How would tougher bail laws affect Nunavut’s hunters? Lawyer, justice minister weigh in

Conservatives MPs, premiers urge Trudeau government to reform laws after shooting death of OPP officer

Baker Lake MLA Craig Simailak has announced his resignation as justice minister and minister responsible for Qulliq Energy Corp. He made the announcement in the legislative assembly Thursday morning. (Photo by Emma Tranter)

By Meral Jamal

As pressure mounts to toughen Canada’s bail laws, reviews are mixed as to how such changes could affect people in Nunavut.

Conservatives MPs put forward a motion in the House of Commons Feb. 2 pushing the Liberal government to make it harder for people accused of restricted or prohibited firearm offences to get bail.

That motion was defeated last week, but Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok is on record saying he would support such a change.

He signed a letter last month to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, along with the rest of Canada’s premiers, pressing for the same bail reform. They’d written the letter in reaction to the death of an Ontario Provincial Police officer late last year.

Randall McKenzie is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Const. Grzegorz Pierzchala in southern Ontario. Pierzchala was fatally shot Dec. 27. McKenzie had been out on bail and was banned from owning a firearm.

The letter calls for a “reverse onus” on those accused of restricted or prohibited gun offences to make bail. That means it’s up to the accused to demonstrate to a judge they should be released.

Cassandra Richards, a criminal lawyer who works in Nunavut, said it’s already difficult for people in the territory to be released on bail due to the remoteness of communities and challenges in finding someone to supervise them if they are released.

Such a change would especially impact Inuit hunters whose guns aren’t properly licensed.

“[They] could be captured by this type of legislation,” Richards said.

Nunatsiaq News asked Akeeagok about the letter and how he believes bail reform would impact Nunavut.

Akeeagok deferred his response to the territory’s Justice Minister Craig Simailak, who said the premiers want to ensure Canada’s bail laws balance the rights of the accused with public safety.

“This may include amendments which ensure that repeat and violent offenders are not given an opportunity to re-offend while awaiting trial,” he said in an email statement.

At the same time, Simailak admitted Nunavut is a unique jurisdiction with a unique population and challenges.

“Bail rules that work in southern Canada may not necessarily work in Nunavut, where smaller communities and housing shortages sometimes mean that victims of violent crime must live with or near an offender who is released on bail,” he said.

“Legally acquired firearms are a part of life in Nunavut. They are important tools for hunting, and our premier is aware of the importance of protecting access to this livelihood.”

Nunavut NDP MP Lori Idlout said she is in favour of reviewing legislation to make sure “we deliver better results for Canadians.”

“It is our understanding that the federal government is taking this letter very seriously, as they should,” she said in an email statement.

“As we anticipate the federal government response, our focus remains to ensure that Canadians receive the proper government services.”


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(19) Comments:

  1. Posted by If you’re a criminal you’re a criminal. on

    How about we treat criminals as criminals and punish them appropriately?

    Unless we’re fine with people blasting 20-50 shots at the police officer and being able to get bail because “MuH CuNtRy FoOd!”

    • Posted by CLAY STOWELL on

      We also must remember that the suspect in the OPP shooting was in violation and had an “order to arrest” but was unable to be found. Must have been a lack of resources.

  2. Posted by TGC on

    A line should be drawn between proven violent and non-violent offences when considering these things. It is not rocket science.

  3. Posted by 867 on

    Can’t you go hunting while incarcerated at a “healing center”?

  4. Posted by Not In Nunavut on

    Nunavut has the most relaxed bail and sentencing i’ve ever seen.

      • Posted by noth on

        When someone is violating bail or probation conditions, who takes care of that? Does anyone actually monitor it? I’ve seen so many people out on conditions not to drink immediatiately get hammered and cause all kinds of commotion. The police come, tell them to quiet down, and that’s it.

    • Posted by oh ima on

      What other jurisdictions do you follow or have worked in the justice of other jurisdictions?

  5. Posted by Excuse me? on

    “Such a change would especially impact Inuit hunters whose guns aren’t properly licensed.”

    So people with illegal firearms, who commit a crime with said firearm, should not have that affect their ability to use said firearm? All because of the magical words “Inuit hunter” which apparently don’t make laws of general application apply to them?

    • Posted by oh ima on

      You fail to see that Inuit have certain rights that general Canadians such as yourself don’t have but wish you had. Inuit hunter is not what you call a magic word.

      • Posted by You’re Right and Oh So Wrong at the Same Time on

        You’re right, but the right to criminally possess unregistered firearms is absolutely not one of them.

        In this regard Inuit are absolutely the same as everyone else.

      • Posted by mulmur on

        Iam a Canadian, Inuit are Canadian. why would the people living in remote communities be treated different than the rest. We all walk on two feet. Have a brain. the law is for all or i will move to Inuvik so I can take advantage of the discrepancies.

    • Posted by There’s A Term for That on

      So, what you’re saying is…criminals?

  6. Posted by Umm on

    “Such a change would especially impact Inuit hunters whose guns aren’t properly licensed.”

    Ummm…. good?

    • Posted by Yeppers on

      People who utter such non-sense expect a broad visceral outpouring of pity at words like this. It’s laughable.

  7. Posted by The Power on

    Anyone who uses a gun in a violent way should be banned for life from owning/possessing any guns, no matter who or what they are, period.

  8. Posted by Larry on

    What percentage of your food has to come from the wild to be called a “sustenance hunter”? I’m a 2nd generation on one side and 3rd generation on the other born Canadian whom I guaranty has more venison, other wild meat and fish along with my own garden grown food in my freezer than 90% of Indigenous people! I still abide by the gun laws and licensing to take such animals for my families intake. I also use a bow to take a lot of my wild meat which I’ll also wager not many “sustenance hunters” do! I’m not the only one, I have many friends like me, why are we discriminated against when we’re the ones following the game laws and preserving enough game for future generations by practicing proper practises for wildlife control?


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