The federal government can expect continued pressure from Manitoba’s Justice Minister to make changes to the Criminal Code to keep violent offenders behind bars.
Kelvin Goertzen says this concern has also been raised by other provinces.
“We're seeing this right across the country, so there's not a jurisdiction in Canada where I think they're not talking about what they're seeing as an increase in crime, particularly violent crime, and the connection between addictions and mental health and crime,” he says.
Goertzen notes there is a lot of effort going into support for people with addictions.
“I know the government is looking at additional support for spaces so that those who are looking for support in terms of breaking an addiction can find that support more quickly, because that's part of the challenge,” he adds. “Mental health support of course, that continues to be a significant issue. We continue to see more support going there but then also, the reality is that I think there are changes that have to happen with our bail system.”
Goertzen has been engaged with the federal government about this issue and he says premiers across the country have also weighed in on the discussion.
“Bail seems to be too easy to get for violent offenders. So those individuals who have committed acts of violence, are known to be a concern and a danger to the community, are too easily getting bail and then committing another crime when they're out on bail.”
He is committing to continue calling on the federal government for changes to the Criminal Code, with hopes of action.
“Because things have gone too far in allowing people who are demonstrated to be a danger to the community to continue to be in the community,” says Goertzen. “So, we always start with this from the perspective that we need support in terms of mental health and addiction support to keep people from going down the wrong path and to getting on to the right path. But there are some individuals who are committed to not only committing crimes but to creating victims through violent acts. And those individuals, regardless of how they got to that position, need to be in a place where they can't create another victim of society.”
Goertzen says there have been discussions with the federal government over the past several months, and he is tired of talks, saying the time to act is now.
“It's not a political issue, provinces that have NDP governments, Liberal governments, are all saying the same thing about the need to ensure this bail situation is rectified, so it's not so easy to get bail for violent offenders. (They are) all saying that we need to have these changes. The federal government have indicated that they are willing to look at this, they are interested in having some additional discussions about it, but now I think we're getting to that point where that has to be backed up with actual changes and not just a commitment to have discussion.
“So, it's been going on now, at least these discussions, for several months. The federal government said ‘yes, we understand that there are some challenges and concerns, we want to look at changes,’ but the time for talk is quickly coming to an end, and the time for those solutions have to come soon.