Tuesday, July 26, 2011

CBSA - Canada’s ambassadors? Not really.

CBSAIt used to be said that travelling into the US and having to deal with the US Customs authorities was an ordeal, the price of admission so to speak. And it was also said how nice it was to come back to Canada and the “pleasant” border control people who were friendly and generally much more laid back than their American counterparts.

Well, no more. As two recent stories can attest, Canada’s CBSA has taken the gloves off and is now showing bloodied bare knuckles.

In one case (link) a 66-year-old Minnesota woman heading to Canada to play bingo was arrested and held in jail for 12 days because a jar of motor oil was mistakenly identified as heroin at the border. Now, even if you give CBSA the benefit of the doubt and agree that heroin and motor oil can be easily confused, taking 12 days to sort it out is simply ludicrous. CBSA’s response? “all persons, goods and conveyances entering Canada may be subject to a more in-depth examination." And then ran and hid behind privacy legislation.

In the second case, some US fishermen on the St. Lawrence (link) were fishing just inside Canada’s territorial waters. This is a common practice that has been accepted on both sides of the border for generations, the only caveat being they don’t actually drop anchor, in which case they are obliged to phone the respective border authorities and advise of their presence in their territorial waters. CBSA agents, acting as judge and jury forced the two fishermen to pay a $1000 fine on the spot under threat of being arrested, handcuffed, and towed to shore. Conveniently, CBSA accepts Visa, MasterCard and American Express, so the boater was able to pay this extortion by credit card and head back home suitably chastised. CBSA claims this is “routine” but is unable (unwilling?) to provide any prior examples.

Whether these new bully tactics are as a result of higher level direction (tough on crime and all that) or simply a generally nastier tone being expressed by all those in a position of power (G20 comes to mind as well) remains to be seen. But what is certain is that examples of this new get tough attitude get wide press in the US border states  further discouraging our southern friends from coming to visit, and encouraging tit-for-tat treatment of Canadians by US authorities – a downward spiral that will never end well. And all at a time when the Canadian government publically insists it’s trying to encourage the free flow of commerce and people between the two countries.

If Vic Toews is serious about that I have a suggestion or two on where he can start.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Crime is on the rise in Canada – not!

Statistics Canada has just released their ‘Police-reported crime statistics in Canada, 2010’ report (link). And it supports what many have been saying for some time:

Police-reported crime reaches its lowest level since the early 1970's

The police-reported crime rate, which measures the overall volume of crime, continued to decline in 2010 (down 5%), reaching its lowest level since 1973 (Chart 1). In total, Canadian police services reported close to 2.1 million Criminal Code incidents (excluding traffic), approximately 77,000 fewer than in 2009 (Table 1a). Decreases among property crimes, namely theft under $5,000 (-23,000 incidents), mischief (-22,500 incidents), motor vehicle thefts (-15,300 incidents), and break and enters (-9,200 incidents), accounted for the majority of the decline.

Now I’m sure the Harper cons will be quick to dismiss this report (and probably push hard for the Chief Statistician to cancel the collection and reporting of this data), but the data is there for anyone who is the least bit interested in facts and not blind ideology.

The following chart clearly shows the trend and puts a lie to the Harper con that crime rates are increasing ergo we need more jails, more prisoners, more prison guards, etc., etc.

And, it must be pointed out, the absolute peak occurred after several years of the last major period of Conservative rule – the Mulroney years. Coincidence?


Crime stats

Saturday, July 9, 2011

There’s something wrong here

This story in yesterday’s Ottawa Citizen is indicative of the laissez-faire attitude of those whose job it is to “serve and protect” when petty crime is involved.

The story, in short:

Girl has laptop stolen.

Girl reports theft to police. Response is we’re busy and will get to it eventually.

Girl tracks down thieves and recovers laptop with the help of a friend.

Girl reports recovery to police and provides names and addresses of thieves. Response is the investigating officer is away on vacation next week, but they (the culprits) will still be around when he gets back.

(And in an ideal world the perpetrators won’t have been using the intervening week to rob anyone else.)

I understand the pressures of inadequate staffing levels and the need to prioritize, but I believe that a quick response to these types of petty crimes can have a profound impact in cases such as this. Many (granted, not all) of these cases are crimes of opportunity committed by youthful miscreants who, if caught and appropriately punished in their first attempt at crime, will not reoffend. But, like anything, the more you do it (and get away with it) the easier it is, until stealing becomes second nature.

These crimes do not have a high profile in the community (that is until they are reported in The Citizen), but they are the crimes that will eventually affect all of us in one way or another. It’s becoming increasingly hard to find anyone who hasn’t had a bicycle stolen, or a purse, or a cell phone or laptop, so just on the basis of population affected these cases should receive a higher priority.  If the Ottawa Police Service needs to reassign staff from rounding up drunks, busting pot users, and escorting royal couples around town to the Robbery Unit (which, by the way has hours of Monday to Friday, 7:00am to 10:00pm and Saturday and Sunday 8:00am to 4:00pm as if robberies don’t occur outside those hours) then do it as the long-term societal benefit will be, in my opinion, significantly greater. And the feeling of why report it, the cops won’t do anything anyway, will have less currency.