File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS Member of the Alberta Citizens On Patrol Association, Ruth Shewfelt, takes a picture of an abandoned car, to notify police to come check out in Ardrossan. The federal government is coming under fire for its commitment to fight rural crime.

Liberals shrugging off concerns about rural crime, opposition MPs charge

OTTAWA — A Liberal-dominated parliamentary committee’s report on rural crime is “an insult to all Canadians,” Conservative MPs say in a dissenting statement that decries waits of hours or even days for police to respond to calls in remote areas.

New Democrat MPs on the House of Commons public-safety committee also want stronger federal action on crime in Canada’s hinterlands, saying the ”incomplete” report fails to take into account the difficulties witnesses described in the committee’s hearings.

The committee undertook the study following adoption of a motion put forward in the House by Conservative MP Shannon Stubbs. The resulting majority report, which landed last week in the Commons, acknowledges that crime in rural areas is a growing concern to people who live outside Canada’s cities.

During hearings last year, witnesses told the MPs of break-ins, thefts and assaults, including violence towards women, as well as dishearteningly long waits for police to turn up.

The resulting report, which is three pages long, encourages provinces to spend more on emergency-response services and dispatch centres, and says the RCMP should look for ways to partner with other police agencies.

Effective crime-fighting requires adequate police resources, partnerships with the community, robust victim support and a justice system that inspires public confidence, the report concludes.

That falls far short for Conservative members of the committee, who filed their own report calling for tougher steps against repeat offenders, greater use of electronic monitoring of people on release and clearer self-defence laws.

Evidence pointed to “critical gaps” including insufficient resources at RCMP detachments, an absence of emergency dispatch services in rural and remote areas, and a lack of help for victims of physical and sexual violence, the Conservative report says.

“Criminals understand that police response times in rural areas can be slow, neighbours can be miles away and rural regions are easy prey.”

The New Democrats make their own suggestions, including better training of young Mounties assigned to rural communities and universal access to 911 emergency service everywhere in Canada in both official languages.

“We think that the federal government should play an active role and help the provinces and territories to ensure security in rural areas,” the NDP says.

Communities have started to form their own rural crime watches and conduct volunteer patrols in the absence of a police presence, the Conservatives note. “Some rural victims, who took steps to defend themselves and their property, faced more serious police response and prosecutions than the criminals who attacked them.”

The committee recognizes the feelings of helplessness of the witnesses and their desire to take matters into their own hands, the majority report says. “However, the committee discourages this kind of intervention by citizens.”

While community watch groups should be encouraged, they should not be an alternative to professionally trained police officers, the report stresses.

The committee suggests that federal hands are tied, given that policing is primarily the responsibility of provincial governments.

Just Posted

Manslaughter trial hears recording of accused praying for forgiveness

CALGARY — A trial for a man charged in the death of… Continue reading

UN high commissioner urges redress as Canada responds to MMIWG inquiry

OTTAWA — Canada’s response to the conclusions of the inquiry into missing… Continue reading

Prevention key focus of dementia strategy released by federal government

OTTAWA — The cornerstone philosophy behind the federal government’s long-awaited strategy for… Continue reading

Groups launch challenge of Quebec’s secularism bill one day after it becomes law

Less than 24 hours after it became law, groups representing Canadian Muslims… Continue reading

Poll suggests majority of Canadians favour limiting immigration levels

OTTAWA — New polling numbers suggest a majority of Canadians believe the… Continue reading

Pro-pipelines rally draws crowd to City Hall

Canadian Taxpayers Federation says Canada missing out on billions in revenue

Manslaughter trial hears recording of accused praying for forgiveness

CALGARY — A trial for a man charged in the death of… Continue reading

UN high commissioner urges redress as Canada responds to MMIWG inquiry

OTTAWA — Canada’s response to the conclusions of the inquiry into missing… Continue reading

Prevention key focus of dementia strategy released by federal government

OTTAWA — The cornerstone philosophy behind the federal government’s long-awaited strategy for… Continue reading

Groups launch challenge of Quebec’s secularism bill one day after it becomes law

Less than 24 hours after it became law, groups representing Canadian Muslims… Continue reading

Poll suggests majority of Canadians favour limiting immigration levels

OTTAWA — New polling numbers suggest a majority of Canadians believe the… Continue reading

Raptors announcer credited with calming massive crowd after shooting

TORONTO — The Toronto Raptors’ play-by-play announcer is winning widespread praise for… Continue reading

Massive crowds, security concerns prove to be issues at Raptors parade

TORONTO — A shooting that sparked a stampede at a massive rally… Continue reading

Toronto mayor gives Raptors star Kawhi Leonard key to city

Toronto Mayor John Tory tried to woo Kawhi Leonard by presenting him… Continue reading

Most Read