A bill named after slain St. Albert RCMP officer Const. David Wynn is one step closer to become law after it passed the second reading in the House of Commons.
On Wednesday bill S-217, better known as Wynn’s Law, passed with a vote of 154 to 128 despite government opposition to the bill.
The bill seeks to compel Crown prosecutors to disclose the criminal history of the accused at a bail hearing. Wynn was shot in the line of duty in January 2015. His assailant, Shawn Rehn, was out on bail despite 30 outstanding charges and a lengthy criminal record.
“It was very significant that the house passed Wynn’s Law at second reading,” St Albert MP Michael Cooper said. “I don’t know the last time that there has been an opposition bill that was opposed by a majority government that passed the house.”
The bill was put forward by the Conservatives and had the support of the NDP, Bloc Quebecois and Green Party MP Elizabeth May. To pass, the bill needed support from some of the Liberal MPs. During the vote 26 Liberal members stood to support the bill.
“They were under a lot of pressure from the whip and the government to vote against the bill,” Cooper said. “It was good to see several MPs put partisan politics aside to help get this bill passed at second reading.”
Cooper along with Wynn’s widow, Shelly MacInnis-Wynn campaigned for Liberal support with private meetings, public appearances and press conferences. MacInnis-Wynn travelled to Ottawa to hold a final press conference and to attend the vote.
“To have Shelly here to bring a human face to the issue was very important,” Cooper said.
Wynn’s Law is named after the St. Albert constable who was shot in the line of duty by Shawn Rehn in Jan. 2015. Wynn later died of his injuries in hospital.
Rehn was out on bail despite 30 outstanding warrants and a lengthy criminal record involving violence and ignoring court orders. Wynn was attempting to arrest Rehn outside the Apex casino after a licence plate check.
Rehn’s criminal history was never heard during the bail hearing. Wynn’s Law would change this.
Right now the prosecutor may introduce information about an accused’s criminal history during a bail hearing, but it is not mandatory. Wynn’s Law aims to make it compulsory.
The Liberal government opposed the bill, citing it would bog down the bail process.
“While I think that the Senate public bill’s proposed amendments are well-intentioned, they are not the solution to this complicated issue,” MP Sean Casey, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada said during a debate. “Rather, they would import delay and confusion and would likely have unintended legal and operational consequences for the bail process.”
According to Cooper, winning this vote was the biggest hurdle for the bill, although he said the fight is not over.
Now the bill is off to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for a review and will then come back to the House of Commons for a final vote.
As a result of Wynn’s death the provincial government has also made changes to the bail system. Last month, Alberta’s chief justice has ruled police officers do not have the authority to act on behalf of the Crown in bail hearings. A police officer conducted Rehn’s bail hearing.