.
Page 14 of that same report deals with the recommendations and they are all provincial in nature. The report itself states on page one, “This review is limited to the involvement” the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service “had with [Mr.] Rehn, and does not consider his involvement with any other agency or party within the criminal justice system”. This should be painfully obvious to the government that this was a report. It cannot refer to this report and say that it did not recommend changes to section 515 or section 518 of the Criminal Code. The author of the report was not looking at that. The report was not looking to offer Criminal Code provision amendments to the federal government or to any of the political parties. What it was focusing on was strictly speaking to what could actually be done to prevent this type of incident, this tragedy, from ever happening again.
I want to thank the member for St. Albert—Edmonton for what he has contributed to the debate and for introducing this in the House.
I do not want to go over the same points that the member did and the points that he brought up about what Senator Runciman has said.
Clause 2 of the bill is the key. This is what will change “may” to “shall”. That single change would have saved Constable Wynn's life. It would have avoided the injuries to Auxiliary Constable Derek Bond. The whole incident could have been avoided and Mr. Wren would have been right where he belonged, in jail. He did not belong in the community. He did not belong in St. Albert. He did not belong in a casino parking lot. He belonged in jail.
Bill S-217 would ensure that it is not an option any more whether or not to tell the justice about the accused's criminal record during a bail hearing. I have heard members talk about their concerns with respect to the administration of justice and how there might be complications with doing this, that it might slow down the bail hearing process.
I am not a member of the bar. I am not a lawyer, and I say that proudly and thankfully. I do know the administration of technological systems for a professional association. I was the registrar for the human resources profession in the province of Alberta, which had 6,000 members. We would conduct disciplinary hearings and investigations at times. These are not done by lawyers by any stretch of the imagination. They are hearings and investigations done by HR professionals into the actions of our members. At the time it was a CHRP designation.
Like the member for St. Albert—Edmonton said, whatever concern may exist about the delays on bail hearings ignores the fact that this information is readily available in information systems. My colleague from Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, a former police officer, mentioned how easy it is to gain access to this information with a keystroke. The issue is not whether the information is accessible so much as whether they have the means to do it and whether they can do it and how fast they can get to it. Having a computer available in the courtroom makes it pretty simple. The issue is technology. Access is not an issue under criminal law. It is just an issue of technology.
I do not really like the argument being made by the government that this might slow things down, that it might complicate things, so therefore we should not do it. I would say we update our systems and update the way we administer the judicial system to ensure that we can fulfill the requirements of the Criminal Code. If we are going to change the Criminal Code to ensure that these types of incidents do not happen again and that individuals like Constable Wynn do not lose their life in the line of duty because a person who should not have been out in the community and should not have been granted bail is out, then why not invest in more technology?
The Alberta government has admitted it would cost more money. There is a cost associated with this. A few million dollars, it said, would have to be spent for the remand centres to ensure that they can update their systems. Is that not money well spent though to avoid losing a police officer in the line of duty and the heartache caused to the family? I believe so. With the amount of money that this place spends on a weekly basis, with the $30 billion of spending that we are doing here, and the $10-billion deficit spending the Alberta provincial government is doing, a few million dollars spent to ensure the remand centres have the technological systems, have the computer systems updated and available for bail hearings, seems to me like a small price to pay.
Another report I want to mention is the “Alberta Bail Review: Endorsing a Call for Change”, February 29, 2016 by Nancy Irving. It is quite a thick report, nearly half an inch thick, that provides an in-depth overview of the bail system in Alberta. It goes from A to Z and covers a lot of ground. Thirty-one recommendations are made in the report that touch upon solely provincial areas of responsibility. To my New Democratic colleague who mentioned that statistics and numbers would be really helpful here, they are provided in this report. An overview is done for 2014-15 on the number of bail hearings in the province and how they were actually done.
That same report said the vast majority of first appearances at the bail stage are conducted by justices of the peace at two centralized hearing offices with police representing the crown. It goes on to state that their focus was section 524 of the Criminal Code, which governs the revocation of bail for people who are alleged to have violated the terms of their release. It was not looking at sections 515 and 518, which is the focus of the Senate bill, Bill S-217. They were strictly looking at how they were going to administer the Criminal Code provisions that exist as they are.
We have an opportunity here to change those provisions, to indicate to the provinces that they need to change how they administer their judicial systems in order to ensure that we can avoid an incident like Constable Wynn's, that we do not lose more officers in the line of duty.
Wren's final court appearance raised questions about the completeness and accuracy of the information available to those who preside and present at bail hearings in Alberta. The 31 recommendations in the report deal with just that and the Alberta government is working on implementing them.
I will be supporting the bill. It is an excellent bill. I invite all members to do the same.
Private Members' Business
November 29th, 2016 / 7:30 p.m.
Len Webber Calgary Confederation, AB
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to contribute to the debate on Bill S-217. I know my colleague from St. Albert—Edmonton has done very good work on this Senate bill, and I thank him for that. I was happy to second this legislation.
His efforts are reflective of the expectations of his community. They have seen how the justice system can fail, and they have witnessed the deadly consequences.
This proposed legislation aims to correct a hole in our criminal justice system. In fact, most Canadians are completely astonished that the bill even needs to be brought forward.
The bill was drafted in response to the January 15, 2015, murder of RCMP Constable David Wynn and the wounding of Auxiliary Constable Derek Bond in Edmonton. By any reasonable assessment, the killer in this case should not have been free on the street at the time of the killing. His rap sheet was unbelievable, yet he freely roamed the streets.
The killer had faced hundreds of charges as an adult, and his criminal record had dozens of convictions. He had been convicted for violent offences. He routinely failed to attend court when required. He had served a number of jail terms, including two stints in a federal penitentiary. That is not all. At the time of Constable Wynn's death, the killer was facing 29 charges and was under two firearms and weapons bans. How the hell was this man on the street? The killer was arrested—
October 24th, 2016 / 3:05 p.m.
Michael Cooper St. Albert—Edmonton, AB
moved that Bill S-217, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (detention in custody), be read the first time.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in this House to introduce Bill S-217, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (detention in custody), also known as Wynn's law, which last week passed the Senate by a very wide margin.
In December 2015, Constable David Wynn was shot and killed in St. Albert by an individual who was out on bail, notwithstanding that the individual had more than 50 prior criminal convictions, multiple outstanding charges, and numerous failures to appear, yet none of that information was brought to the attention of the justice of the peace at the bail application hearing.
Bill S-217 seeks to close this glaring loophole in the bail application process by requiring the crown to read evidence of past criminal convictions, outstanding charges, and failures to appear. There is no doubt in my mind that had Wynn's law been the law, Constable Wynn's killer would have remained behind bars where he belonged, and Constable Wynn would be alive today.
I urge this House to join the Senate in the speedy passage of this important legislation.
(Motion agreed to and bill read the first time)