The health emergency and sporadic quarantine of the past two years has left an indelible mark on all areas of human activity: physical and mental health, work organization, child socialization, academic achievement, interregional migration, disruption of public services. increased pressure on healthcare, supply chain disruptions, economic shocks and more. Impact on crime is no exception.
This week, Statistics Canada released a comprehensive picture of the crimes reported by police in the country for 2021. The organization notes “significant changes” regarding the nature of the crimes reported to the police. Thus, the violent crime severity index (CGI) increased by 5% in 2021 and reached a higher level than at the beginning of the pandemic.
Among the most important findings, we note an 18% increase in Level 1 sexual assaults (those at the lowest level of the statistical severity scale). They account for a third of the increase in ICG with violence. For all sexual assaults, the rate (90 cases per 100,000 inhabitants) is at its highest level since 1996. This is all the more alarming given that sexual crimes are so little reported: barely 6% of them are brought to the attention of law enforcement. police.
While it is risky to draw definitive conclusions from a general statistical portrait, we can outline some plausible hypotheses. In cottages marked by a lack of love and harmony, vulnerable women were unable to escape from the clutches of abusive spouses who abused their power. during imprisonment. Over the past two years, many organizations involved in preventing and responding to domestic violence and protecting children have outlined the impact of the pandemic on women and children in vulnerable situations. The health emergency has exacerbated social inequalities, a collective failure that will not magically disappear. Let’s not forget this issue, which is often overlooked in terms of public policy as the Quebec election campaign approaches.
Another major issue in this report is the increase in harassment crimes (up to 10%), the rate of distribution of intimate images without consent (up to 8%), the rate of harassment or obscene messages (up to 4%). , the rate of extortion (up to 19%) and the rate of hate crimes (up to 27%).
In terms of hate crimes, this is the second significant increase in the number of offenses after a 36% increase in the previous year. In absolute terms, racially motivated crimes come first (1,723 cases, especially against blacks and Asians), followed by religiously motivated crimes (884 cases, primarily against Jews), and finally ethnically motivated crimes (423 case).
In the category of harassment and hate crimes, we are seeing the combined effect of the erosion of our goodwill during the pandemic combined with the disruption of the social media universe in action.
In the name of a distorted notion of net neutrality and the right to freedom of expression, the digital commerce giants have made it impossible for themselves to distribute extreme and radical content on their platforms. Unless this is evidence that, once out of the light of lanterns, the genius of algorithms can hardly be brought under the control of the human mind. In addition, the anonymity provided by social media contributes to bullying, threats and indecent behavior, according to Statistics Canada.
As part of Canadian Heritage’s work on regulating hate speech, this is certainly an interesting area to explore. Banning anonymous accounts won’t solve all problems, even on the Dark Web it won’t. At the very least, it could clean up the discussion areas on the platforms that the vast majority of citizens use on a daily basis.
Overall, Canada remains a safe country. It compares favorably with its ramshackle neighbor to the south, where more than 17,000 people were killed by gunfire… in the first five months of 2022. In Canada, 297 people were killed by firearms in all of 2021, almost half of them (46%) gang-related, which still speaks in favor of increased vigilance and control.
To ensure that human tragedies do not exceed crime rates over the next few years, we must remember the importance of investing not only in police squads, but also in initiatives to prevent and strengthen the social safety net of people at risk.