Pierre Poilievre blames the release of a defendant for the death of an Ontario officer
Pierre Poilievre is calling on the Liberal government to repeal the provisions of former Bill C-75 that favor release over detention.
The Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, Pierre Poilievre
In a press conference on Friday, the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada lamented the release earlier this year of Randall McKenzie, now charged with the premeditated murder of Constable Grzegorz Pierzchala on Tuesday south of Hamilton.
< p class="e-p">The defendant should never have been released on bail. He should have been in jail, and if he had been in jail, the [policeman] would be alive today, Poilievre blasted.
According Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), Mr. McKenzie was charged in 2021 with multiple offenses involving a firearm and assaulting a peace officer.
According to court documents obtained by The Canadian Press, Mr. McKenzie was granted bail last June after initially being denied bail in December 2021. He was awaiting trial in Hamilton.
The accused had been on an arrest warrant since September because he failed to appear for a court appearance, according to the OPP.
Randall McKenzie is charged with homicide in connection with the death of an Ontario police officer.
The Conservative leader's comments echo Ontario Premier Doug Ford's Thursday night statement that too many innocent people have lost their lives at the hands of dangerous criminals who should have been behind bars and not on our streets.
OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique called Constable Pierzchala's death preventable and called for police officers to be protected from violent offenders charged with firearms offences.
Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Thomas Carrique at a press briefing in Cayuga, Ontario
Mr. Ford says he views Commissioner Carrique's remarks as a plea for the federal government to address the revolving door of violent criminals caused by our country's broken parole system.
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police also issued a statement calling for legislative reforms regarding the release of violent repeat offenders and those charged with offenses involving firearms.
In an email to Radio-Canada, Justice Minister David Lametti says the [federal] government will always work to ensure that our criminal laws, including bail [ …] ensure the safety of all Canadians and are consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In 2019, the Trudeau government introduced a law which, among other things, aimed to modernize and simplify the release regime.
The law imposes a principle of restraint on the police and the courts in a manner that promotes release rather than detention.
It also requires that the circumstances of Indigenous accused and accused from vulnerable populations be considered in court decisions. release.
This provision is intended to reduce the disproportionate impact of the bail system on these populations, according to a federal government explanatory document.
The accused is part of the nation Iroquois Onondagas of the Six Nations.
According to Crystal Winchester, who teaches at Mohawk College in Hamilton and who has worked in the justice system for more than a decade, the provisions of former Bill C-75 do not make it easier for Aboriginal defendants to receive parole.
The public is often too quick to form an idea of the representation of Indigenous peoples in the criminal justice system, argues Ms. Winchester, who is a member of the Haudenosaunee Nation of the Six Nations.
In a study published by the Department of Justice in 2019, Scott Clark argues that Indigenous defendants are more often denied parole.
He also notes that they are more likely to violate the conditions imposed on them.
Mr. McKenzie could neither leave his residence nor possess weapons. This last lifetime ban was imposed on him by a judge in 2018, according to documents obtained by Radio-Canada.
In his email, Minister Lametti mentions that former Bill C-75 reversed the onus on bail for certain firearms offences, including where the accused is subject to a weapons ban.
In these circumstances, the onus is on the defense to prove that the accused does not pose a risk to the public.
Documents obtained by The Canadian Press do not indicate why Mr. McKenzie was granted parole in June.
For criminal lawyer Reid Rusonik, OPP Commissioner Carrique's comments reveal a desire by police to decide who is guilty or innocent.
[This method] would work well if they weren't making mistakes and if some of them weren't showing disrespect for [defendants'] constitutional rights like the presumption of innocence, he said.
He argues that the first principles of the Canadian justice system make it necessary for an accused to be released.
And while he doesn't rule out mistakes in Mr. McKenzie's case, the lawyer worries that politicians are throwing the baby out with the bathwater in this case.
Mtre Rusonik believes that shorter procedural delays would reduce the period an accused is on conditional release.
Patricia Barkaskas, a Métis lawyer and professor at the University of Victoria's Faculty of Law, believes that Indigenous communities should have access to additional resources to support defendants.
[Indigenous defendants] often don't have very good family support and don't have enough money to engage in rehabilitation, argues Ms. Barkaskas.
M. McKenzie will appear in court again on January 17.
With information from Deana Sumanac-Johnson of CBC and The Canadian Press