Nearly half of the suspects charged following Saskatchewan RCMP homicide investigations over the last five years were out on conditions, bail, parole, or probation at the time the murder was committed.
That’s according to Saskatchewan RCMP Major Crimes statistics released on Wednesday. Between 2019 and 2023, Saskatchewan RCMP officers investigated 156 homicides, with 44 per cent of the individuals charged reported as out on conditions, bail, parole, or probation. The list of homicides includes first degree murder, second degree murder, and manslaughter charges.
RCMP Spt. Joshua Graham is the officer in charge of the RCMP’s Saskatchewan Major Crimes unit. He said RCMP investigators are doing their best to close all cases, but are frustrated.
“It goes without saying that a homicide is worst case scenario – but when an individual commits a homicide while on bail or release conditions, it’s extremely discouraging and frustrating for our investigators,” Graham said in a press release. “In 2023, our Major Crimes unit had five instances where two or three separate homicides occurred in less than 48 hours. These clusters of homicides are alarming, but no longer an anomaly.”
Courts can order offenders to have no contact with certain individuals, and ban offenders from possessing certain weapons or entering certain communities, among other conditions. In 2023, Saskatchewan RCMP officers identified suspects violating more than 15,800 court ordered conditions in RCMP jurisdiction.
Officers discovered the violations while conducting traffic stops, responding to calls for service, and proactive condition checks. Last year, RCMP officers conducted roughly 17,000 checks to make sure offenders where complying with court ordered conditions.
The Saskatchewan RCMP Enforcement Response Team has partnered with a number of agencies, including municipal police services and the Canadian Mental Health Association Saskatchewan Division, to create the Saskatchewan Serious Violent Offender Response (SVOR) Program. The program monitors violent offenders to ensure they are complying with court ordered conditions, while also providing services aimed at reducing the chance of reoffending.
The federal government has also taken steps to reduce the number of crimes committed by suspects out on bail or under court ordered conditions.
On Thursday, federal MPs passed Bill C-48, an amendment to the country’s bail laws the federal government says will target repeat offenders in cases involving firearms, knives, bear spray, and other weapons.
The bill expands the number of cases triggering a “reverse onus” where serious repeat offenders must demonstrate to the court why they should be released instead of making the Crown show why the accused should be held without bail.
The bill also requires the courts to consider the accused’s history of convictions for violence when making a bail decision. Courts must also state on the record that they have considered the safety and security of the community when making a bail decision, something the federal government believes will increase accountability to the public.
“I am hopeful the amended bail provisions are a step in the right direction—because at the end of the day, those individuals who are not interested in rehabilitation or changing their lifestyle will continue to do harm to others and should not be released back into our communities,” Saskatchewan RCMP Commanding Officer Rhonda Blackmore said in a media release.
In 2023, the number of RCMP homicide investigations dropped to its lowest level since 2019. RCMP officers investigated 30 homicides in 2023, compared to 42 in 2022, 33 in 2021, 21 in 2020, and 20 in 2019.
Saskatchewan RCMP investigators have solved 84 per cent of homicides committed in their jurisdiction since 2015.