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Halt the next crime severity numbers: Western Canada municipal leaders

A pause on the release of the next Crime Severity Index (CSI) numbers is what 11 Western Canada leaders are calling for from Stats Canada.

The prospect of the forthcoming CSI numbers has triggered a one-day conference of municipal leaders in Saskatoon who say that the 15 years of the stats being published have had detrimental effects on the development of smaller communities.

Mayor of North Battleford David Gillan echoed the sentiment of one of the academics who said, “You cannot compare apples and oranges” in the discussion on the limitations of the CSI and other options for presenting the data.

“It’s not working for small communities in Western Canada. It affects every part of our community. We can’t grow, we can’t attract business and professionals.” said Gillan noting, “We want change. We want real change.”

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The CSI rankings for 2022 place North Battleford at the top of communities over 10,000, but if smaller communities were included, North Battleford’s CSI would be 16th overall in Saskatchewan, say organizers.

The “arbitrary number of reporting data at 10,000 people or more is not an indicator of a community’s overall safety,” concluded Gillan.

Official delegations from Lloydminster, North Battleford, Cold Lake, Prince George, B.C., and Thompson, Manitoba were among those who made the trek to the downtown Saskatoon Holiday Inn for Thursday’s discussions on the crime numbers. RCMP, academics and Stats Canada representatives were also present.

Chief Lori Whitecalf of the Sweetgrass First Nation speaking on concerns of systemic racism said that when the CSI comes out, “a lot of times, First Nations people travelling the area are blamed. As chief of Sweetgrass First Nations, I encourage other First Nations not to take that blame, but we have to work on solutions collectively.” She says when the CSI is released, the racism increases, and the broken history of Canada needs to be fixed.

Whitecalf also critiqued the Federal Government’s use of data from her community, which is protected, adding there is a duty to consult First Nations to include their data in federal statistics and this has not been done.

Mayor of Lloydminster Gerald Aalbers noted the leaders identified several factors that affect the CSI including the justice system. The responsibility for these factors is shared provincially and federally. He said a working group led by Thompson, Manitoba will chart the next steps.

“We will be working on some strategies moving forward to ensure that our message is presented very clearly to Ottawa. We will also be reaching out to our fellow communities that are in the top 20 and asking for their support. Some were not able to be here in Saskatoon today in person.”

The leaders concluded the publication and use of the CSI numbers with populations of over 10,000 has been misinterpreted and misunderstood.

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