When Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party was elected in 2015, its official election platform promised “real change” for Canadians. The Liberal public safety “plan will keep Canadians safe and protect their rights, without resorting to the politics of fear or letting ideology trump evidence in decision-making.” On guns specifically, the Liberal Party asserted that the Conservative government, under then-Prime Minister “Stephen Harper has steadily weakened our gun laws in ways that make Canadians more vulnerable and communities more dangerous. We will take pragmatic action to make it harder for criminals to get, and use, handguns and assault weapons.”
In his most recent campaign for reelection in 2021, Trudeau repeated his promises on crime and public safety. He claimed his government had “delivered on this commitment” through his 2020 ban of so-called “military assault-style firearms,” a classification that doesn’t legally exist but which has been applied to thousands of firearms lawfully acquired and used by ranchers, hunters, and recreational shooters.
For all of the Liberals’ lofty rhetoric, there’s one indication that the big talk of enhanced public safety falls short of reality. At the end of July, Statistics Canada (StatsCan), a federal government agency, released year-over-year crime data for 2022.
Crime, overall, continues to rise in Canada. Violent crime (as measured by the Violent Crime Severity Index) “rose in 2022, reaching its highest point since 2007.” The increase “included higher rates of robbery (+15%), extortion (+39%), homicide (+8%) and level 1 sexual assault (+3%),” and the rate of Level 2 assault involving a weapon or bodily harm has increased every year since 2015. The general Crime Severity Index (which measures changes in the level of severity of overall crime in Canada from year to year, with “more serious offences hav[ing] a greater impact on changes in the index”) had declined every consecutive year since 2004, dropping from 106.84 (2003) to 66.90 (2014). This downward trend began to reverse in 2015 and, with the exception of the pandemic year of 2020, the annual CSI continues to rise. In another notable milestone, the homicide rate in 2022 reached a level that has not been seen since 1992.
According to the federal agency, Canadians also experienced higher rates of non-violent and property crimes in 2022. Rates of shoplifting (+31%), minor theft (+10%) and breaking and entering (+4%) increased, and a 24% increase in motor vehicle theft “was 17% higher than in 2019.” In another disturbing development, StatsCan data shows the youth crime rate in 2022 jumped by almost 18% from the year before.
Given Trudeau’s restrictive new gun laws, gun bans and promises of “safer communities,” the expectation may have been that rates of violent crimes involving guns should have been rolled back, but here, too, the evidence suggests otherwise. StatsCan reports that the rate of violent Criminal Code firearm offences (e.g., discharging a firearm with intent, pointing a firearm or using a firearm in the commission of an indictable offence) has increased for the eighth consecutive year, rising 4% in 2022. Criminals are apparently not at all hindered by changing gun laws, as the rate at which a firearm is used in the commission of an offense has almost tripled, from 0.65 (in 2000) to 1.86 (2022). Likewise, Trudeau’s war on guns appears to have had no impact on the rate of homicides that are linked, or suspected to be linked, to organized crime or a street gang, as those rates increased in 2021 and again in 2022.
Trudeau has been the leader of Canada’s Liberal Party and the prime minister for eight years. His party’s gun control policies haven’t delivered a safer Canada; instead (as we’ve said all along) they have focused on criminalizing responsible gun owners when lawful ownership and use of firearms is very much not the problem.
The StatCan report coincided with a federal cabinet shuffle in which three prominent ministers were stripped of their portfolios without reassignment, including Justice Minister David Lametti and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, who was responsible for overseeing the implementation of the 2020 gun ban/ confiscation law (which is fast coming up on the expiry of the already-extended amnesty period). Writing of Mendocino’s demotion as the holder of one of these “disaster portfolios,” a newspaper observed that “Mendicino evaded seemingly endless blunders. On firearms, he attempted to lead a sweeping gun ban that threatened to criminalize hundreds of hunting rifles with an amendment to Bill C-21 in November — a fact he denied until the Liberals walked the amendment in February.” It concluded with the gloomy prediction that the “problems of old will likely continue into the new cabinet.”
In the meantime, the Liberals are avoiding taking political ownership for the rise in crime by pretending it hasn’t happened. Canada’s National Post describes the “federal Liberals’ new communication strategy” as “doubling down on their signature tactic: gaslighting Canadians into thinking there’s no problem and, if that fails, blaming them for thinking there’s a problem at all.” The replacement Justice Minister, Arif Virani, “is telling Canadians their concerns about crime may be all in their heads. He told Reuters: ‘I think that empirically it’s unlikely’ Canada is becoming less safe. ‘But I think there’s a sense coming out of the pandemic that people’s safety is more in jeopardy.’ The facts disagree with him.”
Is this, then, the crux of Liberals’ version of “real change” for Canadians – a propaganda move where crime rates unlike anything seen in recent years are presented as nothing more than a “perceived lack of safety from crime”?