B.C. commits to new complex care services to address repeat violent offenders
VICTORIA -- B.C.'s Attorney General David Eby says the answer to the City of Victoria's problem with violent, repeat offenders, is new complex care services.
Attorney General Eby made the comments in response to a letter which was penned in early July by the Mayor of Victoria, Lisa Helps. The letter was written following a motion from councillors Marianne Alto and Charlayne Thornton-Joe, who had first raised the concerns relating to violent offenders being released on a promise to appear in court.
These issues have not been exclusive to Victoria, and have been noted in other communities across the Capital Regional District as well as the lower mainland.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020, the federal government passed Bill C-75. The controversial bill included measures to give courts the ability to grant early release to prisoners under the guise of protecting people from the coronavirus, and also legislated a “principle of restraint” that requires police to release an accused person at the earliest possible opportunity after considering these factors.
However, according to the province's Attorney General, the measures brought in under Bill C-75 are out of the province's jurisdiction.
"There are two key actors here that are beyond provincial jurisdiction and that's the courts, and the decision they make about whether-or-not to hold someone in custody as they await trial," said Eby in conversation with CFAX 1070. "The second is the federal government, because the courts look at the federal law, and what they've passed in this regard."
Despite this, Eby admits the province does hold a responsibility to provide public safety in all communities. In order to accomplish this, he says they'll be working to introduce a number of new "complex care" support services across the entire province, including here in Victoria. He says that with these new supports coming into place, he anticipates that the sheer number of incidents relating to the early release of violent offenders will begin to decline.
"I think people in the CRD and Victoria will begin to see significant improvements going forward," said Eby. "My sincere hope is that we've really bottomed out in terms of issues of street disorder and associated problems including violence."
The many incidents relating to violent offenders that have taken place since March 2020 have also taken a toll on local police forces, as officers with the VicPD have been forced to discharge their firearms twice in the last five months. In one of these cases, on September 12th, a man experiencing a mental health crisis was shot dead by police after a lengthy confrontation on Douglas Street.
Incidents relating to mental health have been commonplace in Victoria over the past seventeen months, but Eby believes that providing people with safe, supportive housing services is the answer.
"This will ensure people who are housed in our supportive housing, or in a shelter, aren't having an impact on neighbours, other residents or themselves," says the B.C. Attorney General. "There are a lot of people who are very sick and need that additional support, and we're working on that right now."
Eby notes that B.C. prisons are now allowing the detention of a greater number of inmates as the province navigates towards what they believe will be the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.