In terms of the overall trend in violent crime, our police-reported data show that there were about 304,000 violent incidents in 2005. The overall violent crime rate in 2005 was similar to the rate we saw in 2004. In general, though, after increasing fairly steadily for 30 years, the violent crime rate has been falling since the mid-1990s. For the most recent year, 2005, however, we did see an increase in what are considered serious violent crimes, such as homicide, attempted murder, serious assault, and robbery.
Based on trend data available from 1998 to 2005, for 63 police services, including Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Edmonton, Calgary, and the Sûreté du Québec, which is about 51% of the national coverage, we see in the slide that firearms were present in just 2.7% of violent crimes in 2005. And this was down from 4% in 1998.
As we shall see in a subsequent slide, this decline in the presence of firearms in overall violent crime is driven by an ongoing drop in firearm robberies. Robbery is the highest volume offence for the presence of firearms, representing 59% of all violent offences involving a firearm. At the same time, however, we have seen increases between 2004 and 2005 in a number of offences with firearms: homicides, attempted murder, serious assaults, kidnapping, forceable confinement.
With respect to several Criminal Code sections.... Under section 244, the discharge of a firearm with intent, we have seen between 2002 and 2005 an increase of 53% in incidents, from 86 to 132. Under section 85, using a firearm to commit an offence, we've seen a steadily increasing number, from 326 in 2002 to 542 in 2005, an increase of 66%. Under sections 88 to 96, which are various weapons possession offences, we've seen a doubling since 1999, from just over 4,900 to just over 10,500 by 2005.
We'll turn to slide three. This slide shows the use of a firearm or knife by type of violent offence in 2005. It's based on our uniform crime reporting survey 2, which has 71% national coverage. While robberies make up the highest volume offence with the presence of a firearm, we can see that only 12% of robberies overall involved a firearm. While they're lower in volume, we can also see that homicide and attempted murder more frequently involved a firearm, although the weapon of choice for these offences was also frequently a knife. Knives were more frequently used in sexual assaults, assaults, and robbery.
This next slide shows the trend in the overall homicide rate since the mid-1970s. This slide and the remaining ones that show police-reported crime incidents are based on full 100% coverage. The homicide rate has generally been declining since the mid-1970s. So the rate of two homicides per 100,000 population in 2005 was the highest rate, however, since 1996, although it was still 25% lower than 20 years ago.
There were 658 homicides in 2005. This was the second straight year of increase. This increase was driven by an increase in gang-related killings, particularly in Ontario and Alberta. Firearm homicides and homicides committed by youth also increased. You'll see a chart embedded in the graphic, and what it shows is that in international terms the United States' homicide rate is about three times the homicide rate in Canada.
The rate in Canada is somewhat lower than the rate in Sweden and Finland, and it's higher than the rate in France, Australia, England, and Wales.
If you turn to page 5, you'll see that going back to the mid-1970s, the rate of firearm homicides has generally decreased. It's similar to what we saw in the overall trend in homicides. But in more recent years we have seen increases. In 2005 there were 222 firearm homicides, up from 173 in 2004. This was the third straight year of increase. From the slide you can also see that prior to 1985, shootings were much more common than stabbings. Now they each account for about one-third of homicides annually.
Moving to page 6, we've seen that between 1975 and 2005, the type of firearm used in homicides has been changing. Handguns now account for 60% of firearms used in homicides, while rifles and shotguns account for 25%. Prior to 1991, rifles and shotguns were more popular. Handgun homicides have increased from 70 in 1998 to 128 in 2005, although the 1998 number was unusually low.
You can see in slide 7 a comparison of homicide rates and firearm homicide rates in our nine largest cities over the last five years. The highest firearm homicide rates are generally found in the biggest cities, Vancouver and Toronto, while Winnipeg and Edmonton had higher overall homicide rates.
In total, there were almost 29,000 robberies in 2005. The robbery rate was 3% higher than in 2004; however, it was about 15% lower than a decade ago and 25% lower than the 1991 peak. Over half of robberies reported to police in 2005 were committed without a weapon.
As you can see from the graphic, robberies with a firearm have been steadily decreasing, particularly since 1991. As I mentioned earlier, given their high volume, this decrease is responsible for much of the overall drop in the presence of firearms in violent crimes. So firearms were used in 12% of robberies in 2005, while just under one-third involved another type of weapon.
The next few slides present data from our courts program on cases in adult criminal court where the most serious offence in the case was a firearms offence with a four-year mandatory minimum sentence. Our courts data represent eight jurisdictions and approximately 80% of the national caseload.
In 2003-04, there were 380 cases completed in court where the most serious offence was a firearms offence with a mandatory minimum sentence of four years. The four-year mandatory minimum sentence for firearms use is a punishment provision for almost all of 10 offences, and this provision was recorded for 5% of all cases for these offences between 1996-97 and 2003-04. In 2003-04, the 380 cases indicating a firearms punishment provision also represented 5% of all cases for the 10 offences. Thus, firearms represent far less than 1% of the total caseload in adult criminal court, this total caseload being approximately 400,000 cases of the jurisdictions we've presented.
Now, as you can see from slide 9, since the implementation of the mandatory minimum sentences in 1996, the proportion of firearms cases convicted has been falling, from 47% in 1996-97 to 36% in 2003-04. Over this same period, the conviction rate for crimes against the person cases has remained stable, at about 50%.
In cases where a firearms offence was the most serious offence, the average length of prison sentence imposed upon conviction in 2003-04 was 1,639 days--about four and a half years.
Now we turn to slide 10. One of the factors influencing the conviction rate for these offences is the proportion of convicted cases with a guilty plea. For example, there were 137 cases convicted for a firearms offence in 2003-04, of which 107, or 78%, had a final plea of guilty. This chart displays the relationship for firearms, non-firearms, and also for chargeable sections for the 10 offences.
Since the enactment of the four-year mandatory minimum sentence legislation for firearms, the proportion of cases pleading guilty has declined from 92% in 1996-97 to 78% in 2003-04. The proportion of guilty pleas is important because of the impact this has on the length of the court process. Those cases proceeding to trial are known to take longer in the system.
The elapsed time from first to last court appearance for cases in which a firearm offence was the most serious offence in the case has increased from an average of 105 days in 1996-97 to 229 days in 2003-04, an increase of about 118%. These elapsed times are now slightly higher than those for cases in adult criminal court generally. The small number of firearms cases progressing through the court system would, however, have little impact on the overall elapsed times being reported.
The next slide switches from a case perspective to a person perspective in order to examine the number of prior convictions.
In 2003-04 there were 137 firearms cases convicted for an offence with a four-year minimum. From these data, 133 persons can be identified. Seven in 10 of these persons with a convicted firearms case in 2003-04 did not have a prior convicted firearms case where the most serious offence was one of the ten four-year mandatory minimum offences. Thus, only approximately 40 offenders had at least one prior conviction for a four-year minimum firearms offence.
On page 12 you'll see that in addition to the four-year minimum firearms offences, there are a series of offences for which the mandatory minimum sentence is at least one year, and for some offences only if proceeding by way of indictment.
Our court's data showed that few cases were heard in court for Criminal Code sections 85, 95, 96, 99, 100 or 103. The number of these indictable offence cases completed in adult court peaked in 2000-01 at 249 cases and then declined each year, so that in 2003-04, the latest year available, there were 175 cases heard and 76 cases convicted. Approximately 90% of these convictions were concluded through a guilty plea.
In summary, from our police-reported data we saw that total violent crime has generally been declining since 1992. Firearms were present in less than 3% of violent crimes. The presence of firearms in total violent crime was down from 1998-2005. Robberies with a firearm drove this decline. Recent years have seen an increase in firearms present in a number of offences, including homicide and attempted murder.
From our courts data we saw that firearms represent less than 1% of cases heard in adult criminal courts. The proportion of convicted cases in which the most serious offence was a firearms offence with a four-year minimum sentence has been declining, and the proportion of these cases completed with a guilty plea has also declined. Firearms cases take longer to reach completion in court, but the small number of firearms cases has little effect on overall case processing times. Seven in 10 persons convicted of a four-year mandatory minimum offence in 2003-04 had no prior convictions for firearms.
That concludes my presentation, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
We are studying Bill . When the previous government created the firearms registry, it also defined 10 offences involving firearms which were to receive special mention in the Criminal Code. The logic behind Bill C-68 that the Liberals introduced was to deter people from committing crimes with firearms.
The question we must address today is with respect to increased sentences. So, the Conservative government wants to increase sentences by one or two years, depending on the offence, for all of these offences, and include two new offences.
Based on the data you presented to us, what would enable me to understand that harsher sentences act as a deterrent?
I'm sorry if I missed the beginning of your presentation, but I was held up in the House. If I've understood your reasoning, you're saying that generally speaking there has been a drop in firearm-related offences, but when it comes to violent crime, like homicide or murder, there's a greater chance of them being committed with firearms.
What evidence, if any, would prove to me that harsher sentences for crimes committed with firearms have a deterrent effect?
That is the question we must answer, under Bill . That is what the government wants to do: where there was once a three-year sentence the government wants four years, and two-year sentences would be up to three. The government is considering longer sentences for offences involving firearms.
What lessons have we learned from Bill C-68? From a statistical point of view? I'm not asking you for your personal opinion, because I know that you must reserve judgment on this. But from a statistical standpoint, how can you answer our questions on Bill ?
Hello, Ms. Barr-Telford, Mr. Turner and Mr. Grimes.
I'd like to address the issue in the following way. I've seen the statistics that you presented to us and I'm trying to understand them. You seem to have figures which your colleagues didn't have when we were studying Bill C-9. In my province, for some years, no information whatsoever was sent to you, yet now all of a sudden, you have this information. That is worrisome to me.
On conditional sentences, there was a gap because you never received the figures for my province. Someone even came here to confirm that. Yet, you have these figures here. So, I believe in fact hat you have them. When you look at the Criminal Code as a whole, you must receive all of the data for a given year, say on conditional sentences, the increase in crimes, all of those things which were referred to earlier on. I'm trying to follow, because I will have to work with your figures later on.
First off, on slide no. 4, you say that Canada is about fourth on a list of several countries. You referred to the United States, Scotland, Sweden, Finland, etc. I imagine that the choice of countries is random.
Are there other countries which you did not mention? If I were to do the research myself, would I find them? Could you answer that question, so I can understand your statistics?
I would like that to be submitted to the committee.
I'm surprised to see that you've included Sweden in that list. As far as we're concerned, in Quebec, Sweden is seen as a leader. We always try to emulate Sweden, but I think this is the only case where we would not want to do so. There are more homicides over there than here. Is it due to socialism? I do not know, but either way, that will be decided later on.
I have another question for you, Ms. Barr-Telford. I'm intrigued by something here. You probably don't know organized crime, but I will ask you a question as though you did.
Do you know about loan-sharking, in other words loans that are given at an exorbitantly high interest rate? Take the example of a loan-shark from whom you borrowed money at a 50 per cent-interest rate per day. If he comes up to you carrying a weapon—you may not see it but you know that he's carrying one—I can assure you that you're going to give him what you owe him.
I understand that your statistics strictly deal with cases where there was a conviction, but you also refer to threats made by people carrying weapons. There are a number of people, in Montreal for instance, who are being had by organized crime carrying weapons and literally threatening others. We didn't come up with bills to prohibit that type of business for nothing. This is the type of thing we see in Montreal. We all know about José Théodore, the former star Montreal Canadian goaltender whose family is embroiled in loan-sharking. When you do that kind of thing, you carry weapons.
If individuals in organized crime, like the Hells Angels, come up to you, you know that they're carrying weapons. You're afraid of them and you obey their orders. They commit crimes and they force you to do things which you do because you know that they're carrying weapons and you are afraid of them. Naturally, you don't tell the police about it, because that just may get you shot in the back. That's what it's all about.
However, there is no mention of it in your statistics. I'm looking at them carefully. I find them pretty good, but we're going to have to take a stand on Bill , and I am missing some information in order to respond to , or .
I'd like to know what you mean by threats or offences with firearms. There are individuals who commit many offences, but who are not necessarily convicted. I know that mobsters know how to use weapons.
So, I don't have this information, how can I get it? Do you have something to guide us? I'm not a statistician; I'll tell you that right now.
Mr. Turner, you got off to a good start. I think I'll be needing the documents you're given me and that you'll be handing over to the clerk so that we may consult them.
I have a question that always comes to mind and which is generally asked by the Liberal Party members. Whenever we are looking at homicide, attempted murders, sexual assaults, they always ask if there are more Indians among the group. For instance, in Montreal, because of the Haitian street gang phenomenon, the question is automatically asked about blacks. When the time comes to amend legislation, people tell us that what we are doing is inverse racism, because if you put them all in jail, there will be an over population of blacks or Indians.
I like to put forward an hypothesis to you. Take for instance the city of Montreal, it should be rather short for you, at least I hope so. If all of the districts were controlled by Haitian street gangs and that they killed people, there would automatically be more Black murderers in jail. So, tomorrow morning, I would have the Black Coalition on my back, telling me that we, the Conservatives, are racists.
In your statistics on homicides, what does that correspond to? Are these people whites, blacks or Indians? It is important. Usually, the Liberal Party members say that there are more Indians than whites in jail. So, I want to know what this corresponds to. I think that if you had their names, you would be able to give me an answer, or at least to say whether they are blacks, whites, Indians, etc. It's very important because it will help us later on, in studying other parts of Bill .