Policies: Federal Government

The federal government controls a number of key areas related to crime prevention through social development. It has exclusive jurisdiction over criminal law, legislation, and procedures. It controls spending on health and social development transfers to the provinces. It also plays an important role in such areas as cultural funding, industrial planning, and environmental regulations.

In 1993 and again in 1997, Canadian parliamentary committees called for:

  • a high-level entity to initiate and lead crime prevention efforts in Canada;
  • involvement and collaboration among all levels of government;
  • the re-allocation of at least 5% of the criminal justice budget (police, courts, and corrections) towards a national crime prevention strategy – an investment of about $5 per Canadian per year.1

These recommendations led to the creation of the National Crime Prevention Council and the National Crime Prevention Strategy in 1994. During its three-year mandate, the Council was successful in gathering and sharing information about the effectiveness of crime prevention through social development (CPTSD) approaches.

Building on that foundation, Phase II of the National Strategy was launched in 1998 with a budget of $32 million. Given a mandate to advance community-based approaches to reduce the root causes of crime and victimization, the Strategy began funding projects across Canada.

In 2001, a further $145 million over four years was invested in the National Crime Prevention Strategy.

The National Strategy helps build safer communities by preventing crime and victimization and by reducing fear of crime. It operates on the principle that the most effective way to reduce crime is to focus on those factors which put individuals at risk – factors such as family violence, school problems, and substance abuse. The National Strategy recognizes crime prevention through social development as a long-term, proactive approach which seeks to remove the personal, social, and economic factors that can lead some individuals to engage in criminal acts or become victims of crime.

According to the National Strategy, the CPTSD approach has been proven to strengthen the quality of life for individuals, families and communities. Longitudinal studies in England, the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Sweden, and elsewhere, provide strong evidence of the impact of social development programs targeted to "at-risk" individuals, families and communities to "level the playing field," promote social cohesion, and help reduce criminality.

To achieve these aims, the Strategy works with an array of partners to support community-based crime prevention efforts. Recently the Strategy has begun to explore blending traditional methods of crime control with social development approaches, in order to provide holistic opportunities for high-needs communities.

Another relevant federal initiative is the Youth Criminal Justice Act, which came into effect in April 2003. The stated aims of the Act include "preventing crime through addressing the circumstances underlying a young person's offending behaviour" and "rehabilitating young persons who commit offences and reintegrating them into society."

Under the Act, police must consider certain options – such as referring the young person to a community program or agency – before they proceed to laying charges. However, there is no institutional connection between the Youth Criminal Justice Act and the National Crime Prevention Strategy. The Act has been the focus of a great deal of discussion in crime prevention circles since its implementation. Participants in CCSD Roundtables in Saskatchewan and Winnipeg expressed concerns that there were insufficient resources attached to the new Act.

In recent years, some Europeans countries have shifted towards incorporating various government departments and different levels of government into a co-ordinated strategy.

In Canada, the potential for co-ordination exists with the newly created Social Development Department, as well as the departments of Human Resources and Skills Development, Heritage, Health, and Indian and Northern Affairs, among others. As well, the Social Union Framework Agreement opens the door to enhanced collaboration between federal and provincial levels of government.

Notes:

1 Crime Prevention in Canada: Toward a National Strategy: Twelfth Report of the Standing Committee on Justice and the Solicitor General. Bob Horner, Chairman. Ottawa: House of Commons Canada, 1993.