Thank you, Mr. Chair.
It is with disappointment to learn of the government's intention to kill Bill S-217. It is not lost upon me that no mention was made of Shelly Wynn and her testimony. No mention was made of the former attorney general of Alberta. No mention was made of the evidence of John Muise, who has extensive experience as a Toronto police officer, and who served on the Parole Board. No mention was made of all of the associations that represent the front-line police officers who put their lives on the line every single day to keep our communities safe and who bear full support of this legislation.
What we did hear at the justice committee was a lot of MPs searching for every excuse to try to kill this bill. There were two arguments that were put forward, in essence, in opposition to this bill, both of which are equally flawed. One was the suggestion that it would increase the evidentiary burden. Mr. Woodburn tried to make that argument as a prosecutor. He tried to lead this committee into interpreting the bill to change the standard of proof by saying that the crown “shall prove”, as opposed to “may prove”. Of course, Mr. Woodburn conveniently ignored the fact that the legislation says no such thing, and members on that side ignored that fact, and continued to ignore that fact even when it was pointed out that the bill provides that prosecutors “shall lead evidence to prove”.
By contrast, the bill does nothing to change the standard of proof which is provided for at section 518(1)(e), which provides that a judge or justice of the peace may accept evidence that is deemed credible and trustworthy. Of course, the case law is very clear that evidence from a police agency or from a police department is credible and trustworthy evidence, and that would encompass the CPIC record. Frankly, that argument is baseless.
It comes down to this argument of delay by requiring the crown to lead evidence of the criminal history of someone seeking bail. We heard at committee from none other than Mr. Woodburn, who said that this was the bread and butter of prosecutors. It's what they do every day. It's the first thing they learn. Indeed, I challenge any member of the committee to cite any credible evidence put forward before the committee as to a scenario when the criminal history of a bail applicant should not be presented. There was no evidence. There was no credible evidence. There was no credible example provided for, and there was no credible example because such information is always relevant in material. Indeed, it is impossible for a judge or justice of the peace to exercise their discretion without such information. That's, in essence, all this bill does.
Yes, there were some aspects of the bill in terms of the language that arguably needed to be tightened up. Based upon the evidence, I was prepared to work in a co-operative fashion to bring forward amendments to clean up some areas of the bill that needed to be amended. However, on the key question of whether evidence shall be presented at a bail application hearing, the essence of the bill, that was not in question in terms of the evidence before the committee. I would reiterate the point that Mr. Nicholson very astutely made in terms of when we talk about delay. Who are we talking about? Which bail applications are we talking about?
If an individual has no criminal history and is charged and appears and there's a contested bail hearing, there is no delay because there is no criminal record, but when you have someone like Mr. Rehn, who had a criminal record longer than my arm, shoot and kill Constable Wynn, yes, there will be some delay. Yes, there will be a need for a thorough analysis, for due diligence, for a need to provide voluminous information on that criminal's history before a judge or justice of the peace so that judge or justice of the peace can properly exercise their discretion, including keeping the public safe.
Frankly I was disturbed by the attitude about efficiency on that side and perhaps on other sides. We heard this over and over again. I would submit it is precisely that lax attitude that contributed to Constable Wynn not being with us today. It was an example of a bail hearing that was rushed, unfortunately. Let's process the application without the evidence in front of us, and what were the consequences? They were fatal, Mr. Chair, and that is absolutely untenable.
It is unacceptable, and in terms of delay, the irony is not lost on me and it shouldn't be lost on Canadians. These Liberals would talk about delay in the context of the murder of Constable Wynn and trying to fix the bail system, when they have stood in silence as their Minister of Justice has failed to do her job, a Minister of Justice whose conduct has been nothing short of negligent in failing to fill one of her core responsibilities, and that is to fill judicial vacancies in a timely manner. We have a minister who gets up in the House of Commons and pats herself on the back as we have a near-historic number of judicial vacancies. We have judicial advisory committees that are almost half vacant and have been almost half vacant since October. We have murder cases, sexual assault cases, child abuse cases thrown out of court, and the minister says she's proud of her record. We have thousands of cases at risk, and the minister can't even appoint judges.
These Liberals talk about delay. The irony is not lost, and I can tell you that as the member of Parliament for St. Albert—Edmonton and as the deputy justice critic, we're going to keep fighting for this bill regardless of the outcome of the vote this day because the stakes are too high. What happened to Constable Wynn should never have happened, and this law, if it could be passed, would help prevent such an incident from happening again.