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Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew is providing Winnipeg police with $3-million to hire 12 officers dedicated to tracking people who violate their bail conditions, and is ordering Crown attorneys to become tougher advocates against the release of repeat offenders.

The new measures, announced Thursday, are aimed at improving community safety. The province is also spending $514,000 to improve data collection and intelligence about people on bail, and $500,000 on an intensive supervision program focused on mental health and substance-use support for chronic offenders.

“We’ve heard time and time again that we need to take action on bail reform,” Mr. Kinew said at a news conference in Winnipeg. “The concern is that if somebody does get picked up off the street, often the next day, maybe even later the same day, those same people cause problems in our communities, are back at it again, and that causes Manitobans to lose confidence in their government’s ability to keep them safe.”

Under the suite of policies, which the Manitoba NDP had promised during the election last fall, Crown attorneys will be tasked to consider the impacts of bail on an offender’s victims and the community at large, particularly for cases involving intimate partner violence and repeat offenders. The Crown must now also consider public confidence in the justice system when assessing whether detention is necessary.

Manitoba plans to hold a public-safety summit in the coming weeks, where Mr. Kinew said community members, law enforcement and other agencies can discuss their shared priorities that will help address the root causes of crime.

Justice Minister and Attorney-General Matt Wiebe said the new policies are an attempt to improve on the previous Progressive Conservative government, which “chose again and again to point fingers and pass the jurisdictional buck over to the federal government.”

But Wayne Balcaen, the PC critic for justice, defended the opposition party, calling Thursday’s announcement disappointing.

“Bail is a federal issue. It’s just not a provincial issue. So what is happening here is that this isn’t bail reform, this is bail monitoring,” said Mr. Balcaen, who was the chief of Brandon Police Service for six years before being elected last year.

In December, the House of Commons approved Senate amendments to Bill C-48, which now forces the accused, in certain cases such as for intimate partner violence, to demonstrate why they should be released on bail, rather than requiring prosecutors to prove why they should remain in custody.

Bobby Baker, Prairie region director of the National Police Federation, said other provincial and federal leaders should “follow Manitoba’s lead.”

At the same news conference, acting deputy chief Dave Dalal of the Winnipeg Police Service said Thursday’s measures will align “perfectly with the philosophy of Bill C-48.”

He acknowledged that there is “a national issue” of trust and confidence in policing systems, which is also affecting Winnipeg’s service. “I can’t change the level of trust in the community by my words alone. It’s what our officers are doing every single day through positive interactions,” he said.

Bronwyn Dobchuk-Land, a criminal justice professor at the University of Winnipeg, said Thursday’s announcement will “make Manitoba much, much more unsafe rather than providing the safety these measures are promising.”

She said the Premier is acquiescing to “demands from business owners and residents in lofty neighbourhoods, who are uncomfortable by the vulnerable people on our streets.” She called it “a stunt for political points.”

“I promise you, if this goes ahead, you will see even more jailing of Indigenous peoples, who are already overwhelmed in our systems,” Prof Dobchuk-Land said. “We are giving the police ammunition to track down Indigenous people, keep an eye on them constantly and further criminalize them. It is a horrifying form of proactive policing.”

But Mr. Kinew said his government trusts police to do the right thing. “These are folks who put their lives on the line each and every single day to keep us safe,” he said.

“When we have situations, like some of these very, very difficult events, it has to be law enforcement to respond. You can’t send a social worker.”

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