According to a new poll, Canadians feel less safe now than before the COVID pandemic, citing more crime and public safety concerns with the government failing to address the issue promptly.
Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies asked respondents how crime and violence impact communities today compared to early 2020. Nearly two-thirds said things are worse, with 32% saying crime and violence are "much worse."
Another 32% said it is "a little worse."
According to the survey, a quarter of respondents said the situation remains the same, whereas 8% did not know. A meagre 2% of respondents commented on the condition being "a little better."
Women living in urban areas were more likely to report that things worsened.
Nearly three-quarters of respondents from B.C. said crime and violence has worsened since the onset of the pandemic.
On March 26, a Burnaby father died after a fatal stabbing that left his wife a widow and their daughter without a father.
Vancouver police later charged Inderdeep Singh Gosal, 32, with second-degree murder in the killing. However, the victim's mother says she would like the charge upped to first-degree murder, which requires proof of premeditation.
According to first responders, Vancouver's Downtown Eastside received a whopping 45 overdose calls on March 22 — more than double that of a typical day and a new daily record.
Respondents from Québec were least likely to say crime and violence worsened (54%) and most likely to say things have not changed.
On March 27, Brouillard Lessard, 35, fatally stabbed Sgt. Maureen Breau after she attempted to arrest him for allegedly uttering threats in Louiseville, near Trois-Rivieres, Québec.
When reading his rights, Lessard reportedly seized a long knife and attacked Breau, who fell from a balcony. A fellow patroller then opened fire on the suspect, fatally wounding him.
Over the past half-year, nine police officers have died while on duty, including two Edmonton officers responding to a domestic disturbance at an N.W. community.
Const. Travis Jordan, 35, and Const. Brett Ryan, 30, succumbed to fatal gunshot wounds, with the latter expecting his first child at his death.
When the poll asked respondents whether they experienced, witnessed or knew someone who experienced a series of unsafe situations — from vandalism to theft to physical assault — most said they didn't.
According to Leger, the prevailing unsafe situation people reported included "aggressive behaviour," such as issuing threats, yelling or causing someone to fear for their safety. Of those surveyed, 20% said they experienced such behaviour, and 19% said they feared for their safety at least once in the past six months.
One in twenty said they experienced physical assault, whereas 5% said they were targets of a hate crime. One in five said they knew of someone who had been assaulted, while 17% said they knew of a hate crime victim.
According to a recently-published report by the Christian think tank Cardus, "hate crimes" against Catholics have tripled in Canada since 2020. Between 2020 and 2021, hate crimes against Catholics vaulted from 43 to 155 cases.
"The rise of religious hate crimes is occurring against a backdrop of increasingly negative public attitudes toward the contributions of religion and faith communities to Canada," said the report, Toward a Hopeful Future: Facing Down Religious Hate.
The CBC reported a slight decline in anti-Semitic incidents in Canada from last year after peaking in 2021.
In 2022, law enforcement recorded 2,769 incidents, compared to 2,799 the year before. According to B'nai Brith, most anti-Semitic incidents occurred online, with violent acts down significantly from 75 incidents in 2021 to 25 the following year.
According to a recent study from the Angus Reid Institute, nearly 40% of Canadians hold an unfavourable view of Islam.
Nearly two in five (39%) of those surveyed held a "Negative" or "Very Negative" view of the religion amid ongoing discussions across Canada about "Islamophobia."
According to the most recent data from Statistics Canada, overall police-reported crime rates remained virtually unchanged in 2021 compared to 2020.
Non-violent crime declined in both years, including break-ins, thefts and robberies. In contrast, violent crime rose by 5% in 2021, primarily because of a 27% increase in hate-motivated crimes and higher rates of reported sexual assault.
StatsCan says incidents of harassment and threatening behaviour steadily rose since 2017, with notable growth since the onset of the pandemic.
More than half of those polled believe their local law enforcement and city or municipality did a good job addressing public safety concerns. Only 39% said the same about their provincial government, whereas a third (33%) held similar views of the federal government.
In Alberta, the provincial and municipal governments have diverted resources to combat those concerns amid a perceived crime wave that has swept the nation.
Between July 2022 and January 2023, violent crime incidents increased by 75% at Edmonton LRT and transit centres, according to provincial data. The average crime severity index in downtown Edmonton also jumped 29%, from 90 in July 2022 to 116 in December 2022.
In a March 30 news conference before city hall, Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek announced Calgary Transit would double the amount of security present at its stations. Gondek expects her city administrators to take immediate action and deploy resources to address LRT safety concerns.
On April 3, Calgary police arrested a woman in connection with a stabbing at the Lions Park Station after an altercation ensued Tuesday evening between several people.
On April 4, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith announced the province would hire 100 more police officers over the next 18 months to protect Edmontonians and Calgarians from rising criminal activity.
When a reporter asked Gondek about her past commitments to defunding the police in 2021, she walked away from the podium without answering.
A spokesperson for Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said the city continues to address transit safety and the root causes of crime, including $3.9 million for a transit safety plan and a $7 million increase to the Edmonton Police Service budget.
On April 6, Smith said providing public safety "is the most fundamental responsibility of the government."
"We've seen what's happened across North America, in cities like Chicago and Portland, with rampant open-drug use, out-of-control violence, and tent cities taking over and destroying entire communities. But now, we're seeing it in Edmonton and Calgary," she said.
"Almost every day, we hear about [fatal] overdoses, stabbings in transit stations, and a growing number of gangs and drugs filling our streets. Enough is enough."
The city has since been hit with a wave of violent, sometimes fatal crime, despite law enforcement claiming shootings are down 37% compared to the same period in 2022.
On April 12, a shooting in front of the downtown public library left one person in serious condition on a Calgary Transit bus. Police arrested two people in that incident.
Later that evening, one person died after being shot, and another was injured at the Kensington Safeway near the Sunnyside LRT station.
While Québecers were most satisfied with law enforcement, Ontario residents were least satisfied with their provincial government addressing public safety concerns. Manitoba and Saskatchewan residents were least happy with the federal government.
According to StatsCan, the country's violent crime severity index reached its highest in over a decade in 2020, with Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta having the highest violent crime severity indexes among Canadian provinces in 2021.
Federal Justice Minister David Lametti met with his provincial and territorial counterparts in March, where he pledged Ottawa would move quickly on "targeted reforms" to the Criminal Code to update Canada's bail system.
The proposed changes would reverse the onus for repeat violent offenders seeking bail, including crimes involving knives and bear spray, while making changes related to violent crimes with firearms.
"Alberta calls on the federal government to walk the walk, live up to its promise and make this change now. It is the right thing to do," said Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro. "Victims, law enforcement and all Albertans have been waiting far too long for this to happen."
The survey also asked whether stricter gun control would make people feel safer. It found that 47% of respondents said that would make them feel safer, while 42% said it wouldn't change their thoughts.
StatsCan data show that the number of Criminal Code firearm offences across the country has increased for years, including during the pandemic.
Despite pledging to increase maximum sentences for certain gun crimes, federal data shows Canadian judges have yet to issue a maximum punishment for firearm offences.
The federal government passed Bill C-5 last year, which removed mandatory minimum sentences for some drug, firearms and tobacco-related convictions. They also said clause 14 of Bill C-21 would increase penalties for those convicted of certain firearms offences to reduce violent gun crime.
An order paper question submitted by Simcoe North MP Adam Chambers uncovered that 390 people faced convictions for firearms offences under sections 95, 96, 99, 100 and 103 of the Criminal Code of Canada between 2016 and 2021.
He asked how many offenders received the maximum sentence for these crimes under Bill C-21. Federal records indicate nobody convicted of these crimes during that period received the legislated maximum penalty of 10 years.