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Denying access to bail isn’t “Charter-compliant”

Posted on June 8, 2023 by Ryan Dahlman

Dear Editor:

Re: Pierre Poilievre’s proposed bail reform

Mr. Poilievre would deny access to bail for repeat, violent offenders and simply keep them in jail until they either plead guilty, or are found guilty after a trial, and serve their jail time. This is simplistic, crass grandstanding aimed at massaging the ignorance of those among his supporters who truly do not know what is going on.

Firstly, after arrest, an accused has a right to have his or her detention reviewed. This does not mean the accused has a right to be released. The right is to have detention ruled on by a judge, within a reasonable time. The objective of a bail hearing is a judicial decision of either continued detention, or, release with or without conditions. I have no statistics, but I know that repeat, violent offenders who have “… committed seven or eight violent offences…”, in Mr. Poilievre’s words, would virtually never be released on bail in our criminal justice system. I am sure there are judges and criminal defense lawyers who know more about this point than do I, but I’d bet an awful lot of money they would all agree with my position on Mr. Poilievre’s hypothetical. Is our bail system perfect? No, but if you want perfection, please tell us all how to achieve it, lawfully.

Secondly, Mr. Poilievre says he has a way to make his proposed denial of access to bail “Charter-compliant”, in his words. If he truly believes that, he is dreaming in technicolour. I know he is wrong on this, and people who know more than do I also say he is wrong, but, on the extreme right, things like law, justice and facts don’t matter – only beliefs matter. We heard the same false claim in 2006, from Stephen Harper, who solemnly told us he had a way to constitutionally ban gay marriage, all the while knowing that to be false, but making his claim for the same reasons as in the first paragraph, above. Someone who seeks to gain from the ignorance of another is called a con man, and is untrustworthy.


Gregory R. Côté, Irvine

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