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Fact check: is gun violence rising in Canada? – CBC.ca

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The topic of guns has dominated the last week of the federal election campaign. Liberals have attempted to drive a wedge between themselves and the Conservatives over a ban on “assault” style weapons, and Conservative leader Erin O’Toole backtracked on a plan to reverse that ban.

But all the parties seem to agree on one thing — gun violence is a pressing and growing issue.

“Our communities should be safe and peaceful places to live and raise children, but American-style gun violence is rising,” the Liberal platform reads.

“Too many lives have been lost in Canadian cities to rising gun crime,” the NDP platform concurs.

In a news conference Saturday, Conservative leader Erin O’Toole said violent shootings have increased since Justin Trudeau became Prime Minister.

Is gun violence rising in Canada and, if so, what do we know about it? CBC News looked into it with a fact check.

An upward trajectory

Criminal gun violence has risen in Canada — and by a fairly significant margin, according to Statistics Canada.

From 2009 to 2019 criminal use of firearms increased 81 per cent, the agency reported. 2019 saw a nine per cent increase over the previous year.

This includes not just discharging a firearm, but also pointing it — for example, as part of a bank robbery.

And the COVID-19 pandemic did not do much of anything to reverse the trend.

Last year, there were 8,344 victims of violent crimes which involved guns, according to a report from Greg Moreau of the Canadian Centre for Justice and Community Safety Statistics.

“This rate was unchanged compared to 2019 … Since reaching its lowest point in recent years in 2013, firearm-related violent crime has generally been increasing, with the exception of a decline between 2017 and 2018,” the report reads.

“The number of violent offences specific to firearms increased by 593 incidents in 2020, resulting in a 15 per cent rate increase.”

Jooyoung Lee, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Toronto who studies gun violence, says Canada has seen an uptick in homicides.

“There is somewhat of an increase, nationally speaking, especially over the last three or four years,” he said. 

But the rate of homicides with firearms has broadly held steady in recent years, according to StatsCan data.

Though the absolute number of homicides by firearm reached its highest level of the past five years in 2020 at 277, the proportion of homicides by firearm actually decreased. In 2020, 37.2 per cent of homicides involved a gun, compared with 40 per cent in 2017. 

Jooyoung Lee, an associate professor of sociology at University of Toronto, says it’s a mistake to focus on homicide when thinking about gun violence as an issue. (CBC)

Lee said that while guns can be deadly, they’re often not.

“Homicide is really like the tip of the iceberg when it comes to violent crime,” he said. “That’s not taking into account non-fatal shootings, which are the overwhelming majority of shootings.”

Suicide, another aspect of gun violence that’s fatal, is much more common than homicide in Canada — but it has not shown a sustained increase over the past 20 years. After peaking in 2015 at 4,405 suicides, there were 3,540 in Canada in 2020, according to Statistics Canada.

Suicide has a well-documented positive relationship with gun ownership.

Public concerned about gun violence

As gun violence increases, the public is making its concern known.

According to public opinion research on firearms by Public Safety Canada, 47 per cent of Canadians feel that gun violence is a threat to their community.

An Ipsos poll in 2020 reported that an overwhelming majority (82 per cent) of those surveyed supported Bill C-21, the legislation aimed at banning a range of “assault-style” weapons.

A Leger and Association for Canadian Studies survey in 2021 reported that about two thirds (66 per cent) of respondents favoured stricter gun control in Canada. Only 10 per cent favoured looser regulations, while 19 per cent favoured the status quo.

Christian Pearce, a criminal defence lawyer based in Toronto who is also author of Enter the Babylon System, a book about gun culture, says that while gun violence is a serious issue, he thinks public concern about it is overblown.

“It has a dimension that invites fear,” he said. “Fear not only of gun crime itself but of the other — because of who the gun problem is stereotypically connected with.”

“I don’t think the problem that we have is of a magnitude that justifies a lot of the knee-jerk responses that we end up getting.”

What can be done?

Seizing on public consciousness of the issue, the parties have put forward policy proposals they say will reverse the trend.

The Liberals, for example, would introduce a buy back program for banned firearms and would set aside $1 billion for provinces and territories which ban handguns. The Conservatives have proposed hiring more police officers. The NDP have proposed funding for community anti-gang projects — and this sample is not close to exhaustive of the platforms on the issue.

But both Lee and Pearce say they’d like to see a more community-driven, proactive approach to address the roots of gun violence.

“People don’t really want to look at the larger problem that underlies gun crime, which is not really about guns but is about economics, classism, cumulative disadvantage,” Pearce said.

Lee concurs, and would like to see efforts to protect and deter the most vulnerable before tragedy strikes.

“We have to create a society that shields the most at risk from going down that path, and that takes a real bold vision. It takes thinking outside the box and not just constantly responding to the latest uptick in shootings,” he said.

“That’s the current model in a lot of cities, unfortunately.”

Good policy to address gun violence is being held back by a lack of good data, Lee says. Specifically, researchers don’t have a good enough idea of where illicitly-obtained firearms are coming from, which could inform efforts to curb the rise.

For now, Lee is skeptical that measures like more police and bans on certain types of guns will achieve much good.

“The notion of a ban makes everybody think, ‘OK, these guns won’t be here anymore, and they won’t be used in crime.’ But if the patterns now mirror those of the past, something like that probably won’t have that big of an impact.”

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U.S. lawmakers push Biden to lift Canadian travel restrictions

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Four U.S. senators on Friday asked President Joe Biden to lift restrictions that have barred travel by Canadians across the northern U.S. border since March 2020.

Democratic Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Jon Tester of Montana and independent Angus King of Maine asked Biden to allow Canadians vaccinated against COVID-19 to travel to the United States before October. The border state senators said in a letter the restrictions have led to “economic and emotional strain in our communities.”

The senators added: “A plan with some indication of when your administration would feel comfortable lifting border restrictions based on public health data would provide clarity to businesses and families along the northern border.”

They also noted that Canadians can fly to the United States. “We struggle to understand the public health rationale for the disparate treatment in modes of travel,” the senators wrote.

The White House did not immediately comment on Friday, but White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said on Wednesday that given the Delta variant of the coronavirus, “we will maintain the existing travel restrictions at this point.”

U.S. officials and travel industry executives say the White House is set to renew the restrictions before the latest extension expires on Sept. 21.

In August, the United States again extended restrictions closing its land borders with Canada and Mexico to nonessential travel such as tourism despite Ottawa’s decision to open its border to vaccinated Americans.

Canada on Aug. 9 began allowing fully vaccinated U.S. visitors for nonessential travel.

The United States has continued to extend the extraordinary restrictions on Canada and Mexico on a monthly basis since March 2020, when they were imposed to address the spread of COVID-19.

The U.S. land border restrictions do not bar U.S. citizens from returning home.

The United States separately bars most non-U.S. citizens who within the last 14 days have been in the United Kingdom, the 26 Schengen countries in Europe without border controls, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil.

 

(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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U.S. resumes talks with Huawei CFO on resolving criminal charges – Globe and Mail

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The U.S Department of Justice (DOJ) is in talks with Huawei and lawyers for its Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou about an agreement that could allow her to return to China, the Globe and Mail reported on Friday, citing Canadian sources.

Meng was arrested at Vancouver International Airport in December 2018 on a warrant from the United States, charging her with fraud for allegedly misleading HSBC about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran.

The United States is prepared to end an extradition request and criminal proceedings against Meng if she pleads guilty and pays a hefty fine, the report said, citing sources.

Both parties have been in talks for weeks, the newspaper added, citing two of its sources.

Huawei and the U.S. Justice Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Meng, who has maintained her innocence and is fighting extradition, is confined to Vancouver and monitored 24/7 by private security that she pays for as part of her bail agreement.

Judicial hearings in her extradition case wrapped up in August with the date for a ruling to be set on Oct. 21.

Following Meng’s arrest, China detained two Canadians, sentencing one in August to 11 years in prison for espionage, in a move widely seen as retaliation.

The Globe and Mail report said the development could open the door for China to free the Canadians, without quoting sources. However, it said Huawei’s talks with the United States did not include the Canadians.

 

(Reporting by Sabahatjahan Contractor and Shubham Kalia in Bengaluru; editing by Richard Pullin)

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British Columbia school district to lock all schools due to anti-vax protests

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School district in the British Columbia will be locking down schools starting Monday due to ongoing anti-vaccine protests, the district said late on Friday.

The “hold and secure” protocol was enacted on Friday after people protesting vaccines and masks, who the district said had been targeting schools all week, entered two school buildings in and around Salmon Arm, British Columbia.

The protocol meant that students could not leave or enter the building for the rest of the day. All schools in the district, a town of less than 20,000 people located roughly 450 kilometers (280 miles) northeast of Vancouver, will be under the same “hold and secure” starting Monday.

Superintendent of Schools Donna Kriger called the protesters’ move “completely unacceptable” and said the district is working with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to ensure protesters are kept off school property.

The Salmon Arm RCMP said in a statement they had been called to two schools on Friday after four protesters entered.

Canada has seen a wave of anti-vaccine protests ramp up in recent weeks as the country’s federal election draws nearer. Protesters have drawn ire from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the campaign trail for targeting hospitals and healthcare workers, and he has vowed to crack down on such actions.

In August Trudeau had to cancel a campaign rally due to security concerns from aggressive anti-vax protests.

 

(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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