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SECU Committee Report

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M-167: Rural Crime in Canada

Dissenting Opinion from Conservative Members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security

When Alberta Member of Parliament Shannon Stubbs introduced a motion to study the rising crime rates in rural and remote regions of Canada, she noted that her constituents “feel unsafe in their homes and at work because of escalating robberies, thefts, and break-ins in small towns, family farms, and businesses.”[1] Numerous victims of crime in rural areas shared the same sentiment. Statistics Canada data show rural crime rates are 30% higher than urban communities.[2] 

The Liberal government’s response to this study is intentionally short to prevent members of the opposition from sharing a thoughtful dissenting opinion. Their report is an insult to all Canadians, especially victims of crime in these rural areas who are asking for help from their government.  To add insult to injury, each of the Liberal members who participated in the study represents an urban riding. None of these members were willing to step aside to let their rural colleagues be heard. From the outset of the study, this was concerning.  

The evidence presented showed critical gaps that are clearly within the mandate and scope of the federal government:

  • A lack of police resources in RCMP detachments leading to response times delayed by hours – sometimes days
  • Ambiguity in the Criminal Code surrounding property rights and self-defence
  • The absence of Emergency dispatch (9-1-1) in rural and remote areas
  • Significant financial hardships, mental and physical health challenges and lack of services for victims of physical and sexual violence

The Liberal report is silent on these issues.

Testimony provided to the Committee noted that criminals preying on rural Canadians are coming primarily from urban areas. Criminals understand that police response times in rural areas can be slow, neighbours can be miles away, and rural regions are easy prey. Repeat offenders should face serious consequences for their actions, have access to addiction counselling, and demonstrate that they have reformed before rejoining society. Canadians deserve to live in safe communities and not be re-victimized by these criminals.

The Liberal report is silent on these issues.

Communities have started to respond by forming their own rural crime watches and conducting volunteer patrols in absence of a police presence. Some rural victims, who took steps to defend themselves and their property, faced more serious police response and prosecutions than the criminals who attacked them. As noted in the Committee, numerous court decisions have called for Ottawa to clarify self-defence laws.

The Liberal report is silent on these issues.

 

Actions Instead of Words

There is an imperative to act, and this government cannot ignore the plight of rural Canadians.

Canada is a country that often rallies to help each other in our times of need. Canadians rallied when a terrorist attacked Parliament, when an individual shot innocent people in Toronto, and when an attack was carried out at a mosque in Quebec City. Canadians come together and support one another – just as many in rural areas donated to help with legal fees of Edouard Maurice when he faced a trial for defending his family and property. A government that fails to help Canadians in their times of need is undeserving of its position.

The government could act now to reduce crime rates in rural areas.  It could act to prevent repeat offenders from returning to victimize a community again and again. It could improve bail release and custody conditions, and it could increase the use of electronic monitoring.  These policies would put the focus back on the criminals, not on victims.  

The Liberals could act to clarify self-defence laws, raised since 1995 by the Courts as being inadequate. They could commit to providing support for police and prosecutors on charges against individuals who defend themselves and their families.

Conservative Members of the Committee call on all rural Members of Parliament to make their voices heard. Speak up for their constituents and ensure that all Canadians have access to emergency services and police protection for their communities. It is only when we put Canadians ahead of political allegiances that we can address the need of the many victims of crime in rural communities.

“I know that we're a long distance apart, but when you're making your findings and doing your report, think of my family. Think of my four-year-old-son, my one-year-old daughter, my 13-year-old brother and my 15-year-old sister and the fear that we have in our area with criminals and theft. It's not only the properties that we're worried about losing—it's our family members.” – Nick Cornea, Farmers Against Rural Crime


[1] Speech before the House of Commons (date, time)

[2] Statistics Canada, Police Reported Crime Statistics, 2017, The Daily, 23 July 2018