Anonymous submission to North Shore
So-called Canada’s 13 premiers recently signed a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, urging stricter bail requirements. “The time for action is now, our heroic first responders cannot wait”. Hopefully, this short analysis can shed some light on the recent preparations made by the state to strengthen their security-apparatus. Hopefully, this will help us make our own preparations.
In the letter, the premiers suggested that a “reverse onus on bail” should be created for the offence of possession of a loaded prohibited or restricted firearm. They argued that someone accused of that crime “should have to demonstrate why their detention is not justified when they were alleged to have committed an offence where there was imminent risk to the public”.
The letter can be found here: https://oppa.ca/Media/Blog/premierslettertopmbailreform
Reverse-onus undermines the basic protections provided by our already flawed legal system. Placing the burden of proof on the defendant puts an undue burden on the individual, who may not have access to council (following provincial cuts to legal aid), and increases harm and wrongful convictions. We also must consider who this is going to affect the most. We all know that this won’t apply to the rich and powerful, and will corrode the rights of the hyper-surveyed even further.
It’s important to mention that even now, bail is often denied. Accused individuals are often remanded to custody (put in jail) while awaiting trial. Let’s be clear: people who have not been convicted of any crime will be put behind bars. Right now, seventy percent of inmates in Ontario jails are on remand, and the percentage of inmates on remand has grown dramatically in recent years. Despite this, the government believes that putting even more people behind bars will solve the “skyrocketing” violent crime.
These calls to “reform” the bail system in Ontario are misguided and ultimately harmful. The focus on making it harder for people to achieve bail is based on either a flawed understanding of the criminal justice system, or simply a malicious attempt of the state to extend its policing apparatus.
These calls to “reform” the bail system not only violate the rights of the accused, but also perpetuate a culture of punishment and retribution. Additionally, by focusing on tightening bail requirements, the state undermines community-based solutions and allows what little social services we have to slowly decline.
We as anarchists and prison-abolitionists know that the criminal justice system, including the bail system, is inherently unjust, and punishes marginalized communities while ignoring social inequality. By focusing on punishing individuals who have committed crimes, politicians are perpetuating a cycle of oppression. The designation of some behaviour as “crime” is a manifestation of state power and control. The state and its institutions, including the criminal justice system, exist to protect and further the interests of the ruling class.
In Hamilton, Barton Jail is a particularly oppressive example that highlights the larger issues within the criminal justice system, and its lack of will to provide adequate resources and care for those in its cages. Then again, forcing someone into a cage is contradictory to providing adequate resources and care. The poor infrastructure, lack of information, bureaucratic hurdles, inadequate health care, and general cruelty and low quality of life in prison is not a bug of the system – it is a feature of a system which gains its power from oppression and fear of imprisonment. When more people are denied access to bail, more people will suffer these consequences of our retributive-based justice system.
When your only tools are handcuffs and guns, everyone looks like a suspect or a threat. Any action taken by the Canadian government is first by manipulation, and if that don’t work, by gun or shackle.
We must look to the outcomes of people’s and institutions’ actions to inform our decisions. Not just the intentions, however vigilant, and forever aligned with their oh-so honourable principles they might claim to be. We know that there is only one outcome when the Canadian police-apparatus is in charge of changing the bail system – more people being jailed. True change can only come from a radical transformation of society. Open up the cages.
Let’s keep an eye on these slimy fuckers. If you feel passionate about this, educate yourself and others, share this info on your socials, and support the organizations fighting the prison system.
Against prisons and their world.
Some anarchists in Hamilton
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Here are some more resources for those interested in learning more about bail in Canada. It includes the common law case on bail, and the recent Ontario Legislative Assemblies surrounding bail:
R. v. Antic, 2017 – The right to not be denied reasonable bail, common law case.
Summary of R. v. Antic.
The motion to begin the justice committee’s “business.” 18th January 2023
Discussions on bail: Ontario police organizations (OPP, OACP, OPPA, PAO, TPS, TPA, and NAPS). Criminal lawyers’ association. 31st January 2023
Discussions on bail: More police associations. Prison law associations. Civil liberties association. Congress of Aboriginal peoples. Ontario Public Service Employees Union. 1st February 2023