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Manitoba Announces New Programs, Services for Offenders Out on Bail

May 1, 2023 3:32 PM | The Canadian Press

By Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press

Kelvin Goertzen

Kelvin Goertzen speaks during a meeting in Ottawa on Friday, March 10, 2023. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Spencer Colby)

WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government has developed a new pilot program that is to provide more supervision and support for up to 50 people who have been released on bail.

The province’s adult bail management program is set to begin later thisspring with 25 men and 25 women with serious charges before the courts.

Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen said at a news conference on Monday that the program was created to address public safety concerns and to make sure those accused of crimes follow bail conditions.

“We know that people are frustrated when they’re victimized by crime, but that victimization when somebody has been out on bail causes an even a greater degree of frustration,” he said.

Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative government is also to expand enhanced supervision services for those who have been identified by justice agencies as posing a high risk to public safety.

The province is adding a full-time psychologist and more probation officers and community corrections workers to its intensive probation program. This will allow the province to offer services to as many as 200 people, or double its current capacity, Goertzen said.

Individuals out on probation for domestic violence, sex and gang-related offences may be supervised as part of the program.

Recent statistics from Winnipeg police suggest nearly 20 per cent of people charged with violent offences last year were out on bail at the time. About 16 per cent of those charged with homicides were either out on bail or probation.

“These are staggering numbers for us. It’s an indication to me that we need to make some changes to our bail systems and our probation systems,” Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth said at the news conference.

Manitoba also announced it is looking to improve its electronic monitoring program to reflect technological advancements.

The Opposition NDP panned Monday’s announcement.

“It’s all tough talk and no action,” justice critic Matt Wiebe said in a statement.

Provinces across the country have been calling for the federal government to reform the country’s bail system to protect communities by keeping repeat violent offenders off of the streets.

Federal Justice Minister David Lametti has committed to moving forward on reforms that would update the bail system.

He has not settled on a specific timeline for introducing reforms but has expressed hope that he can do so before the end of the spring session, which is scheduled to wrap up in late June.

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