Liberals propose major criminal justice changes to unclog Canada’s courts

Liberals propose major criminal justice changes to unclog Canada's courts thumbnail

The Liberal government tabled a major bill to reform Canada’s criminal justice system today with measures designed to close gaps in the system and speed up court proceedings, including an end to preliminary inquiries except for the most serious crimes that carry a life sentence.

Changes also include an end to peremptory challenges in jury selection, which became a flashpoint during the trial of Gerald Stanley, who was found not guilty of second-degree murder in the death of 22-year-old Indigenous man Colten Boushie.  

Some observers said the process was biased because the defence team excluded five potential jurors who appeared to be Indigenous. CBC News has not independently determined the reason for their exclusion.

Another proposed reform in the bill will put a reverse onus on bail for people who have a history of domestic abuse, which would require them to justify why they should be released after a charge.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould will formally announce the changes at 2:15 p.m. today and will carry her news conference live. Several other MPs and stakeholders will also attend.

New measures aim to address a 2016 Supreme Court ruling that stayed drug charges against Barrett Richard Jordan after he waited 49 months for a trial.

That 5-4 judgment described a culture of complacency around court delays and set strict time limits for criminal trials — 18 months for proceedings at provincial court and up to 30 months for cases at Superior Court. That sent provinces and territories scrambling for ways to meet the new timeframes, and has led to hundreds of cases being dismissed due to lengthy delays.

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