Bail reform is long overdue

By Bobbi Ann Brady, MPP

Like all Ontarians, I am horrified, shocked, and saddened by the uptick in violent crime over the past year.  My heart goes out to the survivors and families and friends of the victims. 

These terrible events have prompted the provincial government to ask the federal government for bail reform.  I wholeheartedly support the government’s request. 

Every time I’m faced with another violent news item, I ask myself, how many victims does it take for the federal government to act?  

In an ideal world, there would be no victims of violence. This is not reality, though, and as the number of incidents grow, so too do the numbers of victims. Victims and their families often feel betrayed when the perpetrator is allowed out on bail.  

The tragic December 27th shooting of Haldimand County OPP officer, Constable Greg Pierzchala is still echoing through people’s minds. In fact, a bike ride in his honour was held last weekend in Dunnville.

His death in the line of duty was avoidable.  

Randall McKenzie, who was charged with Constable Pierzchala’s death, was on bail at the time of the shooting. He was charged with gun-related offences and was under multiple weapons bans. I believe Constable Pierzchala would be alive today had the justice system held McKenzie in custody.

And there are sadly more examples from which I can draw.

Take Gabriel Magalhaes, he was murdered in March in a Toronto subway station.  Again, it turns out the alleged perpetrator was on the streets, wanted for violating probation, but roaming free. 

Not wanting to be Toronto-centric, but it should be noted that, at writing, Toronto has seen 12 homicides in 2023 and half the suspects were out on bail, parole, or probation.  Of course, we well know this isn’t limited to the GTA, this is in Haldimand-Norfolk and across Canada.

One murder is too many. And one that happens because a lax system allowed a violent, unstable person out to hurt others or themselves, is heart breaking and frustrating. It also creates mayhem and unsafe working conditions for those in uniform.

For months, I’ve been receiving emails, telephone calls, and private messages from Ontarians who are also heart broken and angry.  I penned a column on the subject in January, calling on all levels of government to make the necessary changes. I spent weeks speaking to media about this following December’s tragedy.

I suggested to one reporter the day after the shooting if government was aggressive with criminals as it is with law-abiding gun owners, we would have less violent crime.

On a positive note, I’m pleased to report that on April 5th, the government passed Solicitor General Michael Kerzner’s motion asking the federal government to reform the Criminal Code of Canada and immediately “implement meaningful bail reform.” In short, Ontario is leading the call to get the federal government to put repeat violent offenders in jail and keep them in jail until they are duly tried in a court of law.

Minister Kerzner has since stated that he hopes the federal government listens to the motion and quickly acts to strengthen bail reform. That day can’t come soon enough.

Bobbi Ann Brady is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk