Crime abounded in 2019, but so did kindness

Were someone to judge Manitoba only by looking at the most prominent headlines of 2019, it would seem this province is a menacing place. The criteria editors use to judge which events warrant public attention often gives prominent publication to crime, but seldom include the many daily acts of kindness and generosity that made Manitoba, once again, the top Canadian province for charitable giving.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/12/2019 (1010 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Were someone to judge Manitoba only by looking at the most prominent headlines of 2019, it would seem this province is a menacing place. The criteria editors use to judge which events warrant public attention often gives prominent publication to crime, but seldom include the many daily acts of kindness and generosity that made Manitoba, once again, the top Canadian province for charitable giving.

It’s important to be aware of crime and understand social problems that underlie violence, but not at the cost of forgetting the social soft-heartedness that enriches everyday life in Manitoba.

Perhaps Manitoba’s attitude of altruism was particularly easy to overlook in 2019 as Winnipeg set a grim record for homicides, with 44 people slain. The number is alarming, but it’s important to keep the perspective that the vast majority of these homicides were not random. Most involved people who knew each other through criminal or domestic relations, and many involved alcohol or methamphetamine intoxication.

Manitoba is the top Canadian province for charitable giving. (Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press)

Those factors didn’t make the grieving any less hurtful for the people who lost a loved one, but the general public should be reassured it’s still safe to go out in public in Winnipeg.

The high profile of crime got even higher in 2019 with an epidemic of liquor-store thefts. Truth be told, the financial cost of stolen liquor was no higher than the rate of shoplifting suffered by retail stores of other types, but video of liquor-store thefts was prominent on social media, recorded by other customers who saw the frequent spectacle of thieves strolling from stores with unpaid liquor, unfettered by staff who were told by management not to risk their safety by intervening. By year’s end, a solution was underway, with Liquor Marts installing secure entryways that are only opened to customers after they show identification.

Northern Manitoba was ridden with angst in July, when two killers from B.C., Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky, eluded police for several weeks in a massive manhunt that eventually focused on the dense bush around Gillam, where they were found dead by suicide on Aug. 7.

And in Winnipeg, a neo-Nazi was dumped from the military reserves after a Free Press investigation found Master Cpl. Patrik Mathews had ties to a right-wing extremist group. His truck was later found near the U.S. border, and officials speculate he is hiding in the U.S. Such crimes must be acknowledged, but Manitoba is about much more than the criminal element.

A Fraser Institute study released recently shows Manitoba still tops the provinces for charitable giving. Around 23 per cent of Manitoban tax-filers claimed charitable donations in 2017, with runner-up Prince Edward Island claiming 21 per cent.

Also, Manitobans donated the highest percentage of their income out of all provinces and territories at 0.8 per cent, while Quebecers donated the lowest at 0.24 per cent.

Volunteers from Charleswood United church packed 50 hampers for the Christmas Cheer Board this year. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Why are Manitobans relatively generous? Social scientists have speculated it’s partly a legacy of this province’s harsh climate and relatively isolated geography; our forebearers knew that when the weather is potentially lethal and there are few people around, it’s up to us to care for each other.

Charitable giving doesn’t often make the news. But it makes Manitoba a kind-hearted place to live.

When people donate money to help others who are less fortunate, bring a casserole to a shut-in neighbour, welcome an immigrant family or serve hot meals to homeless people, such actions enrich the year with friendship and benevolence. It’s this culture of compassion that lets us anticipate 2020 with joy and optimism.

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