With crime increasing in Cowichan, the mayors of Duncan and North Cowichan, as well as the chair of the Cowichan Valley School District, are calling on the federal government to amend Canada’s bail system.
In a letter to Arif Virani, Canada’s minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, North Cowichan’s Mayor Rob Douglas, Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples and Cowichan Valley School District Chair Cathy Schmidt pointed out that the region has seen a 29 per cent increase in calls-for-service to the RCMP related to assaults, a 38 per cent increase in calls for sex offences, and an 83 per cent increase in calls for extortion from April to June, 2022, to April to June, 2023.
“Despite our smaller size relative to the major urban centres, we are confronting significant challenges related to increasing criminal activity and street disorder,” the letter said.
“Like many other communities across Canada, we have a small number of individuals with lengthy records who account for an outsized proportion of local crime, impacting local neighbourhoods, businesses and the most vulnerable people experiencing homelessness. Sadly, much of this activity is occurring in parts of our community close to our schools, impacting our children and young people.”
The local leaders told Virani that for communities like Cowichan, the changes proposed with Bill C-48, which proposes a stricter bail system for some in the country, would help address this growing problem, and they would encourage the Liberal government to work with Parliament to implement these amendments as soon as possible.
Bill C-48 would strengthen the bail system and make it harder for those accused of certain offences to be released on bail, including those charged with a serious violent offence involving a weapon.
Earlier this year, in response to calls for bail reform from Canada’s provincial premiers and police chiefs, Virani introduced Bill C-48, but the proposed changes stalled in Parliament before it was adjourned in June and is not expected to be further debated and reviewed by both the House of Commons and the Senate until sometime this fall.
Alistair MacGregor, MP for Cowichan-Malahat-Langford, has recently spoken to North Cowichan and Duncan councils encouraging them to support the growing calls for the implementation of Bill C-48 as soon as possible.
“Last year, the mayors from our major urban centres in British Columbia criticized our justice system for taking a ‘catch-and-release’ approach to these repeat violent offenders, as we had seen several high-profile incidents in the previous months involving individuals who committed serious crimes while out on bail,” the letter to Virani said.
“In response, the Government of B.C. provided a directive to Crown prosecutors to seek detention before trial for these offenders, plus new coordinated response teams with police, probation officers and prosecutors that will monitor high-risk repeat offender cases while leading investigations and providing information to keep these individuals in custody before trial. However, it has become clear that further changes are needed at the federal level to keep these repeat violent offenders in jail while awaiting trial, including to the Criminal Code.”
The local leaders are strongly urging the government to treat bail reform for violent, repeat offenders as a priority for the fall session.
“And we’re also asking that you do everything in your power to ensure these amendments are reviewed and adopted by both the House of Commons and the Senate in a timely manner, improving public safety in both small and large communities across Canada, where we continue to feel the impacts of increasing criminal activity and street disorder,” the letter concluded.