Poilievre questions Liberal 'catch-and-release' tactic amid nationwide 'crime wave'

'Mr. Speaker, does the prime minister believe banning hunting rifles in rural communities will stop knife crime in downtown cities?' Pierre Poilievre asked of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Poilievre questions Liberal 'catch-and-release' tactic amid nationwide 'crime wave'
The Canadian Press / Justin Tang
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Conservative Party Leader Pierre Poilievre took the governing Liberals to task after repeatedly asking why Ottawa continues to target law-abiding Canadians while refusing to correct its catch-and-release policy for criminals who commit violent crimes.

Federal Justice Minister David Lametti stepped in for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau instead.

"The question was for the prime minister, who didn't have the guts to answer me," said Poilievre in the House of Commons earlier this week after mentioning several murders across Canada, including the fatal stabbing of a Burnaby man in front of his infant daughter.

Inderdeep Singh Gosal, 32, repeatedly stabbed Paul Stanley Schmidt, 37, who asked him not to vape near his toddler. Vancouver police later charged Gosal with second-degree murder in the killing amid calls to up the charge to first-degree murder, which requires proof of premeditation.

"He had a knife," said the victim's mother. "I don't carry a knife into a coffee shop, do you?"

Schmidt is Vancouver's sixth homicide victim this year.

"This is part of a massive crime wave that the prime minister's catch and release system has unleashed across the country," continued Poilievre. 

"We did not have crime like this before [Trudeau] took office," he claimed while criticizing the prime minister's relative inaction.

"His Solution: Ban hunting rifles in rural communities," added Poilievre.

In May 2020, Ottawa banned over 1,500 models of previously legal firearms as part of its plan to confiscate "prohibited" firearms.

In November 2022, the Liberals, backed by their arrangement with the NDP, tabled sweeping amendments to Bill C-21 to ban semi-automatic shotguns and rifles purchased legally for hunting purposes. It earned widespread opposition from NDP and Liberal MPs alike.

Yukon Liberal MP Brendan Hanley hosted a roundtable on Bill C-21 in January with Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino and ultimately objected to the amendments to the contentious legislation.

According to a memo issued in late December, Ottawa planned to start its firearms buyback program on Prince Edward Island. However, Public Safety quickly cancelled the pilot project on January 12 and put the bill on hiatus the following month.

"Mr. Speaker, does the prime minister believe banning hunting rifles in rural communities will stop knife crime in downtown cities?" Poilievre asked of Trudeau.

Again, Lametti rose in the House to speak on behalf of the Liberal leader.

"Mr. Speaker, we have been working with the provinces and territories concerning bail reform since last October," he said. "We appreciate there is a concern amongst Canadians."

In mid-March, Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro told Ottawa it must pass promised amendments "immediately" to make it more challenging for repeat offenders to access bail.

The proposed changes would reverse the onus for repeat violent offenders seeking bail, including crimes involving knives and bear spray, while making changes related to violent crimes with firearms.

The federal government passed Bill C-5 last year to remove mandatory minimum sentences for some drug, firearms and tobacco-related convictions. They said clause 14 of Bill C-21 would increase penalties for those convicted of certain firearms offences to reduce violent gun crime.

An order paper question uncovered that 390 people faced convictions for firearms offences under sections 95, 96, 99, 100 and 103 of the Criminal Code of Canada between 2016 and 2021. Federal records indicated that none received the maximum penalty of 10 years.

Ottawa previously promised to introduce legislative changes as early as this session of Parliament.

"Alberta calls on the federal government to walk the walk, live up to its promise and make this change now. It is the right thing to do," said Shandro. "Victims, law enforcement and all Albertans have been waiting far too long for this to happen."

"We have a broad consensus on a path forward," responded Lametti, who claimed reforms would address the challenges of repeat violent offenders.

"There is a desire to feel…and be safe…from repeat offenders and address violent crime," he said in the Commons.

The federal justice minister added that while bail is a constitutional right, it is not absolute. 

"Our laws are clear that bail can be denied where there is just cause when it is necessary for the safety of the public or to maintain the public's confidence in the administration of justice," he said. 

On December 27, 28-year-old OPP Const. Grzegorz (Greg) Pierzchala died while responding to a call for a ditched vehicle in Hagersville, Ontario — his first-day working solo.

Court documents revealed Randall McKenzie, one of two people facing first-degree murder charges in the officer's death, is a violent offender recently out on bail for a separate case involving assault and weapons charges.

In September 2021, Ontario Premier Doug Ford criticized the justice system for failing to "get its act together" after a man accused of killing a Toronto police officer received bail.

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