New crime stats not pretty for rural, northern Sask. but govt says lots has changed
Sask. has highest rates of rural crime in the north of all provinces in StatsCan numbers
Saskatchewan's crime statistics of rural areas in parts of northern Saskatchewan were the centre of an exchange between the NDP's Nicole Sarauer and the Minister of Corrections and Policing in Question Period at Legislature on Wednesday.
Sarauer, Opposition critic for corrections and policing, also criticized the government for not doing enough to curb an increasing usage of crystal meth in the province.
"For years police forces have been pointing to the spike in meth use and the drug trade as a driver of crime," Sarauer said.
Crime rates were more than three times higher in rural areas in the northern parts of Saskatchewan than in the southern parts in 2017, according to a report released this week by Statistics Canada.
She said the root causes of crime — poverty, homelessness. employment housing and substance abuse — are ignored by the government's crime strategy, which she said focuses exclusively on enforcement.
"When will we see the smart investments that could help prevent crime in the first place?" Sarauer asked.
Christine Tell, the Minister of Corrections and Policing, rejected the assertion.
"Of course our ministry is involved in more levels than just enforcement," she said.
Sarauer said there is a "shameful shortage" of correctional supports for mental health and addictions issues, and a lack of reintegration supports for when people leave prison but are at risk of re-offending.
"We need to look no further to understand our nation-leading crime rates," she said.
Tell said the StatsCan numbers came out the year after the province took action to address concerns over rural crime, with the 2016 rural crime task force that toured the province.
From that, came the Protection and Response Teams, some funding to help train community safety officers and Saskatchewan Crime Watch, Tell said.
Of all provinces surveyed in the new Statistics Canada report, Saskatchewan had the highest rates of rural crime in the northern regions in 2017.
In response to Sarauer's call for a multi-pronged approach to crime, Tell pointed to work with high-risk families in Pelican Narrows as part of their response and a community alcohol strategy in the La Ronge region.