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Myths About Crime
G. Shawn Swarts
G. Shawn Swarts
G. Shawn Swarts
Shawn graduated with a law degree from University of Western Ontario. Shawn articled in Ottawa, specializing in criminal defence work. Since his call to the bar in 1991, he continues to practice in this area.

Listening to Federal Conservative Justice Minister Rob Nicholson regular Canadians might think that our county is awash in violent, drug, and youth crimes. The Conservatives in the last four years have attempted to enact some seventeen pieces of legislation dealing with crime. It is standard Conservative policy that they are "tough on crime" and are all about "law and order." What they don't tell you is the real facts and statistics about crime in our county. The Conservatives often say that something needs to be done to deal with the soaring rates of violence and property crimes. The reality is our streets are safer today then they were twenty years ago. Violent crime has been dropping for years and in 2007 it was at the lowest rate it has been at any time in more than two decades. Similarly, the recent rate for property crime is more than forty percent below the peak reached in 1991.

The reality is the crime rates in Canada have dropped significantly over the last two decades and fostering a fear in order to get re-elected is not only inappropriate but unnecessary.

Another myth is that the criminal population is made up of mainly murders, rapists, and drug dealers, which is also completely untrue. Twenty four percent of criminal court matters deal with breach of court orders, specifically recognizance and probation orders. The remainders of criminal court matters run as follows: impaired driving 8.9 %, common assault 7.9 %, theft 7.5 %, drug trafficking 2 .5%, sexual offences 1%, and homicide 0.04 % of the total. Again the reality is that the serious offences occur relatively rarely in the scope of criminal proceedings.

Another myth often perpetrated by our government is that seniors are the most likely target of violent criminal this is also untrue. In 2007 55% of all victims of violent crime were under the age of thirty, by comparison seniors over 65 years old were only the victim in 1.9% of all violent crime cases even though they constitute 14% of the population. Ironically it is seniors who seem to be most concerned with increasing penalties in the law and order agenda, despite the fact that they are the least likely to be a victim.

Myth number four is that Canada needs to throw criminals in jail longer like other countries do. The reality is the number of people locked up in Canada is higher than in most European countries and only slightly below Australia and New Zealand. Canada is very good at utilizing jail sentences. The only county that Canada pales in comparison to is the United States which has an incarceration rate several times higher than Canada. Ironically the United State's love of incarceration does not reflect in a lower crime rate. It should be noted that 11 percent of the Federal prison population today (sentences over two years) were certified mental patients at the time they were tossed into the slammer. Canada, sadly, has a tradition of incarcerating mentally ill people rather than dealing with their true health issues. Finally, it should be noted that it costs $93,030.00 to keep a federal inmate behind bars for a year. In Canada in the year 2007 there were 13,581 inmates costing more than one billion dollars.

Sadly, despite the true facts that our crime rate is down and multiple studies have shown that incarceration does not act as an effective deterrent to future crime occurrences, our Federal government still seems hell bent on imposing mandatory minimum sentences for a multitude of offences which in turn only lead to higher incarceration rates and higher costs at the detriment of the tax payers.

Hopefully in the near future parliament will rise above the hype and examine the true facts when dealing with criminal issues.

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