Ottawa

The cost of crime

Bruces Foster and Ravelli argue the government is pursuing crime from the wrong angle.

Canada’s Criminal Code is already thick with laws that have lengthy sentences, yet people commit crimes every day. What our laws do not address are the root causes of crime, and the under-reporting of these crimes. For example, there is nothing in Bill C-10 that will assist an abused spouse to leave their relationship, nothing to support the child who is abused by their parent, nothing to address alleged systemic racism in the criminal justice system, nothing to address why people choose to not report their victimization, nothing to deter white collar crime.

When we hear the government is “getting tough on crime”, we want to believe the result will help improve the overall safety and wellbeing of Canadians. However, if we were to review the research (much of which was funded by the Government of Canada), we would understand that a more sound approach would be to take the billions of dollars earmarked for this bill and spend it on prevention and support programs. Every dollar wasted on ineffective law-and-order measures is money that could have been spent addressing the social and economic forces that drive the desperate into lives of crime.

Dan Gardner notes one potential absurdity of the government’s omnibus crime bill.

Now look at that first mandatory minimum sentence again: It means that anyone who grows six marijuana plants with the intention of sharing even a single joint with a friend will be guilty of an offence punishable with a mandatory minimum sentence of six months in jail.

And remember the phrase “real property that belongs to a third party”? That’s what a rented apartment is. Imagine a university student living in a rented apartment with her boyfriend, suggests University of Toronto criminologist Tony Doob. She grows a single marijuana plant. She rolls a joint for her and her boyfriend. And just like that she’s a “trafficker” subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of nine months in jail.