Enamored as it is by the sound of its own panic alarm, the federal government will have a hard time justifying its contention that Canada is riding a crime wave in the wake of new data that show just the opposite.
“The police-reported crime rate, which measures the overall volume of crime that came to the attention of police, continued a long-term decline in 2012, falling three per cent from 2011,” Statistics Canada reported last week. “The Crime Severity Index (CSI). . .also decreased three per cent.”
In fact, the numbers-crunching agency says that the crime rate in Canada has “reached its lowest level” in 41 years. The CSI, meanwhile, was off 28 per cent from 2002, with 415,000 incidents of violence in 2012.
Still, one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s signature social policies is his “tough-on-crime” agenda, made manifest by omnibus Bill C-10 (now the Safe Streets and Communities Act), which places unusual emphasis on the so-called rights of victims.
A government website outlines the guts of the legislation, thusly:
“Part 1 creates a new act entitled the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act;
Part 2 amends the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) and the Criminal Code; Part 3 amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA), the International Transfer of Offenders Act and the Criminal Records Act; Part 4 amends the Youth Criminal Justice Act; and part 5 amends the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. . .Part 3 . . .makes changes to the CCRA’s principles (and) reforms in four main areas: Enhancing sharing of information with victims; increasing offender responsibility and accountability; strengthening the management of offenders and their reintegration; and modernizing disciplinary actions.”
One of the legislation’s features that continues to stick in the collective craw of community activists, family welfare advocates and even a few international observers is the unreasonably harsh treatment it metes out to young offenders. Last year, The Canadian Press reported, “The UN committee on the rights of the child has finished a 10-year review of how Canada treats its children and how well governments are implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In particular, the committee says Canada’s Youth Criminal Justice Act complied with international standards until changes were introduced earlier this year.”
Specifically, CP indicated, “Bill C-10 ‘is excessively punitive for children and not sufficiently restorative in nature,’ the committee wrote in a report. ‘The committee also regrets there was no child rights assessment or mechanism to ensure that Bill C-10 complied with the provisions of the convention.’ The committee also repeatedly expressed its concern that aboriginal and black children are dramatically overrepresented in the criminal justice system. Aboriginal youth are more likely to be jailed than graduate from high school, the report said.”
Flash forward to the present day, and here’s what Stats Can stipulates on the subject on youth crime in this country: “Police reported that just over 125,000 youth aged 12 to 17 were accused of a criminal offence in 2012, about 11,000 less than the previous year. The youth accused rate fell seven per cent while the youth CSI declined six per cent.”
What’s more, “The majority of youth accused in 2012 were involved in non-violent incidents. The most common type of youth crime was theft of $5,000 and under, committed by 18 per cent of youth accused. Common assault (level 1) was the most common type of violent offence committed by youth in 2012, accounting for 11 per cent of youth accused. Other relatively common offences committed by youth were mischief (11 per cent), administration of justice violations (10 per cent) and cannabis possession (10 per cent). In 2012, 44 per cent of youth accused were formally charged by police, the rest were dealt with by other means under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.”
All of which paints a somewhat more wholesome picture of Canadian society – one that is, in fact, broadly consistent with those of other developed nations, where crime rates are also dropping – than the red meat crowd in Ottawa would have us believe.
If course, power politics is about nothing if not inventing problems to solve.