Rural, remote crime targeted in Tory MP’s bill

Bill would consider crimes' settings during sentencing

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An Alberta Conservative MP is trying to tackle rural crime by introducing a law that would punish more severely those accused of targeting remote, and vulnerable, people or property.

Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins introduced his private member’s bill for first reading in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

“Rural Canadians too often don’t feel safe in their own homes. Many have been victimized so often they’ve given up reporting property crime. It is often difficult for people to get affordable insurance if they can get it at all,” Calkins told MPs.

“My constituents are tired of being victims, they’re tired of the revolving door of the justice system, and of crime not being taken seriously. They are losing faith in the justice system, because too often it puts criminals before victims and their families.”

Calkins said his Bill C-289 would amend the Criminal Code to add aggravating circumstances for sentencing.

If passed, it would allow sentencing to include “evidence that an offence was directed at property or persons that were vulnerable because of their remoteness from emergency services and, for the purposes of some offences, the fact that a person carried, used or threatened to use a weapon or an imitation of a weapon.”

Calkins’ proposed law would also require courts to “consider the reasons for detaining the person” prior to determining how much credit an offender should receive for time spent in custody prior to sentencing.

Private members’ bills such as C-289 rarely become law in Canada but are believed to have better chances for passage during periods of minority government such as in the current Liberal-led Commons.

Between 2018 and 2019 a parliamentary committee studied the issue of rural crime in Canada. Produced by MPs from each of the country’s major parties, it found crime in rural areas was a “growing concern.”

The majority of witnesses who participated in that study were from Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Because policing is primarily a responsibility of provincial governments, MPs recommended provinces increase investments in policing and “innovative solutions” such as emergency dispatch centres.

— D.C. Fraser reports for Glacier FarmMedia from Ottawa.

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