Rural areas across Canada have been grappling with a rising wave of criminal activity, with statistics revealing that crime rates and severity indexes in rural regions far surpass those in urban areas.
In response to the rural crime crisis, Conservative MP for Red Deer–Lacombe, Blaine Calkins, has introduced Bill C-364, aimed at amending the law to address the security concerns of residents in rural and remote communities.
This worrying trend has been escalating since 2015, prompting MP Calkins to take legislative action.
“Rural crime is a crisis, and the stats don’t lie – it’s worse in the countryside than the city,” Calkins wrote in a press release.
Bill C-364 proposes several key changes to the Criminal Code to combat rural crime effectively. One of the central provisions is the introduction of aggravating factors at sentencing for rural crime, particularly focusing on areas with extended response times for emergency medical or police services.
The bill also addresses the use of violence or the threat of violence against persons or property by including possession of a weapon as a factor that results in harsher penalties.
Furthermore, the bill expands the definition of “dwelling-house” to “place” within section 348.1 of the Code, ensuring that outlying structures such as barns, shops, and garages are afforded the same legal protections against breaking and entering.
Another significant aspect of Bill C-364 is the recommendation that judges take an offender’s criminal record and reasons for not receiving bail into account when determining extra-credit for pre-trial custody. This provision aims to address repeat offenders.
“Conservatives are focused on providing real solutions to rural crime. Despite the creation of a pan-Canadian working group on rural crime in January 2020, the progress at the federal level has been disappointingly slow,” said Calkins.
“After eight years of Trudeau’s government, the Liberals have shown time and again they do not understand rural issues.”
Rural communities in Alberta have been particularly hard-hit by the surge in property crime, as data from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) shows. Airdrie, Alberta, witnessed a staggering 73% increase in break and enters from January to June 2023 compared to the previous year.
Lac La Biche, another rural town in Alberta, also experienced an alarming rise in break and enters and vehicle thefts, with both crimes increasing by over 40%. Corporal James McConnell of the Airdrie RCMP pointed out at a recent town hall that these increases in crime can often be attributed to a small number of individuals committing a large number of offenses.
Lac La Biche Coun. John Mondal expressed concerns about the federal “catch and release” system, where individuals are arrested but subsequently released, which he described as a significant factor in the problem.
“Inflation has a lot to do with it. Job losses have a lot to do with it,” Mondal said.
“And this is catch and release. Which means the RCMP does their job, they bring the person to the justice system, but then they get released. That is one of the major factors.”