April 5th, 2018
Hon. Kevin Sorenson, M.P., (Battle River-Crowfoot)
On Wednesday, March 28th, I participated in the debate on Motion 167 which was introduced by my colleague and fellow Albertan MP Shannon Stubbs. This Private Member’s Motion was prompted by the increasing rate of rural crime throughout this country, particularly in Alberta, and the Liberal government’s failure to recognize this growing problem and seek solutions to de-escalate this trend.
In 2015, for the first time in over a decade, the police reported an increase in crime and further increases occurred in 2016. Alberta led in rural crime with a spike of ten percent and unprecedented levels of property crime. While the Alberta Rural Crime Task Force, of which I am a member of, has been working with provincial and municipal representatives, citizens groups, law enforcement and victims to identify concrete actions to be taken to address these increases, we also need the Federal Government to implement some measures. Action and added measures however cannot be executed without first fully understanding the extent of the problem and underlying causes.
Motion 167 therefore calls upon the Federal Government to instruct the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security “to undertake a study on rural crime in Canada and consider factors, including but not limited to: (i) current rural crime rates and trends, (ii) existing RCMP and other policing resources and policies in rural, remote, and Indigenous communities, particularly in relation to population density, policing geographic area, and staff shortages, (iii) current partnerships with provincial, municipal, and Indigenous police forces, (iv) possible recommendations to improve rural crime prevention and to curb emerging crime rates, and that the Committee report its findings to the House within six months of the adoption of this motion.”
Unique challenges in rural policing such as small detachments serving vast geographic areas, lack of cellphone coverage, poor road conditions, modest street lighting in smaller communities, isolated residences and limited resources, make it extremely difficult for police to help prevent and respond to crime. While it may be challenging to address many of these issues, it certainly isn’t unsurmountable and as at start, we must ensure the RCMP are fully staffed. Nationally, more than one in ten RCMP positions is vacant and as of April 2017, there were 230 positions unfilled in Alberta; this in its self is a crime.
While the Liberal government and in particular, the Minister of Public Safety, initiates the strong push to increase RCMP resources, they should also vote in favour of our motion to convene a comprehensive study of the problem. Until the Liberals are willing to take this issue seriously, many of my constituents and those of my colleagues may continue to live in fear.
We once took great pride in living in peaceful rural communities and surroundings where unlocked doors and opened gates were the norm. Today however, that idyllic picture has been damaged and we must fight hard to get it back.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding this or previous columns you may write me at 4945-50th Street, Camrose, Alberta, T4V 1P9, call 780-608-4600, toll-free 1-800-665-4358, fax 780-608-4603 or e-mail Kevin.Sorenson.firstname.lastname@example.org.