Coun. Sheldon East introduced a motion at the recent regular meeting of council to address the problematic issue of ‘catch and release’ for violent offenders in the court system.
“Violent offenders are getting released out on bail within a matter of hours or days after creating a violent offence,” East claimed. “Without any sort of punishment or disciplinary action, the criminals will continue to grow and become more violent.
“We’re not only putting every Canadian’s household at risk of safety from crime, but we’re also putting our police officers in danger as well. Police officers don’t know what they’re walking into any more; they don’t know if they’re walking into a dispute where behind that door is a shotgun waiting for them,” said East.
His request of Midland council, and councils across Canada, was to send a letter to the higher provincial and federal tiers of government asking for a re-evaluation of the current justice system, and specifically the catch-and-release bail system.
“If we can put pressure on this to change it, then with disciplinary actions, we might be able to make Canada a safer place,” East said.
Mayor Bill Gordon, who had worked for Midland Police Services for over two decades, wanted “to temper the reality” that was East’s proposal to affect change.
“This is one of those emotional-type motions, and it’s not uncommon to have them; I know I’ve tabled a few in my time already. And it’s largely symbolic,” said Gordon. “There’s a lot of moving parts in this; it’s a complex problem.”
Gordon gave a brief explanation of the justice system release parameters, as defined by the federal Criminal Code which are interpreted by a provincially-appointed justice of the peace.
“The long and short of it is: if any of you found yourself accused of a crime, whether you did it or not, and you were presented in front of a justice of the peace, the default is ‘thou shalt release’.”
Alluded to in the meeting was ‘Bill C-48: An Act to amend the Criminal Code (bail reform)’ which had been tabled in the House of Commons in early June, with Gordon informing council that the federal government had committed to review the topic.
“If there’s a flop in federal governments in the next couple of years as some people predict, I’m pretty sure it will be a high priority for them as well – with or without this motion,” Gordon added.
He concluded with a comment that voting against East’s motion would be like voting against “puppies and rainbows”, and reiterated his stance that it was out of Midland’s hands as a lower-tier municipality.
The motion was voted upon and carried, with a letter to be sent to higher tiers of government as well as other municipalities across the country for endorsement consideration.
Council meetings are held on the first and third Wednesdays of each month, and can be viewed on Rogers TV cable channel 53, or through the livestream on the Rogers TV website. Archives of council meetings are available through Rogers TV and on the Town of Midland’s YouTube channel.