There has been a great of interest this week surrounding Bill S-217, which has come to be known as “Wynn’s Law” to some commentators. While S-217 has a very noble and laudable goal, there are serious issues with the drafting of the Bill that would have negative consequences for victims of crime, for law enforcement officers, and for the safety of our communities. For this reason, I voted against second reading of S-217 when it came up for a vote last week.
The passion this issue has prompted is understandable. The brave men and women who serve as police officers are heroes in our community and what happened to Constable Wynn was a tragedy that shocked our whole community. I cannot begin to imagine all that Constable Wynn’s wife and family have endured in the time since his passing.
If S-217 accomplished what it set out to do, and if it did not have such serious flaws, I would have enthusiastically supported this bill. Sadly, the actual content of S-217 not only fails to solve a problem, it creates several new problems.
As drafted, Bill S-217 would significantly delay bail procedures by creating a new burden of proof for prosecutors. Currently, bail procedures already examine a variety of topics including, crucially, prior convictions and arrests.
Rather than improving procedures to help prosecutors bring relevant facts forward, S-217 will actually make the jobs of police and prosecutors – who are working to protect the public – more difficult.
If this bill were to pass as currently written, prosecutors would then have to prove “as a fact” the prior arrests and convictions of an accused. This would involve more than simply faxing a record over to a court room. It would require tracking down police officers from previous cases, finding time for hearings where the evidence could be thoroughly examined, developing an evidentiary record, and then coming to a conclusion – all before a trial would be able to take place.
This would cause delays that would the trigger the constitutionally-required release of offenders as delays would violate their right to a speedy trial. In turn, this would put individuals who should be in jail back on the streets. Our government is working hard to improve the efficiency of our criminal justice system including our bail system. Sadly, S-217 would undermine that work by causing more delays.
As a legislator, I have a responsibility to consider more than just the good intentions of a proposed law. The details and consequences of legislation must be in the best interest of Canadians. While it may be the easy political route to ignore the problematic consequences of the bill and vote yes because I support the good intentions behind it, I have a moral and ethical responsibility as a legislator to work towards and vote for the best public policy.
Our government has made a commitment to modernize and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system, including bail reform, and we are working in collaboration with the provinces and territories, victims’ organizations, police, other stakeholders, and with opposition parties to do so.
Bill S-217 is currently before the House of Commons Justice Committee. As a member of that Standing Committee, I will work closely with my colleagues to examine the bell to see if it can be improved. We will also discuss with Committee witnesses what other steps we may take to better address the concerns raised by this Bill to ensure the safety of law enforcement officers and all Canadians.
I look forward to healthy and constructive dialogue on the important work that lies ahead.