Mischief, disturbing-the-peace drive high crime rates in remote communities
Statistics Canada looked at police-reported crime in Canada's remote, Indigenous-majority communities
A new Statistics Canada report found that crimes of mischief and disturbing the peace make up a large part of the high crime rates that plague Canada's small, remote, majority-Indigenous communities.
"Although statistics consistently show that police services serving Indigenous communities report some of the highest rates of crime in Canada, there has been little detailed analysis to examine the nature of crime in these communities," reads the report.
The study looked at police-reported crime from 182 detachments that serve communities where over half the population is Indigenous. That includes all of Nunavut, detachments that serve 77 per cent of Indigenous populations in the Northwest Territories, and detachments that serve 23 per cent of Indigenous populations in Yukon. The median population served was under 1,500 people.
Using data from 2018, the report's author, Mary Allen, found that police-reported crime rates were six times higher in these communities than in non-Indigenous-majority communities.
Violent crime rates were nine times higher.
But Allen found that more than half the difference in crime rates was made up of crimes relating to mischief — such as vandalism and graffiti — common assault, or disturbing the peace.
Those crimes, she said, might never come to the attention of police in a larger centre in the first place, where they're much more likely to be handled as breaches of municipal bylaws or provincial violations.
"If we had all that information from other communities, their [crime] rates would be higher too," Allen said.
Adult crime more striking than youth
Crime rates are generally associated with youth and young adults, the report said. The rates of youth accused in majority-Indigenous communities is six times higher than for youth in non-Indigenous communities.
However, the rates of accused for adult age groups were 10 times higher in Indigenous than non-Indigenous communities.
"It has often been assumed that the high rates of crime in Indigenous communities can be somewhat explained by the fact that these populations tend to be much younger," said the report. "However, this was not found to be the case."
"This is something that we don't have a direct understanding of," Allen said.
"A lot of the crimes committed by those older individuals are offences like mischief and disturbing the peace, and those are offences that can be associated with mental health problems or substance use or alcohol."
Those problems, she said, can in turn be associated with adverse experiences such as having attended a residential school.
"Recent studies," the report said, "have noted that while there were large differences in the rates of child maltreatment among older Indigenous people relative to their non-Indigenous counterparts, this difference was not present among the younger population."
Crime begets crime
Offences related to the "administration of justice" also contributed to higher crime rates.
The offences — which include breach of probation, failure to comply with an order and failure to appear — were six times higher in Indigenous versus non-Indigenous communities.
These offences, which can only result from previous contact with the justice system, "are sometimes seen as the 'revolving door'" of that system, the report notes.
They're also considered a factor in the overrepresentation of Indigenous offenders in the corrections system.
The report notes that in Canada's North, the rates of these offences is high in both the Indigenous and non-Indigenous population, suggesting that "the size and remoteness of many of these Northern communities may be a factor if they affect the ability of an accused to appear in court, report to a probation officer, or access required programming."