Conservative MP Rob Nicholson, his party’s justice critic, will be in Kelowna Monday afternoon to discuss concerns about the federal government’s planned changes to the criminal justice system. —Image: contributed

Conservative justice critic brings justice reform concerns to Kelowna

MP Rob Nicholson set to address ‘troubling’ aspects of government’s planned changes today

The federal Opposition justice critic will be in Kelowna later today to discuss proposed changes the government plans to make to the criminal justice system.

Conservative Rob Nicholson, MP for Niagara Falls, will host a round-table discussion with Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola MP Dan Albas to address what Nicholson calls some of the “more troubling” aspects of Bill-75.

“I am here today along with my colleague MP Dan Albas, to make Okanagan residents aware of some very troubling changes the Liberals are proposing to make with Bill C-75,” said Nicholson in a statement issued Monday morning.

“While we agree with changes such as intimate partner violence reforms, we have serious concerns with the hybridization of some very significant criminal offences such as the abduction of a child under 14, material benefit from trafficking, breach of prison, participation in activity of terrorist group or criminal organization, advocating genocide and arson for fraudulent purposes.”

Nicholson said those changes could result in a penalty as low as fine for what were indictable offences.

“We feel most Canadians would agree that offences such as the kidnapping of a child are very serious crimes and should be treated as such.” He is encouraging members of the public who have similar concerns to share them, by writing to Justice Minister Jody Wilson Raybould.

The federal changes are a response to a 2016 Supreme Court of Canada decision, called the Jordan decision. It called for sweeping changes to the justice system in order to end what the high court called a “culture of complacency” plaguing Canadian courts.

Former federal justice minister Allan Rock, president emeritus and a professor of law at the University of Ottawa, said earlier this year the Jordan decision created an expectation among Canadians that their government would act to improve the criminal justice system.

He said while the proposed legislation does not address all the problems in the system, it would resolve many of them.

The Supreme Court decision found Barrett Richard Jordan, who was arrested in December 2008 and charged with various offences relating to possession and trafficking of drugs, had to wait too long when it took 49.5 months from the time his preliminary inquiry was set in May 2010 to the end of his trial in February 2013.

Jordan appealed his conviction to the B.C. Supreme Court and the B.C. Court of Appeals and both appeals were rejected.

But the Supreme Court ruled the framework traditionally used to determine whether an accused is tried within a reasonable time caused significant problems and contributed to a culture of delay and complacency.

It granted Jordan a stay of proceedings and allowed his appeal, saying the application of the former framework was unpredictable, unduly complex, relied on the notion of prejudice, was “confusing, hard to prove, and highly subjective,” and was something that didn’t encourage the courts and either side to prevent delays.

It replaced the framework with a presumptive ceiling of 18 months between charges and trial in a provincial court without a preliminary hearing, or 30 months in other cases.

As a result of the Supreme Court decision, Crown lawyers have had to change the way they proceed with cases, including using the direct indictment procedure more frequently.

Nicholson will hold his round table discussion with Albas at 5:30 p.m. today at the law offices of Pusher Mitchell LLP at 1665 Ellis Street in Kelowna.

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