Crime In Canada: What Are The Big Issues?

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While crime is always a concern, the current amount of criminality being faced in Canada today is worryingly increasing.

From gun violence to hate crimes and cybercrime, there is a lot to unpack. Here are some of Canada’s most pressing crime issues and what is being done to address them.

Gun Violence

There are well-known examples of gun crimes in Canada. The mass shooting in Portapique in 2020 continues to loom large, with more than two dozen victims in a small community of around 100 people year-round.

That is far from the country’s only instance of mass gun violence. According to Reuters, the most serious of these crimes have occurred over the past seven years, with incidents from 2016 to 2020 described. 

Global News paints an even grimmer picture. Over 24 years, from 1972 to 1996, there were roughly four mass shootings large enough to attract mainstream media attention.

From 2000 to 2020, that number rose to eight. Even more concerning is that seven of those shootings occurred between 2014 to 2020.

It is a safe bet that this figure has increased sharply since 2020, when the list was last updated.

The timing is consistent with Statistics Canada’s findings about firearm-related violence, which found a consistently rising trend after a significant jump from 2014 to 2015.

Statistics Canada also found that from 2015 to 2020, firearm-related violence offenses were 20% higher than from 2009 to 2014. 

These numbers are even more concerning when they are broken down by territory.

Gun violence in Saskatchewan rose 93% from 2015 to 2020, with the Northwest Territories and Manitoba following with 87% and 44% increases, respectively.

Regarding cities, Regina (136% increase) and Brantford (74% increase) experienced the greatest hike in gun violence, but many large cities reported an increase. 

What exactly does all of this mean to citizens? Firearm violence is steadily rising across Canada, with almost every territory experiencing an increase. Even the pandemic failed to slow it down.

From 2019 and 2020, there was no consistent rate of change in firearm-related crime, with rates holding steady despite the number of people under long-term quarantine.

This doesn’t mean that Canadian citizens should live in fear, of course – many of you will never experience gun-related violence.

However, it does mean that all eyes should be on Parliament and law enforcement to see how this startling spike in gun violence will be addressed. 

What Is Being Done

Following the steep increase in gun-related violence in Canada, the country’s federal government proposed amendments to gun control legislation to ban certain types of firearms permanently.

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They include more than 1500 military-style assault guns. The proposed changes fulfilled a Liberal Party campaign promise and contained an “evergreen” definition of the banned military assault rifles to prevent manufacturers from finding loopholes in the future. 

Indigenous Hate Crimes

With well-publicized and painful discoveries of the depths of the inequity faced by the indigenous populations in recent years, it should come as no surprise that hate crime has become an important discussion.

For decades, thousands of indigenous children were forcibly removed from their homes and sent to boarding schools without any guarantee that they would return home.

And, indeed, many never did. Beyond this issue, which spans many years, these same communities face a disproportionate amount of prejudice in society, both systemically and more broadly. 

According to the United Nations (UN), the number of native communities in Canada forms roughly 3% of its total population.

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Despite this relatively modest number, people from these communities comprise an inordinate percentage of the total prison inmate population.

From 1997 to 2000, indigenous peoples were accused of homicide more than ten times more than their non-native citizens.

The Correctional Investigator of Canada found that certain kinds of systemic racism against native communities exist in the justice system, although not necessarily deliberately.

Part of these numbers might result from the racism ingrained against them since the country was founded.

Regardless of whether the racial profiling and resulting incarceration are intentional or not, the numbers don’t lie.

The problem shows no signs of stopping. On the contrary, according to the Government of Canada, the numbers are only rising.

The number of indigenous inmates imprisoned in federal institutions hit 28% from 2017 to 2018.

Additionally, roughly 40% of all federally incarcerated women are from the indigenous population.

Equally as distressing, from March 2009 to March 2018, the percentage of indigenous inmates rose by nearly 43%.

The percentage of indigenous women federally sentenced rose 60% during that period.

Additionally, the number of indigenous men incarcerated remains eight times higher than that of non-indigenous men, even though the incarceration rate has decreased overall.

What does all of this mean for the native population? It means that it should come as no surprise that the number of hate crimes against them is increasing.

They spiked 152% during 2020 alone, although it is worth noting that the pandemic most assuredly helped exacerbate the issue.

Hate crime remains a considerable concern for native people in Canada. This is complicated by the fact that many indigenous individuals might not feel safe reporting such crimes to a justice system they perceive to be biased against them.

Justice system reform is critical to identifying, addressing, and preventing hate crimes against native communities. 

What Is Being Done

Following widespread criticism of the treatment of native communities and the disproportionately high number of them imprisoned, Prime Minister Trudeau and the Minister of Justice announced efforts to overhaul the criminal justice system in an attempt to curb the seeming bias within it.

The Criminal Justice System Review found that areas Canadians were most concerned with reforming included the system’s treatment of vulnerable and marginalized people as well as those struggling with addictions and mental illness.

Despite a host of suggestions being made to revise the system, we are still in the early stages of reform.

Other Hate Crimes

In addition to offenses against indigenous individuals, Canada is experiencing a surge in other hate-based crimes. According to Reuters, hate crimes generally increased by 72% from 2019 to 2021.

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The number of hate crimes against religion (67%) and sexual orientation (64%) climbed steeply while hate crimes against race/ethnicity rose a modest six percent.

Crime against individuals of Asian descent, in particular, is growing, with those against East Asian, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and West Asian individuals increasing by 16%, 21%, 16%, and 46%, respectively

Hate crimes against Jews, Muslims, and Catholics increased dramatically, too.

Crimes against Jewish individuals rose by 47%, and crimes against Muslims and Catholics rose by 71% and 260%, respectively. 

Cybercrime

An often-overlooked form of crime in Canada is cybercrime. The term refers to a crime that takes place online and encompasses a large variety of problems.

Cybercrime affects businesses and individuals, both of which will be briefly examined. 

According to Statistics Canada, small businesses (16%), medium businesses (25%), and large businesses (37%) were impacted by cybercrime and cybersecurity incidents.

That translates to roughly 78% of all Canadian businesses. Of those attacks, 7% were identified as attempts to demand ransom payments or steal money, while 6% were attempts to steal financial or personal data.

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Over one-third of the businesses impacted could not identify a clear motive behind the attacks.

Sixty-one percent of the crimes were committed by external parties, and 38% did not have a clear suspect (as discerned by the affected business). 

The impact of cybercrime on Canadian businesses is significant. In 2021, companies spent roughly (CAN) $10 billion to detect and prevent cybercrime.

That is a steep rise from 2019, when the number sat closer to (CAN) $6 billion. This cost is shared among all sizes of businesses, with around half of the $10 billion being spent by large companies (roughly $4 billion), followed closely by small businesses (approximately $3 billion), and capped off by medium businesses (approximately $2 billion).

In addition to the money spent on cyber security measures, the affected businesses also lost out on productivity.

Roughly 40% reporting a cyber security incident endured an average downtime of 36 hours. While we don’t have an estimate on how much this downtime cost the companies, we’re sure it wasn’t cheap. 

Cybercrime against Canadian citizens is also on the rise. Statistics Canada reports that from 2017 to 2021, police-reported cybercrime incidents increased from roughly 28,000 to 70,000.

Accordingly, the rate per 100,000 people jumped from approximately 81% to 184% in that same period.

Of these incidents against citizens, around half of them were fraud, with the rest comprising child sexual abuse imagery (11%), harassing and indecent communications (8%), and threats (7%).

What Is Being Done

There are a few ways the rising incidences of cybercrime are being addressed. First, many citizens are taking steps to help keep themselves and others safe.

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More than 30% of victims changed their passwords more frequently after experiencing crime, for example, while others installed protection software (20%) and reported the crime to the relevant authorities and companies involved (25%).

Businesses continue to increase the amount of money they spend on cybersecurity efforts to keep their customers, clients, and revenue safe from attack. 

What You Can Do To Help

Beyond investing in online safety degree programs, such as the one offered by Wilfrid Laurier University, there are various ways you can help address some of the issues described above.

First, be alert. Do you see acts of racism happening in front of your eyes? Did you see someone attack someone else, whether based on their religion, race, ethnicity or otherwise?

The best thing you can do in these situations is to seek help. If you can safely intervene, you can always consider doing so; however, reaching out to law enforcement in these situations is often the best thing you can do.

This is especially true when it comes to gun violence. Do not put yourself in harm’s way! Report the crime you see to law enforcement. 

Helping lower cybercrime is a bit trickier. By its nature, cybercrime is difficult to recognize. However, a few best practices can often help lower your risk.

These include using strong passwords (which are never repeated), enabling multi-factor authentication, and keeping your personal information as safe as possible.

Make sure that you not only adhere to these guidelines but help others do so, too.

Consider reaching out to loved ones who might be less computer-savvy to keep them informed about specific kinds of fraud or scams. 

Citizens can do a surprising amount to help improve public safety simply by remaining aware and willing to report crimes to law enforcement officials.

If you decide to pursue a safety degree, pick an accredited provider! Not all universities are, but Laurier offers an accredited program. 

What do you think about our report? Keep the information in mind and use it to change the system for the better! 

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