OTTAWA — Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Thomas Carrique told MPs law enforcement officers “deserve to be safeguarded” against repeat violent offenders as he recommended reforms to Canada’s bail system.
“Our system is in desperate need of some very meaningful change,” he said during an appearance at the House of Commons justice committee Wednesday. “Change that will ensure repeat violent offenders who have shown a propensity for using weapons against victims are held accountable and held in custody so they can’t further victimize innocent community members and risk the lives of police officers.”
Carrique spoke about the case of OPP officer Grzegorz Pierzchala, who was killed while on duty on Dec. 27. His alleged shooter was out on bail, had a warrant out for his arrest and was on a lifetime firearms prohibition. Pierzchala’s death was the fifth killing of a police officer in Canada in five months, prompting a call for changes to bail rules from provincial premiers and a push for bail reform from the Conservative Party in the House of Commons.
Carrique said public safety considerations need to be codified in the law, ensuring they are given “appropriate” weight in making bail decisions, and there needs to be greater accountability for sureties who take responsibility for those who have been released on bail.
He also called for an expansion of reverse onus provisions “for firearm possession offenses as they relate to repeat violent offenders or serious prolific offenders.” A reverse onus means it would be the responsibility of the accused to prove why they should be granted bail.
Following Pierzchala’s death, provincial and territorial leaders wrote to the federal government asking it to implement a reverse onus for some firearms offences. Last week, Justice Minister David Lametti said the government is giving that request “serious consideration.” He also said the Liberal government is working on the issue of bail reform in collaboration with the provinces and territories, and will hold an emergency meeting in the coming weeks.