Is Canada tough on crime or doing just fine? -

Is Canada tough on crime or doing just fine?

There is little evidence the Conservatives’ anti-crime crusade will make us any safer


Lucas Oleniuk/TORONTO STAR / Fred Chartrand/CP

If hard criminals do soft time in Canada, as the federal Conservative government insists, then John Virgil Punko seems a poster boy for all that’s wrong with the judicial system. In police jargon, Punko was “a low-level mope”—a full-patch member of the Vancouver East End Hells Angels with a healthy dose of greed and a bad addiction to Percocet. Such vulnerabilities made him a useful target in 2003 when the RCMP launched E-Pandora, a $10-million sting operation aiming at netting the big fish in the East End Angels.

Punko got into methamphetamine production with Michael Plante, an “official friend” of the gang—one the RCMP had secretly turned into a paid informant. Business went well; in late 2004 they expanded into cocaine trafficking. By July 2005—when police swept in, arresting six Angels and a dozen associates—Punko had amassed $381,000 in drug profits, and a world of trouble. Found guilty of provincially prosecuted weapons and mischief charges, he was sentenced in July 2009 to five years and three months—a penalty effectively reduced to a day because he’d been in custody since his arrest. Finally, in late 2009, he faced a series of high-stakes federally prosecuted drug charges.

It was before British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Peter Leask that his luck changed for the better. Leask rejected the Crown’s attempt to prosecute Punko as a member of a criminal organization, the Hells Angels. In exchange, Punko pleaded guilty of conspiracy to produce meth, to trafficking in cocaine and to possessing the proceeds of crime.

This March, Leask set the sentence at six years for conspiracy, five years for trafficking and three years for the proceeds of crime. Then the mathematics of the justice system kicked in. He ruled the sentences would be served “concurrently” (at the same time), compressing the 14 years into six. He deducted a year as a reward for pleading guilty, and another year to mitigate police conduct (Plante had fed his partner’s addiction with police-provided painkillers). Finally, Punko got a two-for-one credit for the “dead time” in custody before his conviction, a 34-month reduction.

The ruling boiled Punko’s 14-year sentence down to 14 months. Police were frustrated. The prosecutors appealed. An outraged public had its perceptions confirmed: criminals are running roughshod over the justice system. “It really called into question the integrity of the judiciary when you get a decision that is so out of whack,” says John Martin, a criminologist at the University of the Fraser Valley. “Mercifully, that doesn’t happen a lot of the time.”

Such cases make the Conservatives’ anti-crime crusade one of the strongest trump cards in their agenda. To argue against it, as opposition parties have done rather ineffectively, is to be labelled “soft on crime”—as much of a political death sentence in Canada as it has been for decades in the U.S. But good politics isn’t always good policy, critics note. Nor is perception always based on reality.

For one thing, there is little evidence that judges have gotten demonstrably softer in their sentences, according to data assembled for Maclean’s by Juristat, an arm of Statistics Canada. Exceptionally light, headline-grabbing sentences like Punko’s are just that, the exception.

And for that matter, if locking up more people for longer periods is the answer, the United States—with one-quarter of the world’s prisoners in its jails—should be the safest place on Earth. But while Canada is intent on adding to its prison population, America is cutting back, saddled with a massive prison industry it can’t afford. And studies show that reducing prison populations doesn’t necessarily make the streets any more dangerous. Punishment is just one factor in reducing crime, one criminologists warn is often based on emotion rather than sound strategy.

The names of the Tories’ new and proposed laws hammer home longer sentences as the centrepiece of their anti-crime agenda. In 2008 the Tackling Violent Crime Act came into force, mandating tougher mandatory jail time for gun crimes, tougher bail conditions for those accused of gun crimes and the increasing use of indefinite sentences for repeat violent or sexual offenders. Soon to come into force is the Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act, removing the so-called faint-hope clause that lets some convicted murderers seek jury hearings to apply for parole before the end of their minimum 25-year sentence.

This February, the Truth in Sentencing Act came into force, eliminating the almost automatic two-for-one credit that prisoners received for time served prior to their conviction, a period when they have little access to rehabilitation services. It eliminates a major contributor to public discontent about lax sentences: the suspicion that some accused played the system, earning double credit by delaying their trial dates. Justice Minister Rob Nicholson hailed it “as a major step forward in restoring Canadians’ confidence that justice is being served.” And, he promised, “Our government will continue to listen to Canadians and work with our partners to improve the administration of justice, advance our crime agenda and make our streets and communities safer.”

Fair sentences, restored faith, safer streets: who could argue with that? A majority of criminologists for one, who question enlisting in an American-style war on crime that has demonstrably failed south of the border. “Our government is pandering to a very conservative populist sentiment,” says Walter DeKeseredy, a criminologist at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa. And Kevin Page, the parliamentary budget officer, for another. In a devastating analysis from his department, he warns that the impact of the Truth In Sentencing Act alone will fill thousands more cells, more than doubling in five years—to $9.5 billion—the cost of the provincial and federal penal system. And that’s just part of an agenda of  longer sentences and new crimes.

Already in force is a law making all homicides linked to organized crime automatic first-degree murders with a 25-year eligibility for parole, as well as new offences for drive-by shootings and assaults against police or public officials. A raft of anti-crime laws is in the works, some delayed when the Conservatives prorogued Parliament. Among them, mandatory jail time for fraud above $1 million and trafficking in stolen autos or other property obtained by crime. Last month, Nicholson announced a change in regulations with the potential to boost prison populations even further. He extended the definition of “serious offence” to allow for jail sentences of up to 14 years for such “signature activities” of organized crime as gambling, prostitution and drug-related crime.

The reforms could be a bonanza for criminal lawyers, but the Canadian Bar Association is emphatically not on board. A defiant Nicholson was met with skepticism at the association’s annual meeting in Niagara Falls, Ont., last month. There were concerns that increasingly rigid sentencing will divert resources from rehabilitation and add to the overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in custody. “It seems to me more and more crimes are being created and people are being sent to jail for longer and longer periods,” former bar president Tom Heintzman told the justice minister. “That policy hasn’t worked anywhere else I’m aware of, and I can’t see it working in Canada.” Throughout, the essence of the government’s position remains consistent: the public thinks crime is a problem, so crime is a problem.

Public fears notwithstanding, crime rates are falling. The national murder rate hasn’t been this low since 1968. And Statistics Canada’s Crime Severity Index, a measure of serious crimes, is 22 per cent lower than in 1999. DeKeseredy is not alone in suggesting Prime Minister Stephen Harper is intent on saving the country from an imaginary crisis. “I don’t think they’re too happy that the crime rate is going down when they’re trying to build prisons and lock people up for longer periods  of time,” says David MacAlister, director of the Institute for Studies in Criminal Justice Policy at Simon Fraser University. “That just wasn’t what they wanted to hear, so they have to try to create a new reality.”

There is limited evidence that judges have gone soft. Juristat data gathered for Maclean’s show little change in the last decade in the length of sentences in 10 jurisdictions representing 90 per cent of all crimes committed. Most jail time for violent crime has stayed the same or gone up. The median, or middle of the road, sentence for attempted murder increased to 1,715 days from 1,680 between 2000. The average or mean penalty for attemped murder is 2,223 days (about six years), an increase of more than a year from the start of the century. The median for major assault increased to 90 days from 71, and drug trafficking jumped to 120 days from 90. The averages are higher in all cases (288 days for trafficking, for example), reflecting that some penalties are substantially tougher than the norm.

Meantime, sentences for property crimes have declined. The median for breaking and entering, for example, has fallen to 150 days from 180. “I think they are down in a useful way,” says Bryan Kinney, a criminologist at Simon Fraser University. “We really don’t want our property offenders doing real time, because those are our young folks, younger males, generally speaking. They’ll learn plenty if they serve time,” he says. None of it good.

For all that, tougher-still measures resonate with voters. Some 44 per cent of Canadians think crime rates have increased in the past five years, according to an international poll conducted earlier this year by Angus Reid Public Opinion. Just 26 per cent said crime has declined. (In fact, police-reported crime has been dropping for a decade.)

Conservatives are speaking to a law-and-order constituency as strong as that in the U.S. Two-thirds of both Canadians and Americans agreed in the Reid survey that “When lawmakers set mandatory minimum sentences, they are getting tough on crime and sending a message to criminals.” More Canadians than Americans favour hard time for crime. Some 62 per cent of Canadians agreed that “long prison sentences are the most powerful way to reduce crime,” a sentiment shared by 57 per cent in the U.S. Even a return to the death penalty is supported by 57 per cent of Canadians surveyed—and by 70 per cent in the Prime Minister’s Alberta base.

Canada, inevitably, will embark on a prison expansion program to house its growing inmate population. Truth in Sentencing will require $1.8 billion in prison construction in the next five years, according to the parliamentary budget officer. Mandatory minimum sentences will also boost the jail population, though some predict police and prosecutors will use those sentences as threats, a way to get offenders to plead guilty to lesser charges. “Please, please, please plead guilty to the lesser offence,” says Kinney, “so we don’t have to house you.” With good reason. The average annual cost of keeping a person in a provincial jail is $84,000. It rises to $224,000 for a man in maximum security and an astonishing $344,000 for a woman doing federal time.

Critics decry the lost opportunity to invest that money in softer alternatives: anti-poverty initiatives, education and rehabilitation. But Martin, a criminologist who supports the government initiative, says prison expenses are just one side of the coin. “We’re not getting an honest accounting of the actual cost in allowing offenders to accumulate dozens and dozens of victims,” he says. “Policing costs, insurance costs, medical costs. The pain and suffering of victims that cannot be quantified in dollars and cents.” Nicholson quotes a 2003 Justice Department estimate that puts the annual cost of crime at $70 billion, much of it borne by victims.

Notably, as the Conservatives head down this path, the U.S. is retreating from policies that generated a massive four-decade expansion of its prison system. Some 26 recession-battered states this year have cut prison spending, often by turning out prisoners who’ve served a fraction of their sentences. At least four states—Kansas, Michigan, New Jersey and New York—have been reducing prison populations for a decade using strategies like drug-treatment diversion programs, electronic monitoring and elimination of mandatory minimums; a study of those states found no increase in crime. New York cut its incarceration rate by 15 per cent between 1997 and 2007; violent crime fell 40 per cent.

Canada already imprisons more people that most countries in Western Europe, but it’s hyperbole to equate Conservative reforms with America’s war on crime. America’s incarceration rate is 6½ times that of Canada’s. Some 2.3 million American adults are in state, local or federal custody and another 5.1 million are on parole. One of every 31 American adults is under correctional supervision—an enormous economic and social cost. But is it an effective deterrent? Crime rates are falling in the U.S., but they are in Canada, too.

Regardless, in Nicholson’s view, the rate remains “unacceptably high.” As his office noted in a statement this summer, after a broadside from the opposition: “Unlike the Liberals, we do not use statistics as an excuse not to get tough on criminals.”

As for Punko, his luck ran out this August. The B.C. Court of Appeal more than quadrupled his 14-month sentence, concluding it  was “demonstrably unfit.”

Like so much in the sentencing debate, the appeal ruling can be interpreted two ways: that mandatory minimum sentences would have prevented the mess in the first place, or that the checks and balances of the existing system work just fine. Either way, a fallen Angel spends four extra years behind bars.


Is Canada tough on crime or doing just fine?

  1. There is little evidence that the gun registry will make us safer either.

    • I totally agree, and think it should've died long ago.

      Do you agree that the gun registry wasn't the focus of this article; that it in fact wasn't even mentioned?

      This prison build is an issue of profound disagreement between me, and my fellow conservatives. I see it as alot more wasteful the the LGR could ever hope to be. Any counter arguement to that?

      • Don't look at me. I'd only use the prison system for violent offenses myself.

        • On this issue, we are of one mind.

          Abortion or SSM… Well, let's just leave that for another day. ; )

          • Actually scratch that "one mind" thing. I think it would have to be used in some property, and fraud crimes as well.

            Some cases of fraud can be as deadly as a knife in the guts.

  2. Fantastic article. Couple of comments:

    new offences for … assaults against police or public officials

    Can someone explain why assaulting police and public officials somehow merits a 'tougher' sentence than an assault on the rest of us? I understand protecting police officers and crown attorneys, but if the original sentence isn't enough to deter a person from hitting a cop (who will hit you back twice as hard), is it likely that it is enough to deter someone from hitting you or I?

    Sentencing based on the victim's social class… Mr. Harper, be honest, you just don't want to get pied.

    “Unlike the Liberals, we do not use statistics as an excuse not to get tough on criminals.”

    At least they're finally being honest about it. Although, I have to say that I don't appreciate you spending $1.8B in an attempt to satisfy their punishment fetish. Can't they just do like the Republicans, and hit up an S&M gay bar?

    • “Unlike the Liberals, we do not use statistics as an excuse not to get tough on criminals.”

      But you can bet they do when targetting their sales pitch to the Sun Media audience, but pushing their racist and fear buttons!

    • Canada is soft on crime, but you will never understand that will you. People are being victimized day-in and day-out by repeat offenders and dangerous criminals and Canadian Judges just keep letting them go. It's this Bleeding Heart Attitude that only promotes them. "Punishemtn Fetish", oh god do you ever need to wake up. But I doubt you ever will because the people who like have the dumbet arguements like you will probably never fall victim to the criminals. If you were, then you wouldn't be taking the offensive. Wake up, seriously, because other people are suffering from your ignorence. I really hope your eyes will be open one day and on that day, if it happens, you will regret being a shmuck this whole time.

  3. Bill S-10 is a big part of this supposed 'tough on crime' agenda. Amongst it's measures, jailing someone for a mandatory period of 6 months for growing as little as 4 marijuana plants. This is what the Harper government considers being 'tough on crime'. A completely victimless crime will now land you a 6 month stay in one of our soon to be built super prisons. I'm sure many American firms are lined up and ready to start running Harper's super prisons. Not only are we moving backwards in the war on drugs we are going to emulate the failed policies of our southerly neighbours.

    Competing for the most citizens incarcerated is not a competition Canadians should be in. This boogeyman lurking around every corner threatening 'the safety of our communities' is incredibly disingenuous. Harper and his party should be ashamed of themselves. This screams out christian conservative values. How Harper can call himself a 'libertarian' is beyond me.

      • It would almost be comical if it peoples lives weren't being ruined.

    • one should take a close look at these super jails that already exist ,they are totally owned and operated by the Americans their staff is non union the meals are weighed out to each inmate that allows them to exist on the minimum required by the medical facts,they are running like a zoo guards that are paid minimum wages don't care in the least what is going on while the inmates commit mayhem. i have talked to many men that have been released from these zoos,and they all confirm the tragedies that are happening in these american run jails,the spoils go to the lowest bidder

  4. Wouldn't we be able to eliminate the "two for one" credit for time served before trial if the Conservatives put money into the judicial system so that trials took place in a timely fashion? Two for one deals are used by judges because the time served in remand prior to trial is often in facilities that are sadly lacking. We also have to remember that not everyone that sits in prison awaiting trial is guilty of a crime, yet, they still do the hard time.

    It seems to me that putting more money into the input side of the judicial system would avert the issue of the "two for one" credit that the Conservatives seem to hate so much.

    • It would partially mitigate it, but I don't think you should discount the possiblity that some lawyers purposely dely trials, in order to get reduced sentences, for guilty clients.

      Also those who are held and are innocent, will not benefit from the fact that had they been guilty, they would've served less time. It serves them not at all.

      That being said, I see some merit in what you say. Looking at the cost of it certainly makes me want to look at alternatives, and compromises. (1.5 for 1?)

      • Also those who are held and are innocent, will not benefit from the fact that had they been guilty, they would've served less time. It serves them not at all.

        It seems to me that if a person is innocent, a quicker justice system would serve them quite nicely since they would get out faster.

        • I meant the 2-for-1 credit benefits them not at all. A quicker justice system was the part I thought "had merit".
          Sorry for the confusion.

          Do I take it that you think the 2-for-1 is justified? I'm of two minds, but the arguements that OD was using are not very compelling to me.

          • I'm not sure. Assuming that the purpose of the 2 for 1 is to ensure an efficient – in addition to effective – justice system, I understand the purpose. I would prefer an alternative solution that does not reduce prisoner sentences.

    • Personally, I think 2 for 1 is appropriate, if delays are caused by the prosecuting attorney, justice, or general system. If they're caused by the defendant or defending attorney, no extra credit.

      • Love it. You take the cake.

      • Right on the mark.

        Building more courtrooms / hiring more judges & prosecutors is preferable to building more prisons / incarcerating more people. It would also be in the best interests of those who turn out to be innocent, as well as to the VICTIMS as they won't have to wait months or years for closure. And of course, witnesses' memories will be fresher (and fewer will have died or moved away), blah blah blah.

        In short, this may be a vote-getter for the Tories, but there are much more effective reforms that could easily be implemented.

      • You can bet this will be litigated and charter-challenged very soon.

    • You could also go too far with the idea of quicker justice. There is too much room for error. I wouldn't want someone to be convicted, or otherwise go free, just due to unseemly haste in the system.

      Reforms would have to be clearly laid out, and would have to ensure the quality of justice doesn't suffer. Sounds like alot of research would needed, to lay out viable reforms.

      Not to say we shouldn't try.

      • I agree, but… “Unlike the Liberals, we do not use statistics as an excuse not to get tough on criminals.” The odds of THIS bunch carrying out research is somewhere in the range of me winning the LottoMax jackpot. See also Long Form Census.

  5. This comment is to all Canadians. An educated ex-lawman, I have seen rampant racism, boozing, criminal acts, crooked hirings in police and sheriffs across this landscape that is compounded by a mongrelized and professionally bankrupt profession that lacks integrity, transparency and accountability. Canada is a haven for criminals because we elevate sleazy lawyers to the bench who have been wrangling the system for years before their promotions. We also have neanderthals in government who have made many major cities a battle zone for crime because of weak laws, shameful immigration that lets in criminals from other lands, incompetent police, imbecilic gun registry programs that penalize the good people while still easy for criminals to buy cheap weapons (Canadian Association Of Chiefs Of Police a nutcase outdated organization with too much political clout) and correctional facilities soaking us for hundreds of millions with easy time for offenders. I dare any of out spineless politicians to send their loved ones out at 3am in Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, Winnipeg or other large cities without a police or security and let them walk for hours and see what happens!

    • Geez, Paul. I'm really glad you're an EX-law man. I'd hate to have you dealing with the public with the regressive attitudes about immigrants, other police, lawyers, etc. etc. Oh my goodness. I take it you didn't enjoy your work?

    • Finally, someone who knows what he is talking about. Interesting observation that a lot of judges on the bench used to be criminal lawyers, er defence lawyers. Why are these bozos getting elevated.

      However I would take issue on his characterization of ALL police forces and recruiting policies. There ARE some forces who in their hiring are cleaning out the old by the hiring of young men and women who are very well-qualified by personal attributes and education in criminal justice. But if you can improve the recruiting and training of the RCMP.that would be right on. Perhaps it is because by some weird policy BC gets a lkot of young lads from QC who can hardly speak English, and some women who are hard to vizualize as police officers. I hear some of them have been laughed out odf the pub at closing time. While not PC, it's about time we dealt with the truth.

      Police Chiefs support of the LG Registry is also somewhat of a laugh in that they quote "the number of times a day it is referenced" when they know dam well that it is automatically referred with every transaction to the computer systems.

      • Additional. Many of the US crimes are drug related – young guys locked up for having a bit of pot, which hardly seems sensible. . The whole "War on Drugs"approach is nonsense. With some sort of of legalizing or licencing and taxing like liquor, many of these charges would not even be made. Also, using the desperate behaviour of Aborigines who are mired in the bottom of our society because. we're told, our policies have caused them to lose theirs lso that , drugs, alcohol as bad behavious is surely true on the surface but we should also ask who made them that way?

        I fear Harper is just dancing top the request of the religious right who by and large are retrogressive Old Testament folks.

        Excepting some of these fro a more intelligent treatment, I think we SHOULD hammer the peddlers of hard drugs and those who prefer a gang culture – e.g criminal biker gangs (no not nice guys just driving Harleys to make them go rumble-roar)) .

    • I wander the streets of downtown Toronto at 3AM and I'm still around to talk about. Maybe from this kind of rhetoric is where Canadians get the idea that crime is going up.

      • There are a lot of police union officials trolling these boards looking for sympathy. Their circular bully arguments work on some people, but not on someone who has actually been around the courts. "Paul Cole" seems to be reading from a laundry list of shop steward talking points. And you do know that the cops seconded to the union are the ones that aren't really fit for duty, right?

        Sigh. Police and prison guards abuse their status in society when they try to act like just another special interest lobby group.

  6. Can someone explain the purpose behind 2 for 1 credit? I assume that it is to encourage the Crown to work faster. Are there any other reasons?

    • Because when you're in prison before trial, you are technically there as an innocent man. Being imprisoned while innocent is an injustice in and of itself, and thus the system must remedy that injustice as well.

      • I don't see why they should receive special treatment simply because our system presumes innocent. If a person is found not guilty, they don't receive compensation, so why should they receive compensation when they are found guilty.

        The other thing to consider is that, since a person is guaranteed reasonable bail terms (unless there is just cause), it would mostly be criminals facing longer sentences that would benefit from this.

        • Police raids are often conducted just before the weekend.. often before a long weekend, so as to maximize the amount of time people spend in prison without access to a judge to set bail terms.

          That said, you asked for any other reasons, I supplied one. However, the reason you gave originally is, I believe, the primary reason for it.

          • I wasn't intending to be contradictory. Simply fleshing out alternatives. It seems like there is very little actual discussion on this topic; mostly just people complaining about 'soft justice'.

          • RG does make an excellent point when he brings up that "innocent" people recieve no compensation for the time spent in holding, only those who are found guilty do. Thus 2-for-1 only benefits those who are later found guilty.

            Police practices like the one you describe are abhorent, and should be looked at. That being said it's not really related to 2-for-1, and a bit of a red herring IMHO.

            Spurring the Crown to move to provide quick justice, is a reasonable rationale for it thou.

      • Also,as I understand it, the local jails in which they are housed are overcrowded, have less facilities and the detainee, as s/he is technically "innocent", has no access to the rehabilitative programs that would be available if in prison proper.

        • That may be true, but you have to acknowledge that the 2-for-1 only benefits those who are found guilty.

          Those who are "innocent" get absolutely no benefit from 2-for-1.
          Do you disagree?

          • Uh, okay. 2-for-1 only benefits those who are found guilty. Those who are found innocent get absolutely no benefit from 2-for-1. Of course not. It doesn't apply to them, just like the guilty get absolutely none of the benefits of not being convicted.

          • That's because they have been found guilty, and don't deserve those benefits.

            As RG indicates below, (tongue in cheek), keeping them in longer due to 2-for-1 being gone, actually increases their rehabilitation time.

            It's a valid enough point that Keith is making, but I don't find it a very compelling justification to give guilty parties a "half-off sale".

        • …no access to the rehabilitative programs that would be available if in prison proper.

          Isn't this, rather, an argument against 2 for 1? If the point of prison is rehabilitation, should we be denying these people the opportunity to access these services? How many people have re-offended as a result of 2 for 1 not allowing prison rehabilitation to do its job properly (asked somewhat tongue-in-cheek).

      • Sorry, but this is illogic masquerading as logic. There is no justice whatsoever in 2 for 1; quite the opposite.

        People who were wrongly accused (innocent as opposed to "not guilty") get absolutely no benefit. The only people to benefit are convicted criminals who get "reduced time" from their legitimate sentences, as if that could make up for the time served by those people who should never have been there. Just because a criminal who hasn't yet been convicted is sitting in jail doesn't mean that's in any way an injustice. It means, generally, he or she is sitting there as part of due process – denied bail because the evidence points to a danger to society.

        By your logic Paul Bernardo, Karla Homolka, Russell Williams, Ted Bundy, etc… should have been allowed to walk around free until convicted. I can't see how that would be anything remotely resembling justice.

        • Thank you Smith…..finally someone who has the courage to call most of these people dangerous. They are likely in there for a good reason. They are not all victims, waiting in line for rehabilitation….but you can be sure they have left many true victims in their wake!

    • 2 for 1 Credit is just another invention made by Lawyers. It's not the Crown fault case drag on forever, it's Defence Lawyers who purposely drag these things on on so they can make more money. The Crown wants to get on with the case as soon as possible, they have a stack of Police Reports on their desk they have to get through so they actually cut corners. Thats why we have plea barganing, which simply rewards criminals and then in turn, we have repeat offenders clugging up the system more and more. Canada is the weakest and softest on crime in the world. It's not fear mongering, ITS TRUE.

  7. "Some 44 per cent of Canadians think crime rates have increased in the past five years, according to an international poll conducted earlier this year by Angus Reid Public Opinion" AND "Some 62 per cent of Canadians agreed that “long prison sentences are the most powerful way to reduce crime,”

    The reason these statistics are possible are that Harper and his colleagues have been telling everyone for years that crime is increasing and the only way to deal with it is to throw every offender in prison for a long time. Over the past four years, my current MP, John Weston has mailed me 40 ten percenters. 25 of them warned me that I should be afraid of increasing crime and all of them mentioned something about tougher and longer punishment as the ONLY solution.

    If any government fear mongers enough, citizens will start to feel fear.

    • Well personally, where I am from (BC)there has definitely been a large increase in crime. Mostly due to Gangs and drug trade. That is a truth and our community has witnessed or have been victims of it. There is no comparison over the 20 years of living here. Look at Saskatoon and Regina and try to tell everyone that it is all safe and wonderful, they would laugh your a$$ out of the province. And it was certainly not always that way.

  8. It seems that on a regular basis I read where people in this country are out-raged by some ridiculously short prison sentence given for a vile crime. Just the other day, a man was given a 1 year sentence for raping a young child. In my home town, a man was given 8 years for planning and carrying out the execution of another man. He has since promised to seek retribution against everyone who testified against him at his trial. Maybe long prison sentences do not reduce crime but they sure do stop the perpetrators that commited the individual heinous crimes from re-offending and they send a message to the victims and their families that they will be heard.

    • Got links to those cases? I'd be interested in reading more.

      • The one case was the murder of a physician, Dr. Schneider of Fairview, Alberta by another physician, Dr. Cooper. If you do any research, you can find out all about the case. The rape of the child was reported in the Calgary Herald last week. I am sorry, I do not have more details.

    • Bang on HealthCareInsider!

      How long will it be for these Liberal pinkos to figure out that in the real world we must be tough on crime? I've worked with stats for over 35 years and I know that stats can be manipulated to suite any dogma you wish. Just tell me your dogma and I'll spin it appropriately for you. In this regard the Liberals are the biggest offenders, followed closely by the NDP and then the Conservatives. Politicians do not understand democracy. Or maybe they do? They certainly show no indication that they intend to take direction from those of us who employe them. They feel that once they are in office they can bow under to the party dogma and then use your money to propagandise you into their statist views.

      • It dosn't take a genius to understand that crime has grown so fast that people have become desensitized to it. They no longer report what they reported in the 50's and 60's. Why bother? What I want them to understand is the enormous satisfaction I will feel with some dirt bag sitting in jail for a long time after raping some poor woman in my community. I know that this dirt bag is not going to hurt anyone.

        Once the policy to get tough on crime is in, there will be a period of what's called Phase shifting. In that time the criminals will learn that in my jurisdiction there are some things you just can't get away with. In time, society will be safer. But you cannot put a price on the value of incarceration. WE do not put people in jail. They put themselves in jail by behaving in ways that lead to incarceration.

        That is the way it is going to be. Trust me. And if you don't like this justice system, you are going to really dislike the new justice system once Canada becomes a Muslim state.

  9. Well and truly said.

  10. Bergkamp, you have it right. The western world is caught up in a numbers game about most things such as crime, education, medical treatment, immigration – you name it. Ticking the boxes has replaced thinking. The results are much admired by pols and soclologists because they are capable of manipulation, and they are of course.

  11. Sounds like you'd better get to work, that is, if your own take on the topic is ever going to get written.

    • I assume this was intended as a nonsense comment? Unless you're of the notion that journalistic balance and perspective, not to mention a bit of in-depth research, aren't necessary requirements for inclusion in a national publication. Because, hey, anybody can be a journalist…

      I agree with what bergkamp had to say, and I too wondered why the perspective from crime victims was so buried. The journalists Macleans hires are "big boys"; I believe they are more than capable of stepping up their game a bit, and should be called on it when they're slacking off.

  12. I'm no supporter of the CPC (or of any of the major parties for that matter), and I'm not in agreement with their approach generally. But I have to concede that, in some respects, they have some valid points that "average" Canadians would be well advised to consider. For instance contrast the following:

    "DeKeseredy is not alone in suggesting Prime Minister Stephen Harper is intent on saving the country from an imaginary crisis. […] There is limited evidence that judges have gone soft."

    "A Calgary mother will not serve any jail time for strangling her teenage daughter, a judge ruled Thursday. Aset Magomadova, who was convicted last fall of manslaughter, was instead given a suspended sentence and three years of probation."

  13. What? Another soft touch sentence for a Hells Angel by former Hells Angels' defense lawyer / turned judge Peter Leask?

  14. Excellent comment. As a victim of violent crime (one that will never be prosecuted by our existing "laws" btw) I'd like to thank you. I would imagine that the results of those surveys on crime would be quite different depending on whether or not the respondants had themselves been victims of violent crime. Even though I am (or rather was)politically left-leaning, the left's refusal to acknowledge and punish violence, and its virtual "obliteration" of crime victims, is pushing me to the right politically.

    • You do know that victims like you are **being used** by the police lobby to push for tougher laws? MADD is one of the worst offenders, BTW.

      • How is someone who was victimized and wants the perpetrator to have some form of justice in anyway someone being used????? This is a natural response to being victimized. What is really bothering me on this forum is all of the left leaners are calling for rehab, that the 2 for 1 is justified and that the police and government are the bad guys. You are thumbs downing victims, actual victims of crime who want longer sentencing or at least something close to justice. I think this is what many of us centrist/rights just cannot fathom, you are constantly on the side of the criminal, at the expense of the victim. It is all about the criminal's rights – to hell with their victims…..That is why there is and always should be a right to offset these bizarre leftist ideas….GO HARPER!

  15. I wish that we could all just use some common sense (no, not the Mike Harris kind) and:

    – research the REAL roots of crime (our public discourse equating poverty and crime just makes me shake my head),
    – put programs in place to prevent it wherever possible,
    – identify criminals who are are good candidates for rehabilitation but slipped through the cracks and REHABILITATE them,
    – DIFFERENTIATE VIOLENT PRE-MEDITATED CRIMES and put a special emphasis on the protection of society,
    – start providing some REAL JUSTICE for victims (not vengeance – just justice): start public discussions; fund some research; develop public policy that provides some much needed balance, etc…

  16. If long jail sentences don't reduce crime then we ought to look at countries where they have a far lower rate of crime than Canada, per capita. Long jail sentences may work very well in many cases but you will see that countries with very low crime often perform that long forgotten subject – PUNISHMENT. If Clifford Olsen were publicly executed for his murderous pedophile crimes I believe very strongly that crimes of that nature would drop dramatically It works elsewhere, why not here.

    The fact that we expect to make a difference by simply putting criminals in jail, then releasing him / her after a predetermined period with little, if any attempt at curing the problem, is insane and makes the word "Corrections" rather ironic. "Correct"-ing what?

    Unfortunately crime and the criminal justice system that supports it, is BIG business. Lawyers and their political counterparts / brothers have been profiting by the revolving door system, keeping criminals on the street creating more court files, more trials, more appeals – most of which paid for by Legal Aid (YOU).

  17. "As for Punko, his luck ran out this August. The B.C. Court of Appeal more than quadrupled his 14-month sentence, concluding it was “demonstrably unfit.”

    Jeez, talk about burying the lede. The Conservatives are intellectually bankrupt on this file. Think about it: if they feel this way about crime, what will their reckless attitude toward the economy, health care and education be?

  18. One thing I'd like to clear up for sure.

    Stockwell Day was mocked for using unreported crimes as a justification for the prison build. He was rightly lambasted about this in the media, since unreported criminals don't end up in jail, and there is no proof that longer sentences will reduce unreported crime.

    As to the rest… Meh. I don't see anything in the numbers to make me think, that we need anything but the most modest reforms. While you may find it productive to lock up vice criminals, I find it a shameful waste of resources.

    Increasing the status of certain vice crimes to serious crimes (when 3 or more people are involved), was the straw that broke the back of my support for the CPC. This change was made behind closed doors, and will fill those jails as quickly as you could want. I think it's a disgrace.

    If you want Japanese style vice laws to come to Canada, get ready for a fight.

  19. Jack Who

    – In times when we're told that there's no money for education or health care there's ALWAYS an endless supply of money for Legal Aid to keep lawyers well paid keeping the criminals on the street producing more & more revenue for themselves. This is what happens when we elect lawyers to be our politicians, (and don't elect our judges) – they take very good care of themselves. it's kinda like the crackhead mother who can't afford to feed her babies but always has money for her dope.

    • "there's ALWAYS an endless supply of money for Legal Aid to keep lawyers well paid"

      Well, It's quite obvious you know sweet FA about how the legal aid system really works and the staggering underfunding. But it seems you like masochism. Tell you what: I know a good dominatrix who can help work out your anger issues. Go see her, and then maybe you'll have less of a need to pick on the disadvantaged and perhaps even stop believing the BS taking points the Tory mailing list is feeding you.

  20. A good example of the Liberal powder puff policies was this week in BC. A man who was caught drunk driving, thrown out for technicality the first time. Drove drunk again, hit 2 young girls. The one girl, 24, has permanent brain injury, and will require help the rest of her life. The judge threw the case out because it took to long to go to trial. (granted our notorious police force are to blame also) But what makes a person unaccountable, innocent and free to go just because there is a back log of cases and shortage of judges? The victim and her family are now on the hook for all expenses, because the insurance will not likely pay anything, because he did not even go to trial. It is a never ending thing where I live that degenerates with arms length illegal activity charges, are roaming our streets, committing crimes while waiting for their court dates, and being released time and time again on bail…..where is the sense in that? Lock the creeps up!


  22. If you're concerned about the Conservatives using fear tactics to pass legislation then please be aware of the following: Parliament is currently debating Bill C-23B, an act which will make certain that individuals with certain convictions will never be eligible for record suspension.

    According to the National Parole Board only 4% of the over 300,000 people who have received a pardon has ever reoffended. However, under the proposed record suspensions legislation the vast majority (96%) will be forced to live longer under the burden of a criminal record for which they have paid their fines, served their jail time and completed their probation.
    Having a criminal record can be very damaging to an individual's opportunity for: employment, getting a job promotion, bond-ability, travel, education, getting a loan or mortgage, immigration, volunteering, adoption and child custody. The proposed legislation will thus make it more difficult for these individuals to remove their criminal records from public databases so they can successfully rehabilitate into society as law-abiding citizens. This legislation may actually INCREASE recidivism for individuals who are prevented from reintegrating back into society.

    To learn more about the possible effects of proposed record suspensions legislation and for general information about bill C-23B please visit:

    P.S. for those readers who believe this article unfounded you might like to take a look at this recently published research:

  23. I appreciate your points made, and it is true that unreported crime presents a problem to addressing criminal activity. __To say that crime rates have risen since 1962, however, cannot be taken at face value. Since 1962 the government has passed legislation that criminalizes more acts than before, and changed the definition of some crimes. __ Youth crimes may have increased since 1999, but the Youth Criminal Justice Act was also implemented in 2002, further creating counting problems for those who rely on statistics. Comparing apples to oranges in terms of crime rates will only give you invalid conclusions. __Part of the problem is that the government is NOT listening to sound research from criminologists on how to address crime, but following suit with the American model. __

  24. It is fair to be critical of the research displayed in this artical. It would be beneficial though to be critical of the plain numbers infront of you, as statistics, although reliable, are not truth in the essence of the word. The government perhaps may note that there has been a 40% decrease in crime due to their new "tough on crime" agenda, but all that number means is that petty thieves and minor drug offenders are locked up, and no greater social need for social well being has been addressed.__Statistics are just a number (and crime rates actually are going down, even violent crime, if you standardize them)

  25. this whole matter can be summed up in the ministers toews statement ,we are building more prisons for ,unreported crime,now if this is a sane comment,we are are all totally insane.crime statistics prove that serious crime is declining in this country ,but the conservatives who were almost extinct a few years ago have found a way to create fear in are seniors,and the gullible,and are making tremendous ,gains ,the same stradigity the states have used for years

  26. "crime rates are falling" why bother reporting something the police can't or won't do anything about?