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'Should have been happening all along': Kinew unveils bail reform plan for Manitoba

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The Kinew government has unveiled a five-point community safety plan aimed at bolstering Manitoba’s bail system and cracking down on repeat offenders.

Premier Wab Kinew said the plan equips Crown prosecutors to consider the impacts of bail on victims and the community, particularly in cases of intimate partner violence and chronic violent offenders.

Crown attorneys will assess whether detention is necessary to maintain public confidence in the justice system and public safety having regard for ‘all the circumstances including any relevant community perspectives.’

“If we know that there’s an issue in a local community or if we know that there’s an issue in downtown or we know that this individual is causing an issue on a repeat basis, that’s now going to be factored in,” Kinew told CTV Morning Live Winnipeg ahead of the announcement.

“It seems like something that should have been happening all along, but we’re now going to introduce that as a standard.”

The plan also includes $3 million to add 12 new Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) officers to help law enforcement track down offenders who violate bail conditions, $514,000 to expand reporting capacity to inform decision-making at the provincial and federal levels, $512,000 to hire five new bail workers to increase monitoring and supervision, and a public safety forum.

“These new policies will set out our government’s clear focus on public safety and our crown attorneys’ role in ensuring and maintaining that community safety,” said Manitoba Justice Minister Matt Wiebe at a news conference Thursday.

From left to right, Kirkfield Park MLA Logan Oxenham, Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew, Justice Minister Matt Wiebe, Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham, Winnipeg Police Service Acting Deputy Chief Dave Dalal and National Police Federation Prairie Region Director Bobby Baker are pictured at a Feb. 29, 2024 news conference at Sturgeon Heights Community Centre. (Scott Andersson/CTV News Winnipeg)

New policies in step with federal bail reform bill: WPS

WPS acting deputy chief Dave Dalal says the new plan aligns with Bill C-48, approved by the House of Commons in December.

The bill expands the use of reverse-onus provisions, which force the accused, in certain cases, to demonstrate why they should be released on bail, rather than requiring prosecutors to prove why they should remain in custody.

The bill also broadens the reverse onus targeting repeat offenders of intimate partner violence and requires the courts to consider an accused person’s history of convictions for violence when making a bail decision.

“Every day, police officers see the impacts first-hand of violent and repeat offenders, the impact they have on victims and the community as a whole,” Dalal said.

“We welcome the opportunity to work with our partners in the criminal justice system to strengthen the bail system and to increase public safety. I believe today’s announcement aligns perfectly with the philosophy of Bill C-48.”

However, some are questioning the plan. Winnipeg defence lawyer Scott Newman isn't sure the new provincial guidelines will change anything for prosecutors.

"For anyone who is that obvious a danger, whether it's because of firearms or repeated domestic violence or breaches of bail - in my experience, the Crown’s already opposing those people,” he said.

- With files from CTV’s Jeff Keele, Rachel Lagacé and Isabella Zavarise

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