Fear fueled Stephen Harper's victory in 2011. Back then, he stoked fears about a coalition government. This time around, he hopes to surf back to power by fanning two categories of fear -- fear of jihadists outside the gates and fear of criminals within. Frances Russell writes that fear of the criminals within is completely unfounded:
“The 2011 Canadian rate of 1.73 homicides per 100,000 population is the lowest of all the Americas, 14 times lower than in Mexico and about one-third of the rate in the United States. The homicide rate in Canada is more comparable to many European countries and Oceania (Australia and New Zealand), but remains much higher than the rate in Japan and Hong Kong.”
So reports Statistics Canada in its latest international comparison of homicide rates.
Yet to listen to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his cabinet and their ongoing “tough on crime” drumbeat, you would think Canada was in the midst of a major crime wave.
Crime isn't rising in Canada. But our incarceration rate is. Howard Sapers, Canada's Correctional Investigator, reports:
“Over the last three or five years, we’ve definitely seen a population increase and it’s definitely around eight to 10 per cent at the federal level and perhaps a little more at the provincial level.”
And the dominos just keep falling. “We’re now seeing, for example, a higher proportion of provincially incarcerated individuals are being held pre-trial which means they’re simply being held on remand and haven’t even been convicted.”
Russell writes that many prisoners are now incarcerated before trial:
It’s not uncommon now for 60 to 65 per cent of all provincial and territorial jails having to house inmates who are still at the pre-trial stage – in other words, serving time before they’ve been found guilty and sentenced. In case the government won’t tell you, that’s akin to denying the ancient right to due process.
No one seems to be questioning the fairness -- or the wisdom -- of this change:
In reality, the whole safety/punishment mantra has nothing to do with science and evidence. It’s simply raw political opportunism by a governing party who likes to use fear and threat to capture every populist wave it can generate to mine more support and money from its already rock-solid base.
Mr. Harper believes he will win by feeding his base -- even if the country loses.