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Bail reform bill C-48 comes into effect


Amendments to Canada’s bail reform system are now in effect.

Bill C-48 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.

In December, the House of Commons approved Senate amendments to Bill C-48, bringing the federal government closer to enacting reforms designed to keep repeat violent offenders behind bars.

According to the federal government, the changes were made in collaboration with all provinces and territories.

The changes have been welcomed by B.C. Premier David Eby, who called the timeline to implement the changes "frustrating."

Sarah Leamon, a criminal lawyer with Sarah Leamon Law Group, said the reforms won’t be an overnight fix, pointing to the need for housing and mental health supports.

“We really don’t know what the effect of these changes is going to be,” Leamon said. “I think it’s important to keep in mind that bail is one piece of a much larger puzzle here when we’re talking about enhancing public safety.”

Some advocates have questioned the reforms, worried they could disproportionately affect marginalized communities in the justice system.

The expanded scope of the reverse onus bail provisions for intimate partner violence, meanwhile, is a change being welcomed by some groups.

“We know all too often that when those individuals breach those bail orders, we have had individuals die,” said Ninu Kang, the executive director with the Ending Violence Association of B.C. “So this is a very critical and important issue we need to address.”

In five years, Parliament is required to review the bill to assess the effectiveness of the legislative measures.

With files from CTV News Vancouver’s Abigail Turner Top Stories

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