[JURIST] Canadian Conservative Party Prime Minister Stephen Harper joined with Ontario Liberal Party Premier Dalton McGinty and Toronto Mayor David Mills Thursday to lay out [speech transcript; recorded audio] the terms of proposed federal gun crime legislation [press release] being introduced in the Canadian House of Commons that would put the burden on serious gun crimes suspects seeking bail but guilty of a previous firearms offence to show cause why they should not stay in custody. Traditionally, the burden has been on Crown prosecutors to show why bail should not be granted. Harper defended the "reverse onus" aspect of the plan as being consistent with other laws already on the books concerning drug trafficking and organized crime. Last month Canadian Justice Minister Vic Toews defended a new federal crime bill which could require repeat criminal offenders to convince courts that they are no longer dangerous [JURIST report] instead of requiring Crown prosecutors to establish a continuing threat. CTV News has more. CBC News has additional coverage.
Pressure for stricter Canadian guns laws - already significantly more restrictive than those in the US - has increased in the past year in the wake of a surge in gun violence [JURIST report] in Toronto, Canada's largest city, and other Canadian centers. On Thursday, Harper himself pointed to Toronto police figures reporting that "almost 1,000 crimes involving firearms or restricted weapons have been committed so far this year", nearly 40 percent of which "were committed by someone who was on bail, parole, temporary absence or probation." Former Liberal Party prime minister Paul Martin pressed for a sweeping national ban on handguns [JURIST report] in the last federal election campaign, but ultimately lost to Harper on other issues.