My latest: Lametti does the right thing

Let’s give credit where credit’s due.

Namely: David Lametti’s proposed bail reforms are exceptionally good. Outstandingly good.

It was not always thus. Since he became Canada’s Minister of Justice, David Lametti has not exactly covered himself with glory. A sampling:

• He has suggested that Canada’s provinces be stripped of their constitutional authority over natural resources.
• He urged another cabinet minister to send in the Canadian Armed Forces – and a tank – to forcibly remove the Ottawa “convoy” occupiers.
• He defended Justin Trudeau’s attempts to pressure prosecutors to go easy on a Liberal Party donor facing a corruption trial.
• He has tweeted, then rescinded, about the appointment of one of his political donors to the bench. (The donor was later appointed anyway.)

Like we say: not exactly covered in glory. The former McGill law professor has always had a Stéphane Dion look to him – you know, an owly academic who doesn’t really understand politics.

But, on his proposed bail reforms, Lametti has hit the proverbial ball out of the proverbial park.

The need for the reforms is clear. Since the pandemic faded, crime has skyrocketed – and, in particular, violent crimes committed by repeat offenders. One fairly recent study found that a whopping 23 per cent of federal offenders re-offended within two years of getting released. And the number who re-offend using violence is up, as well.

The case that likely pushed Lametti to act was tragic and unforgettable: the cold-blooded murder of an OPP officer late last year. Const. Grzegorz Pierzchala was killed west of Hagersville, Ont. just after Christmas. And the alleged shooter was Randall McKenzie, who had been out on bail and under a lifetime firearms ban.

The outcry in the Pierzchala case was immediate and nationwide, and the Trudeau Liberals could not ignore it – their internal polls reportedly showed that Canadians were angry and afraid about the surge in violent crime, particularly by repeat offenders.

So Lametti acted, and this week unveiled his proposed reforms. They’re tough.

For instance, Lametti wants to create what is sometimes called “reverse-onus” bail conditions for people charged with serious violent offences involving a weapon – where that person was convicted of a similar violent offence. A “reverse onus” law is exactly what the name implies – it shifts the burden of proof onto the accused.

Lametti’s changes will also slap certain firearms offences with the reverse-onus requirement, and expand it to cases of domestic abuse.

Anticipating an avalanche of Charter challenges by criminal defence lawyers, Lametti told the media: “You are innocent until proven guilty, and this is a critically important part of our legal system. But what we’re doing for certain violent offences is changing the default position and making sure that it is only in cases where there isn’t a threat to security.”

So, in some cases, it’ll be up to repeat offenders to show why they should get bail. Not on prosecutors to show why they shouldn’t.

Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre responded by saying he’d go even further – under a government led by him, he’d completely ban bail hearings for such offenders. So, a repeat offender arrested for a new violent crime would get “jail, not bail,” he said.

That’s good gut-level politics – but it’d be unlikely to ever survive a Charter challenge. Under section seven of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, every Canadian has the right to life, liberty and security of the person “and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”

Poilievre’s approach would likely get thrown out for violating fundamental justice – and then violent re-offenders would be free to re-offend.

Lametti’s approach seems to be the better one. His legislation was introduced in the House of Commons on Tuesday morning. We’ll see what happens to it next – in Commons debate, in committee, and in the Senate.

But, for now, David Lametti has done the right thing. And he deserves credit for trying.

Truth vs. lies


My latest: China’s tentacles

It’s nothing new. It’s not unique. And it’s not just something that happens in federal politics.

Chinese mauling of our democracy, and democratic institutions, that is. What has been reported in the media about the Chinese regime — that it deliberately and repeatedly sought to influence the 2019 and 2021 federal elections, and targeted a former cabinet minister for attacks — is well known.

Less known, however, are China’s attempts to do likewise at other levels of government, right across Canada.

In Vancouver, for instance, the Chinese consulate aggressively and regularly interfered in the city’s municipal election races. They’d do that using “proxies” — Manchurian candidates, in effect — grooming and deploying their shills in city election contests.

That revelation — which is fact, not conjecture — was found in a January 2022 report by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), which stated that the Chinese consul-general “groomed” candidates in B.C. to illicitly do Beijing’s bidding.

The report prompted the province’s premier to demand a briefing by CSIS, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — arguably Beijing’s best friend in the G7 — dismissed it all as “little bits and pieces of uncorroborated, unverified information.”

On that occasion, Trudeau resisted the temptation to label the CSIS report as “racist.” But Trudeau and his more obsequious MPs have used that canard on other occasions. So, too, the campaign of Olivia Chow, now seeking Toronto’s mayoralty — when asked about her relationship with Chinese front organizations.

Chow, who is usually a fair-minded person, shouldn’t ever make such an accusation. As she should know, China hasn’t just targeted federal politicians. It has sought to influence lesser levels of government, too. Even at the school board level.

That’s certainly what is alleged to happen at the level of Canada’s largest school board, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB). And reports about China’s meddling with the TDSB were followed by high-level resignations and recriminations.

As long ago as 2014, TDSB’s chair, Chris Bolton, abruptly resigned after what the Toronto Star then called “a never-ending stream of scandals” during Bolton’s tenure. “The timing of his resignation [was] questionable,” the Star reported — and China was one of those scandals.

When Bolton resigned, The Globe and Mail reported: “The news of his departure also comes just days before trustees are set to vote Wednesday on whether the TDSB should pursue its controversial partnership with the Chinese government. Mr. Bolton was the driving force behind the school board’s Confucius Institute.”

The “Institute,” which has been around for nearly two decades, has been the focus of controversy and opposition across democracies. Essentially, credible reports link the Confucius Institute to military and industrial espionage, including in Western educational institutions.

Former CSIS director Richard Fadden said that the Confucius Institute is “managed by people operating out of the embassy or consulates” and tasked with suppressing criticisms of Beijing.

After hundreds of parents signed a petition objecting to the presence of the Confucius institute in TDSB classrooms, Bolton hurriedly offered his resignation. One later report found no wrongdoing by him — but the author of the report was the TDSB itself.

Summarizing the scandals that had beset the TDSB, the Globe editorialized: “[Bolton] showed a stunning lack of judgment in striking an agreement with the Chinese government to offer Chinese language and cultural programs, subsidized and controlled by the non-democratic government in Beijing. Despite its innocuous name, the Confucius Institute functions as little more than a long arm of the Chinese state, pushing its political agenda under the guise of simple language instruction.”

And that, at the end, is the reality: China muscling into our democracy — even at the granular level of a school board. China’s regime is a multi-headed hydra, increasingly, its tentacles slinking into our institutions from coast to coast. No target is too small for Chinese manipulations, it seems.

Justin Trudeau and Olivia Chow may claim otherwise.

But they should know better.