Once again Winnipeg and Manitoba has, according to new statistics released in December, led the country in homicides per capita. In fact for Winnipeg, which annually tops the list for murders, it was among the worst rates in decades.
For the victims and their families, these are more than statistics and they matter greatly. But the annual distinction has led others to question what impact it has on Manitobans generally.
While random acts of murder do occur, it is true that, unless you are involved in gangs and organized crime, your chances of being a victim of murder are very remote. But that doesn’t mean the statistics don’t matter.
Manitoba’s consistently high murder rate is a measure of many things, not the least of which is gang activity. Those gangs are fuelled by drugs, prostitution, weapons and theft. While most Manitobans will, thankfully, never be confronted with crime that puts their life in jeopardy, gangs impact our lives in these less direct but often devastating ways.
Kids who are confronted with drugs are in this way indirectly touched by gang activity. Victims of robbery and theft likely have been as well, even though they may never see who committed the crime or where the stolen items were sold. Women can find themselves trapped in a life of prostitution as a result of gangs. Homicide rates are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the impact of gangs, but there is a whole lot more below the surface that impacts society greatly.
For those who easily dismiss the annual murder rate, they ignore the fact that it reaches beyond those directly impacted. It is an indicator of a problem that extends much further and hurts people in many different ways. And it is a problem that the provincial NDP government, or any government, should not dismiss quickly.
Progressive Conservative Justice Critic, MLA for Steinbach
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 8, 2014