By Benjamin Perrin & Richard Audas
If you could delete our criminal justice system and start all over again, what would it look like? This was not a question in an ivory tower anywhere. It is striking that the government was recently asked by the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a public consultation on the reform of the criminal justice system. That is how seriously the increasing challenges faced by our legal system are seen by some.
The Canadian criminal justice system faces a whole series of challenges including significant underreporting of crime by victims, delays and inefficiencies, rising costs and serious concerns about the treatment of indigenous peoples – both as victims and perpetrators. But, as our second annual criminal report card with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute has found, it is not just bad news.
Using Statistics Canada data and quantitative statistical methods, we re-assessed the criminal justice system of each province and territory on the basis of five main objectives: public safety, support for victims, costs and resources, fairness and access to justice , and efficiency. We also added a national overview this year to track trends in the country over time.
Nationally, there are remarkable improvements in crime rates. The number of violent crimes per capita decreased by approximately 12.5% between 2012-2016. An important reason for this is demography, related to an aging population. Now fewer police officers are required per head of the population and the costs of legal aid have increased per crime, which encourages access to justice.
On the other hand, some problems have only got worse. The weighted non-violent crime loss rate (which is a measure of the percentage of dissolved crimes) steadily dropped to 29.3% in 2016. The incidents of probationary accidents per 1,000 crimes have increased. The cost of corrections per capita also increased.
The worrying thing is that the disproportionate number of indigenous people sent to prison has continued unabated. In 2016, the proportion of Aboriginal people in total custody as a percentage of the Aboriginal population was 6.2. The problem is particularly acute in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
Indeed, just like the real estate market, to really understand what is going on, we have to drill from national statistics to get closer to the ground. On the provincial / territorial level, Ontario was the most improved jurisdiction in general – its ranking improved drastically to 4th (from the 7th place), due to relative improvements in public security and fairness and access to justice.
are serious problems with efficiency in the Ontario legal system. It has the worst record in Canada for the part of the cost that is left behind or withdrawn (43.4%), compared with only 7.4% in neighboring Quebec. Ontario also has one of the highest numbers of defendants in pre-trial detention (in prison awaiting trial) per 1,000 offenses across the country.
Both Quebec and British Columbia experienced a significant decline in their overall rankings. Québec's rankings dropped to 6th (from 4th place), due to a relative decline in fairness and access to justice in the province.
The British Columbia ranking fell to 10th (from the 8th place), due to a relative fall in public security and justice and access to justice in the province. BC received missing figures for his weighted eviction rates for violent crime (only 51.7% of violent crimes were resolved by the police) and non-violent crime (only 20.4 percent).
Again Manitoba was the worst performing province and the Yukon was the worst performing territory. In response to our inaugural report card on the criminal justice system, Manitoba promised a review of his legal system, while the Yukon criticized the way it was judged. Reform takes time to achieve results and we hope that poorly performing jurisdictions will take these efforts seriously.
Without leadership, the serious problems with our criminal justice system will not solve themselves. In fact, the trend is that they usually only get worse as time goes on when nothing is done. Our criminal justice system is in great need of reform in several areas, and requires substantial work by all levels of government.
Benjamin Perrin is a professor of law at the University of British Columbia and an older Munk fellow at the Macdonald. -Laurier Institute. Dr. Richard Audas is a health statistic and professor of economics at Memorial University.