Pubdate: Wed, 06 Sep 2006
Source: Niagara This Week (CN ON)
Copyright: 2006 Metroland Printing, Publishing and Distributing
Author: Mike Zettel


Crime Statistics Aren't Whole Picture: Justice Minster

ST. CATHARINES - The federal Conservative government is not
overreacting in its tough law and order stance, says Justice Minister
Vic Toews. Addressing a breakfast sponsored by the St. Catharines
Chamber of Commerce last Thursday, the minister said those who point
to Canada's relatively low crime rate as proof their approach is
wrong-headed are missing the point.

While police reports may show incidents of crime down in recent years,
that is only because many victims are not making the reports in the
first place.

"Crime is not going down, the incidence of reporting is going down,"
Toews said. "When you don't report crime, when you don't keep
statistics on it, no wonder it's going down."

Toews said national statistics which show property and violent crime
rates lower than the U.S. do not represent a valid comparison because
we only use police reports, while the Americans use annual victim surveys.

Toews said he will work with MP Maxine Bernier, the minister
responsible for Statistics Canada, to see if the practice of
collecting victim surveys can be changed from once every five years to
once a year.

The minister also repeated an announcement made earlier last week when
he pledged tougher bail conditions for gun crimes. Reverse onus, which
calls on the accused to prove he or she should be let out on bail
rather than the crown convincing the judge the accused should remain
behind bars, already exists for narcotics charges, he said. Since
tougher bail conditions have withstood constitutional challenges,
Toews said, he'd like them extended to gun charges.

He said there's a connection between guns, drugs and gangs. Guns are
the tools used by drug dealers who are part of gangs, he said, and all
three must be cracked down on if we as a society are to create
environments which are safe for our children.

"All the millions we spend on social programs, educational programs
and community programs are all for naught if we leave the gunmen on
the street," Toews said.

Since being elected into office seven months ago, the Conservatives
have made good progress on the law and order file, he said. Several
pieces of legislation have been introduced, including one which adds
minimum sentencing for gun crimes. Toews promised more legislation
would be introduced after the fall session of Parliament begins Sept.
18. He said the government will look at scrapping the faint hope
clause, which allows those who receive a life sentence for first
degree murder apply for early parole.

But tougher laws are not enough on their own and must be matched with
resources for the police who enforce them, Toews said. The 2006
federal budget set aside $161-million over two years for 1,000 more
RCMP staff and federal prosecutors, he said, as well as $37-million to
expand the RCMP's national training academy. Other initiatives include
spending $101-million to arm border guards.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Derek