Day blasted after suggesting more prisons needed

Says there is a rise in unreported crimes


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OTTAWA -- A senior cabinet minister in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government came under fire Tuesday for suggesting Canada needs to build more prisons in part because of a rise in unreported crimes.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/08/2010 (4692 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA — A senior cabinet minister in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government came under fire Tuesday for suggesting Canada needs to build more prisons in part because of a rise in unreported crimes.

"We’re very concerned… about the increase in the amount of unreported crimes that surveys clearly show are happening," Day said at a news conference. "People simply aren’t reporting the same way they used to."

The comments were immediately contradicted by the government’s main statistical agency — and inspired a rapidly spreading Internet video that mocked the minister for not being able to identify the source of his arguments.

Stockwell Day
CP Stockwell Day

Day made the remarks as Harper’s cabinet and caucus returned to Parliament Hill for a series of meetings to review the government’s agenda and economic policies. He said the government was committed to winding down stimulus spending programs to eliminate the deficit, but added planned multibillion-dollar investments in new prisons would be needed to replace aging facilities, deter violent criminals and cope with what he claimed is a rise in unreported crimes.

"Those numbers are alarming and it shows that we can’t take a liberal view to crime (or) suggest that it’s barely happening at all," said Day. "We still have situations, too many situations of criminal activity that are alarming to our citizens and we intend to continue to deal with that."

Day is not the first minister or Conservative MP to suggest the police-reported crime rates are an inaccurate picture of crime in Canada.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, in an email missive to supporters July 22, blamed statistical dishonesty and soft-on-crime apologists in the media and Liberal caucus for suggestions the crime problem in Canada is getting better.

"No amount of statistical manipulation is going to dissuade Canadians from what they know to be true: in this great country, we have a crime problem," Toews wrote.

He went on to say Canadians are no longer reporting crimes, in increasingly large numbers, to the police.

"Whether it’s in respect of serious sexual assaults or more commonplace property offences, the argument that Statistic Canada’s "police report" statistics show that the crime rate is falling, is seriously flawed," he wrote. "As with all statistical measures, it depends on your point of reference — and often, your level of honesty."

During an appearance before a parliamentary committee in March, Toews pointed to 1999 and 2004 victimization surveys by Statistics Canada as evidence crime rates have gone up 15 to 19 per cent. He said crime rates in cities like Winnipeg and Vancouver exceed those in most U.S. cities.

Those surveys, conducted once every five years, suggested the proportion of crimes reported to police dropped from 42 per cent in 1994 to 37 per cent in 1999 and 34 per cent in 2004. The proportion of violent crimes reported went up slightly from 31 to 33 per cent between 1999 and 2004.

The percentage of people who had been the victim of a crime in the previous year went from 26 per cent in 1999 to 28 per cent in 2004. The rate of most violent crimes, including sexual assault and physical assault had stayed the same or gone down. The rate of household crimes, including robbery and vandalism, had gone up.

The surveys suggested most people who didn’t report crimes kept silent because they dealt with the crime another way or because they didn’t think the crime was serious enough to report. Victims were more likely to report the crime if they were injured or had lost property worth more than $1,000.

Statistics Canada quickly shot down Day’s assumption, saying this data cannot be compared to police-reported crime statistics, since it only surveyed eight types of crimes as opposed to the hundreds of crimes investigated by police.

"So for example, you can’t ask somebody: Have you ever been a victim of a homicide?" said Warren Silver from the agency’s centre for justice statistics.

"It’s just not possible to do. So what (the Statistics Canada research) does do is track some of the types of crimes that people might not report and might report and some of the reasons why."


— Postmedia News / Winnipeg Free Press


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