Canada’s falling crime rate flies in face of Harper policies
TheStar.com – opinion/editorials – How low does Canada’s crime rate have to fall before the Harper Conservatives get the message that their ‘tough on crime’ agenda is misguided?
Jul 26 2013. Editorial
How low does Canada’s crime rate have to fall before the Harper Conservatives get the message? How much more money has to be spent on enforcing “tough on crime” laws before they admit the futility of this costly campaign?
The latest annual report from Statistics Canadashows that overall levels of crime were down yet again last year, and now stand at the lowest level since 1972. The number of homicides dropped a remarkable 10 per cent, due to a sharp reduction in the West, bringing the homicide rate to its lowest level since 1966, the far-off era of the Beatles and Lester Pearson.
The “crime severity index,” which captures both the number and seriousness of criminal offences, has dropped 28 per cent in the past decade — a wholly welcome development that governments and police forces should celebrate.
Instead, the Harper government has doubled down on its campaign against Canada’s phantom crime wave, passing a raft of high profile anti-crime bills and spending billions more on enforcement in a time of financial restraint in almost every other area.
Back in March, the Parliamentary Budget Office took a snapshot of the situation and found that Canada’s per-capita spending on the criminal justice system had jumped by 23 per cent in the previous 10 years, most of it under the Tories’ watch, while the crime rate was down by precisely the same amount – 23 per cent. To rub salt into the wound, three-quarters of the extra cost (some $5.3 billion) fell on the struggling provinces, which bear most responsibility for administering the justice system.
Absurdly, the government is taking credit for the latest drop in crime, as if the billions in extra spending is the price we must pay for a safer society. “These statistics show that our tough-on-crime policies are working,” aspokesperson for Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said on Thursday.
In fact, there is no reason to believe that those policies have anything to do with less crime. Canada’s overall crime rate peaked in 1991 and has been falling steadily ever since. The same general trend is apparent across most of the United States, where laws and enforcement policies have varied widely.
Experts say there are many causes, but the biggest single reason is the aging population — there are simply fewer young men with a tendency to commit crimes. For the Conservatives, who came to power in 2006, to claim credit for more than two decades of dropping crime is as laughable as it is insupportable.
Fortunately, the stern face of the Harper government’s crime agenda, Vic Toews, quit politics earlier this month, to be replaced as public safety minister by the bland and inoffensive Blaney. It may be too much to hope that this government will openly reverse field on its pointless crime campaign. But it would be well-advised to quietly drop the rhetoric and put a halt to a crackdown that is neither necessary nor efficient.
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