Thanks very much, Mr. Chair.
I'd like to start by saying that I recognize that this was a good-faith effort to bring this bill forward, and obviously thank Senator Runciman and Michael Cooper for sponsoring it in the House and bringing it forward. I supported this at second reading, and support the comments of Mr. Bittle. I supported it at second reading because I saw some problems with the bill, but I thought there were some aspects to it that would be good, and that we could actually make right to improve the effectiveness of our bail system. Just as there was a good-faith effort to fix a problem that we recognized in the case of Constable Wynn, I hope that those proponents of the bill will also understand that there's a good-faith effort on members of this committee to do what they believe is correct and right based on the evidence and the testimony that we heard here at committee.
I knew there were a number of problematic provisions with the bill, but the central element of the bill, as I understood it from Shelly Wynn, and from discussions with colleagues, was about the provision of changing the requirement from a permissive “may” to a requirement of “shall” lead evidence for the prosecutor.
Throughout my thinking and my deliberations on this bill—and I can tell you that I've arrived at my conclusion independently and on my own, thinking about the evidence that's been presented here at committee—the principle of doctors came to my mind, and that is, “Do no harm.” That is, I think, a responsibility that this committee, which is changing the law on people's liberty, should take very seriously: “Do no harm.”
My conclusion, at the end of hearing the evidence and thinking about this, is that despite the good-faith effort to fix a problem, this bill, even with some changes, would still, if we changed “may” to “shall”, have the opposite effect and have the opposite intention, and would actually lead to more people out on bail who should be behind bars, and therefore make our streets less safe, not more safe. That's the reason that I support the motion.
I want to go through some of the testimony we heard. By the way, we heard testimony, of course, from Shelly Wynn, which was compelling testimony, I grant that, but we also heard from experts in the field. We heard from the Canadian Bar Association. We heard from the Ontario Provincial Police and Newfoundland police. We heard from prosecutors. Mr. Cooper mentions Mr. Woodburn, who was here representing crown counsels across the country. He wasn't here as an individual. As well, we heard from defence lawyers. For all of those organizations to come to the same conclusion and give us evidence based on the same rationale is compelling to me, and convincing to me, and persuaded me that this bill would do harm if we passed it. Therefore, despite supporting it at second reading, thinking about it, and honestly coming to a good-faith conclusion on my own, I've decided that this bill should not be proceeded with. That's why I'll be supporting Mr. Bittle's motion.
I can say one further thing on delay. My friends across the way do mention, of course, criminal records that should be presented, as well as failures to appear. There's another element to this. In fact, if you go back and look at some of my questioning, it was about the circumstances of offences. Evidence would need to be led on that in every instance. Even a first-time person before the court, who has no criminal record, would take longer than usual because the evidence of the offence would have to be led as evidence to show whether the circumstances rose to the problem of the public losing confidence in the system. That's every case now. There would need to be, we heard some people say, a mini-trial on the circumstances of the offence, when normally the crown in that circumstance would never ever rely on that third round of bail to detain someone, but they'd be required to produce that evidence anyway. If they didn't have it, I suppose, then they wouldn't be able to meet their burden. And what would happen then? The person would be let out on bail, perhaps without a clear plan for securing his or her release.
That, in addition to the uncertainty this would create by adding new terms that are undefined and untested by the courts, would lead to further litigation of our bail system entirely, and with mini-trials, it would create backlogs in the system. In light of the Jordan decision, we know that delays are now a very difficult situation that this country has to come to grips with.
Concerning the mention of judges, I know that the Minister of Justice has appointed I believe now 56 judges, and there will be many more to come. I recognize that there is a problem, if our judicial system is not filling vacancies in a timely fashion, but I believe the need is being fulfilled by the minister. Of course, there are always things that can be done better and more efficiently.
I think I'll leave my comments at that, Mr. Chair, and reaffirm my position that this bill would do harm. We are required as a committee to study and deliberate on the evidence we heard. That is what I believe I am doing. I cannot support a bill that would have the opposite effect and would actually make our streets less safe.