July 12, 2023
The National Police Federation (NPF) today released a discussion paper and hosted a breakfast panel during the Summer 2023 Meeting of Canada’s Premiers in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The paper, titled Smart Bail Initiatives: A Progressive Approach to Canada’s Bail System, discusses opportunities for various levels of government to collectively address Canada’s widely acknowledged Criminal Justice System issues on bail reform.
The topic of bail reform has become front and centre for Canadians, for police officers, and for government leaders who have publicly committed to acting meaningfully to improve public safety, as evidenced by Bill C-48 and urgent calls from Canada’s Premiers for improvements.
The breakfast panel was facilitated by Brian Sauvé, President and CEO, National Police Federation, and closing remarks were delivered by Bobby Baker, NPF Prairie Region Director. Participants* were
- Gordon Campbell, B.A., LL.B, B.C.L, a senior Ontario-based criminal lawyer and former Federal Crown Prosecutor who co-authored the discussion paper ;
- Dr. Amanda Butler, who holds an MA in Criminology and PhD in Health Sciences from Simon Fraser University and co-authored “A Rapid Investigation into Repeat Offending and Random Stranger Violence in British Columbia”; and
- Chief (ret.) Evan Bray, OOM, Regina Police Service, who has extensive experience with Canada’s criminal justice system from a policing perspective.
“The current ‘catch and release’ system and lack of data-informed processes, supports and monitoring compromises public safety across Canada, and increases safety risks for Members of the RCMP, and all police. Repeatedly responding to calls and arresting the same individuals repeatedly has a significant negative impact on Members’ morale and overall wellbeing,” said Brian Sauvé, President and CEO, National Police Federation. “Governments can better direct police efforts toward crime prevention, community engagement, and other important proactive policing responsibilities by urgently implementing smart bail initiatives to improve Canada’s justice system to better address repeat offenders.”
Improving and reforming Canada’s bail system will require federal, provincial, and territorial governments to work together to adopt smarter measures, supported by greater resourcing through proper funding, that include concrete actions and specific implementation tools.
More specifically, the NPF recommends:
Implement Data Driven and Informed Bail Decision-Making
Recommendation 1: The Government of Canada, in coordination with provincial and territorial governments, should establish a national standing committee on Canadian criminal justice system (CJS) data sharing, which would collect, analyze, and report on current trends, challenges and best practices. Committee reports should include recommendations for CJS data sharing policy and program reforms. Shared data should be directly accessible by all appropriate officials involved in the administration of justice.
Improve Post Bail Release Monitoring
Recommendation 2: The Government of Canada, provinces, and territories should invest in deploying technologies that are proven effective at monitoring bail condition compliance. This would include an in-depth review of all existing available post-release monitoring technologies, and potentially the development of new technologies.
Improve Bail Hearing Resources and Standards
Recommendation 3: Any jurisdictions using a Justice of the Peace (JP) to preside at bail hearings should establish a standard qualification for those bail JP positions, which are based on education and legal background, such as a law degree and five years of legal practice experience.
Reverse Onus Provisions
Recommendation 4: The Government of Canada undertake a national, systematic study of the CJS bail system which examines the most effective bail provisions that promote public safety and meet the CJS’ objectives, including ensuring future court appearances and preventing the commission of new offences while on bail.
Recommendation 5: Provinces and territories should commit more resources to the collection and sharing of data that can be used to inform the exercise of discretion by decision makers when making bail release or detention decisions, rather than relying upon legislative reverse onus provisions.
Align Supervision and Conditions of Bail Release
Recommendation 6: Governments should commit to evidence-informed bail reforms that include alternatives to monetary bail deposits and sureties, such as pre-trial release programs that assess a defendant’s risk level and provide supervision and monitoring instead of detention.
Adopt a Team-Based Approach to Bail Decision and Monitoring
Recommendation 7: All governments should invest in creating a community bail enforcement monitoring system, involving dedicated law enforcement units, and cutting-edge technology throughout Canada. These monitoring systems should provide real-time information about potential or actual bail breaches which can be quickly acted upon by authorities, including preventing escalating patterns of minor breaches turning into the full-blown commission of new serious criminal offences.
“In the 28 years I’ve been practicing in Canada’s bail courts, as both a prosecutor and defence counsel, almost nothing has practically changed in those courts, even though there have been many amendments to the Criminal Code. Urgent investments are required in data collection, information sharing, and post-release monitoring to improve bail court outcomes.”
- Gordon S. Campbell
“Significant reductions in offending will not be achieved through legislative bail reform such as Bill C-48. Pre-trial centers in Canada are effectively ‘warehouses’ which provide few, if any, services that help to address the root causes of crime. Improving bail outcomes and overall public safety requires bold investment in alternatives to detention, affordable housing, and community-based supports to address the social, health and justice related needs of people who commit crime.”
- Amanda Butler
“Canadian police officers have the responsibility of leading community safety efforts throughout the country. The Canadian Justice System provides a framework of strong tools to assist in community safety efforts, with the exception of our current bail process. There are too many people who have histories of repeated serious criminal offenses being released, which challenges police and other emergency responders with the horrific impacts on community safety.”
- Chief (ret.) Evan Bray
About the National Police Federation:
The National Police Federation (NPF) represents ~20,000 RCMP Members serving across Canada and internationally. It is the largest police labour relations organization in Canada and second largest in North America. We are focused on improving public safety in Canada for our Members and all Canadians by advocating for investment in policing and other related supports and services. This includes calling for required resourcing, equipment, and supports to enhance community safety and livability in the communities we serve, large and small, across Canada.
For more information: https://npf-fpn.com/
Fabrice de Dongo
Manager, Media Relations
Coordinator, Media Relations