Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Tackling the Crime Statistics

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Tackling the Crime Statistics

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Tackling the crime statistics

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An editorial from the Winnipeg Free Press, published July 27:

A common criticism of the annual release of crime statistics is that the information is woefully incomplete. The numbers say nothing about who is committing what kinds of crimes, their ages and education levels and whether they are repeat offenders responsible for multiple offences.

It doesn't take too much research, however, to discover aboriginals, as an individual group, are at the top of the heap for criminal involvement.

Aboriginal people represent less than three per cent of the Canadian population, yet they account for nearly 20 per cent of those in federal institutions. In the Prairie provinces, 50 per cent of prisoners are aboriginal. One report said 70 per cent of the inmates in Manitoba alone are aboriginal.

Their overrepresentation in the criminal justice system is not the result of some genetic deformity or innate criminality. The vast majority of native offenders can trace their problems to the historic exclusion and mistreatment of their ancestors by white society, a systemic abuse that destroyed their cultures and relegated most to poverty, despair and hopelessness. Many claim racism is an ongoing problem that prevents them from overcoming their problems.

The issues are well-known, but worth repeating following the release of two reports that show Winnipeg and Manitoba suffer from violent crime rates above the national norm. Crime overall is declining -- probably because of the aging population; older people don't offend as frequently as young men -- but several cities in the Prairie provinces are bucking the trend in terms of violent crime.

Winnipeg experienced a six per cent increase in the violent crime severity index last year with a total rate that was double the Canadian average. Thunder Bay, Saskatoon, Regina and Edmonton are close behind. (The crime severity index considers both the volume of crime and the seriousness of crime to provide a more accurate description of the challenges facing a particular community. …

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