The Inside Story

Canada’s national crime rate hit its lowest point in over 25 years last year, led by a decline in non-violent crime, according to police-reported data released by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.

The crime rate dropped by three per cent in 2006, driven mainly by declines in break-ins, thefts under $5,000, and counterfeiting. The national crime rate has decreased by about 30 per cent since its peak in 1991 and fell in every province and territory in 2006.

However, the total violent crime rate remained virtually unchanged from 2005, mainly due to the stability in the rate of minor assaults, which account for six in 10 violent crimes. Incidents of the most serious violent crimes rose for the second year in a row, including attempted murders, aggravated assaults, and robberies.

After two years of increases, the national homicide rate fell 10 per cent last year, with police reporting 58 fewer than in 2005. The most notable decline occurred in Ontario, where there were 23 fewer homicides. However, the rate of young people accused of homicide was the highest since 1961, when data were first collected. In general, the crime rate among young persons aged 12 to 17 rose three per cent last year, with violent crime up three per cent and other offences, such as mischief and disturbing the peace, up nine per cent.

Total drug crimes were up two per cent in 2006. While cannabis offences were down four per cent, cocaine offences were up 13 per cent and other drug offences, including crystal meth, rose eight per cent. Cocaine offences have increased by 67 per cent since 2002.

The number of discipline cases heard by the Law Society of Upper Canada’s hearing panel increased by 74 per cent last year, compared with the year before, according to the law society’s 2006 annual report.

The panel heard 235 files last year, compared with 135 in 2005. Of the 235 hearings, 49 resulted in suspensions, 21 in reprimands, 18 in disbarments, and 14 members were given permission to resign over the course of the year.

In terms of investigations, the law society notes that nearly 16 per cent concerned financial issues while another 16 per cent was related to integrity. Just under 12 per cent of investigations were attributed to real estate or mortgage schemes.

An Ontario Superior Court ruling forced the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General to disclose that it spent $1.8 million for lawyers and support staff in its seven-year battle with parents of autistic children. The court upheld a Feb. 17 order from the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

MAG had already disclosed it spent $620,000 in associated court costs, such as transcripts.
New Democrat MPP Shelley Martel made a freedom of information request in 2004 for access to records relating to costs incurred in two civil actions brought against the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care and the Ministry of Education by the parents of several autistic children over the age of six. Martel argued the legal costs were a matter of public interest, because they would reveal how much money the government wasted on lawyers rather than providing treatment for children.

The Ministry of the Attorney General sought judicial review of an order made by Information and Privacy Commissioner adjudicator Donald Hale, ordering the ministry to disclose the total dollar figures for legal services rendered in the two actions. However, the court dismissed the appeal, requiring the government to disclose the amounts.

The civil actions related to the government’s Intensive Early Intervention Program, which provided or funded intensive behavioural intervention for children with autism from ages two to five. The plaintiffs in the case alleged that the government breached their rights under the Charter because the program ceases to be available after age six. The plaintiffs were successful at the Ontario Superior Court, but the decision was later overturned. 

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