When the Harper government encounters facts which contradict its preconceived notions, it simply ignores them. That is certainly the case with the government's tough on crime agenda. As Jeffrey Simpson writes in this morning's Globe and Mail, homicides in Canada are at their lowest level since 1966; and, because homicide rates are considered a "social barometer," those numbers should be taken seriously:
Peel back the general statistics and look more closely at homicides. For example, 13 per cent of those accused of homicide in the past decade were suspected of having a mental or developmental disorder. “Tough on crime” measures are hopeless in these cases.
The government stiffens penalties for gun-related offences, even as the number and rate of firearm-related homicides are falling. More people are killed from stabbings and beatings than guns. So why don’t we crack down on knives and baseball bats?
And, as it cracks down on firearm offences, the government abolishes the gun registry and delists sniper rifles and the semi automatic rifle which was used in the Norway massacre. Then it tells the provinces they must bear some of the cost of its anti-crime agenda, even though it refuses to reveal the projected costs of the legislation. The problem, Simpson writes, is that:
Homicide rates in Ontario and Quebec are also falling. Both rates are below the national average, and Quebec’s is also at the lowest level since the mid-1960s. No wonder, then, that the governments of both provinces are annoyed by the Harper government’s crime bills.
Ontario’s beefs seem mostly to be about costs, a complaint understandably shared with other provinces. More criminals in jail mean higher prison costs, which will fall on provinces. Ontario, like others, wants recompense from Ottawa, which has thus far steadfastly refused.
Quebec's Minister of Justice, Jean-Marc Fournier, has put things most succinctly: “Science is useful. At some point, someone discovered that the Earth is round.” But, as far as the Harper government is concerned, the earth is still flat.