If Canada’s most dangerous community — Thompson, MB — and Canada’s second-least dangerous — Oak Bay — were communities of 100,000, the former would record more than 6,500 assaults every year, the second zero.
While a statistical construct, these figures appear in a new Maclean’s ranking titled Canada’s Most Dangerous Places 2020.
It ranks communities according to the Crime Severity Index (CSI), a Statistics Canada measure of all police-reported crime that considers both the volume and seriousness of offences. It draws on 2018 data, the most current available. Similar contrasts also appear across categories.
The communities differ in many ways, with the difference in actual population size — 12,878 for Thompson, 18,094 for Oak Bay — likely the least important one.
For starters, Thompson lies relatively isolated in northern Manitoba in one the harshest climatic and arguably uneconomically unproductive regions of Canada, the northern boreal forest range. Thompson’s famous nickel mine with its iconic smoke stack visible from great distances has gone through ups and downs in recent years, emblematic for many single-resource towns dotting rural Canada.
Second, its median age is 30.9 with just over 25 per cent of its population under the age of 14. By contrast, Oak Bay’s median age is 53.6 years, with almost 32 per cent over the age of 65. By contrast, seniors account for less than six per cent of the population in Thompson. Finally, the demographic difference between the two communities appears especially stark when considering the share of individuals with Aboriginal ancestry. Just over 43 per cent of Thompson’s population falls into that category, while the number of Oak Bay residents with some Aboriginal ancestry is fewer than 500 people.
These differences in turn help account for the vastly different crime rates between the two communities. Generally, the younger the community, the higher the crime rate. Criminologists have also associated crime with poverty, a condition high among Canadians of Aboriginal ancestry, with poverty among Canadians of Aboriginal ancestry itself the product of European colonization, previous political disenfranchisement and current neglect, as well as various forms of racism.
(By way of background, Indigenous adults represent only about three per cent of the adult population in Canada, but accounted for 26 per cent of admissions to provincial and territorial correctional services, according to Corrections Canada, with this tendency being especially high in the western Canadian provinces).
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