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.