Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol)

Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol)

Minister Shandro: Revolving bail system and statutory release

Opinion

Albertans are becoming increasingly angry with the catch-and-release system that allows dangerous criminals back into our communities.

This is not the fault of the Alberta Justice system, local courts, crown prosecutors or the police.

The catch-and-release system is systemic and can be traced to federal laws and the bail regime established by Ottawa.

Before 1992, offenders were granted early release based on time-off for good behaviour. If someone showed remorse and behaved in prison, they could earn parole. Amendments then replaced this policy with “statutory release,” which legally requires that criminals who have served two-thirds of their sentence be automatically released into the community.

Myles Sanderson, one of the suspects in the mass killing that occurred in Saskatchewan, was out on statutory release after serving two-thirds of a federal sentence for numerous charges, including assault and robbery before being declared “unlawfully at large” in the summer of 2022. Sanderson was sentenced to four years and four months for a series of violent crimes – already a very soft sentence – but served less than three years behind bars.

Making matters worse, the Trudeau government’s Bill C-75, federal legislation passed in 2018, made significant changes to bail that quietly left a lot of our communities unsafe by making it almost impossible to hold even serious, repeat offenders in pre-trial custody.

Alberta’s government is doing everything in its power to address crime. In the past few years, Alberta has hired fifty new crown prosecutors, expanded the Provincial Court, greatly expanded drug treatment courts and has increased the budget for Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) to combat organized crime and illegal guns and gangs.

These actions, while substantial, are not enough. Alberta’s government, municipalities, federal Members of Parliament of all political stripes must make this matter a priority and speak with one voice to demand longer sentences for violent offenders and a bail regime that prioritizes public safety. Ultimately, those in power in Ottawa must answer for a soft-on-crime system that does not place the protection of the law-abiding public at the centre of all decisions.

– Tyler Shandro, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General