This week on Legally Speaking with Michael Mulligan:
In response to political pressure resulting from public disorder and random assaults of strangers, BC Premier Eby announced several policy changes, including some amendments to the Crown Counsel Policy Manual concerning bail.
Much of the social disorder and irrational, random assaults of strangers in urban centres are rooted in the increase in homeless people suffering from mental illness and drug addiction.
In 2012, after many years of downsizing, a large mental hospital called Riverview was closed. It was decided that it would be more humane to treat people suffering from mental illnesses in the community rather than in an institutional setting.
Unfortunately, adequate community treatment for mental illness was never provided.
As a result, many hundreds of people suffering from profound mental illnesses are now left homeless and untreated. At its peak, in the 1950s, more than 4,500 patients lived at Riverview hospital.
Some of the policies announced by Premier Eby are likely to be helpful. One announcement was for additional funding to create more secure hospital spaces for people who are determined to be mentally ill, in need of treatment, and who are a danger to themselves or others.
Unfortunately, to blunt political claims that the social disorder and random attacks on strangers are the results of failing to seek the detention of people once there are arrested and charged with a criminal offence, changes to the Crown Counsel Policy Manual were also announced.
The Crown Counsel Policy Manual is intended to provide direction to Crown Counsel to ensure consistent principled decision-making when conducting criminal prosecutions.
The changes were intended to make the relevant policies sound tougher.
Unfortunately, many of the changes imply that Crown Counsel was not considering relevant things when making decisions on bail. That has not been the case.
In addition, to the extent that the changes create the impression with the judiciary that when Crown Counsel is seeking someone’s detention, it is being done for political reasons rather than because of a reasoned conclusion that detention is appropriate, the changes to the policy may undermine the seriousness with which such submissions are received.
Also, on the show, two new pieces of legislation intended to address a housing shortage are discussed.
Bill 44, the Building and Strata Statutes Amendment Act, 2022, will eliminate the ability of strata corporations to restrict the rental of strata units. It will also eliminate all age restrictions for strata properties, except for 55+ buildings. The changes intend to increase the number of available rental units.
For people who own strata units they do not occupy themselves, the elimination of all rental restrictions will subject owners to an extra “vacancy tax” if the units are not rented. Before the legislation, owners could avoid the vacancy tax if they were not permitted to rent units due to strata rental restrictions.
Bill 43 – the Housing Supply Act, will permit the provincial government to set targets for municipalities to permit more housing to be constructed. If targets are not being met, the legislation permits municipal records to be examined and, ultimately, the provincial government to amend zoning bylaws and issue construction permits.