Half of Canadians say crime is rising in their communities, as confidence in police, courts wanes

by David Korzinski | January 9, 2020 8:30 pm

Percentage of Canadians who perceive an increase in crime up from 30% to 48% over past six years

January 10, 2020 – Crime rates in Canada dropped precipitously from 1991 until 2014, falling more than 50 per cent during that period. Since then, however, crime rates have ticked upward in each of the past four years for which data is available.

A new study from the Angus Reid Institute, the latest in a biennial series gauging Canadians experiences with and opinions of the justice system, finds public perceptions in their communities following that same trend.

Indeed, half of Canadians (48%) now say that crime has increased in their community over the past five years, up from 42 per cent in 2018 and 30 per cent in 2014.

The proportion of Canadians holding this view is considerably higher in the western provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. In each region, six-in-ten residents or more say they are perceiving more crime now than five years ago.

Additionally, confidence in the RCMP and local police forces continues to decline. While at least half of Canadians still have confidence in each organization, the proportion saying this dropped in 2018 and again in this latest data.

More Key Findings:  Canada Polls, Justice system in Canada, Angus Reid Institute

About ARI

The Angus Reid Institute (ARI) was founded in October 2014 by pollster and sociologist, Dr. Angus Reid. ARI is a national, not-for-profit, non-partisan public opinion research foundation established to advance education by commissioning, conducting and disseminating to the public accessible and impartial statistical data, research and policy analysis on economics, political science, philanthropy, public administration, domestic and international affairs and other socio-economic issues of importance to Canada and its world.




Perceptions of crime in Canadian communities

Crime rates in Canada can be viewed in different ways, depending on the time frame one chooses to take. For instance, the crime rate and severity of crimes is down 17 per cent[1] over the previous decade of tracking, from 2008 to 2018. However, for the fourth straight year the Crime Severity Index (CSI) has risen[2]. Note that the CSI measures both the volume and severity of crimes that are reported to police.


Canada Polls, Justice system in Canada, Angus Reid Institute


Alongside this upward tick in the CSI is a corresponding rise in the number of Canadians who believe crimes rates have been increasing in their own communities. This question has been asked every two years since 2012 and in each two-year increment beginning in 2014, the proportion of Canadians saying crime has risen in their community has jumped. During that six-year period, the total has risen from 30 per cent to 48 per cent, as seen below:


Canada Polls, Justice system in Canada, Angus Reid Institute



The opinion that crime is increasing, rather than decreasing, is higher in every region of the country, but is most concentrated in western provinces, as seen in the graph below:

Canada Polls, Justice system in Canada, Angus Reid Institute


Saskatchewan and Manitoba rank highest regionally in terms of both the perception that crime is rising, and their reported CSI rating. Notably, Regina, Saskatoon and Winnipeg all rank in the top five[3] in terms of cities with the highest crime rates in the nation. None of the top five cities (Lethbridge and Kelowna round out top five) are from provinces east of Manitoba.

Quebecers are most likely to say crime is decreasing in their communities, and that province is the only one that has seen a decrease in its CSI rating since 2014:


Canada Polls, Justice system in Canada, Angus Reid Institute


*note Atlantic Canadian provinces excluded as our data looks at the region in aggregate

Personal exposure to crime

Canadians’ own experience with crime has inched upward over the past six years, with 15 per cent now saying that they have been a victim of a crime that involved the police. This figure represents a six-point increase since 2014:


Canada Polls, Justice system in Canada, Angus Reid Institute


Personal experience with criminal activity is again lowest in Quebec, and higher in the provinces west of Ontario:

Canada Polls, Justice system in Canada, Angus Reid Institute



Confidence in justice system declines again

Near the start of the last decade, most Canadians expressed a lack of confidence[4] in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, their local police forces, and the courts system – including the Supreme Court of Canada. These findings came on the heels of a number of scandals and investigations, including allegations that RCMP leadership had covered up[5] pension fraud, as well as inquiries into police mismanagement of the case of serial killer Robert Pickton and abuse of power in other B.C. cases.

By 2014, however, Angus Reid found confidence in the justice system to have improved significantly, to a level that remained fairly consistent in the Angus Reid Institute’s 2016 installment of this survey. Confidence declined slightly across each aspect of the justice system in 2018 and does so again in this latest data. While approximately half of Canadians still have confidence in the RCMP, their local municipal police forces and the Supreme Court, the level of confidence for each is down over the past four years.

Further, just over one-in-three Canadians say they have confidence in their own provincial court system:


Canada Polls, Justice system in Canada, Angus Reid Institute


Views of police

Views of the different levels of law enforcement in the country are varied across different populations and regions. This finding comes as some jurisdictions in the country debate whether to introduce new provincial or municipal forces. In Surrey, British Columbia, a recent municipal budget outlined $129 million over five years to help create a municipal police force[6] set to begin operations in 2021. In Alberta[7], Premier Jason Kenney recently announced that his government is considering creating its own provincial police force. As a national institution, the RCMP garners slightly less confidence than do their local detachments (where they exist):


Canada Polls, Justice system in Canada, Angus Reid Institute


As the Angus Reid Institute has previously found, visible minorities express lower levels of confidence in police forces. When asked about the RCMP, visible minorities are twice as likely to say that they have a complete lack of confidence compared to non-minorities (17% to 9%). Overall, 48 per cent of visible minorities express confidence in the RCMP:


Canada Polls, Justice system in Canada, Angus Reid Institute


Men are more skeptical than women about the trustworthiness of police in their communities. Half of men in the country have confidence in the RCMP, while a majority of women say the same:


Canada Polls, Justice system in Canada, Angus Reid Institute


Views of courts

Negative opinions from both men and women converge when it comes to Canada’s provincial court systems. Asked about confidence in criminal courts within their respective provinces, just over one-in-three Canadians, male and female, say that they have it:


Canada Polls, Justice system in Canada, Angus Reid Institute


Regionally, only Quebec residents approach majority territory when it comes to confidence in provincial criminal courts. Most of the country leans heavily toward lacking confidence in this branch of the justice system:


Canada Polls, Justice system in Canada, Angus Reid Institute


Canadians have been consistently found to have more confidence in the Supreme Court of Canada than their provincial courts. Only two provinces, however, Ontario and Quebec, have a majority of residents voicing confidence in the highest court in the land. Overall, 48 per cent of Canadians say they have confidence in the SCOC, and just 14 per cent have complete confidence (see detailed tables):

Canada Polls, Justice system in Canada, Angus Reid Institute




For detailed results by age, gender, region, education, and other demographics, click here.[8]

For detailed results by minority identification, click here.[9]

To read the full report, including detailed tables and methodology, click here.[10]

Click here to read the full questionnaire used in this report.[11]


Shachi Kurl, Executive Director: 604.908.1693 shachi.kurl@angusreid.org[12] @shachikurl

Dave Korzinski, Research Director: 250.899.0821 dave.korzinski@angusreid.org[13]

Image Credit – Photo 176857792[14] © Vadim Rodnev[15] | Dreamstime.com[16]

  1. down 17 per cent: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/190722/dq190722a-eng.htm
  2. has risen: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/190722/dq190722a-eng.htm
  3. rank in the top five: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatoon/regina-saskatoon-crime-severity-rates-1.5220235
  4. a lack of confidence: http://angusreid.org/americans-britons-and-canadians-endorse-alternative-penalties/
  5. covered up: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/rcmp-faces-twin-probes-in-alleged-pension-fraud/article17993870/
  6. municipal police force: https://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/wild-scenes-at-surrey-city-hall-as-controversial-five-year-financial-plan-gets-passed
  7. Alberta: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/alberta-police-force-rcmp-kenney-fair-deal-1.5354946
  8. click here.: http://angusreid.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/2020.01.09_Justice_ReleaseTables.pdf
  9. click here.: http://angusreid.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/2020.01.09_VisMin_ReleaseTables.pdf
  10. click here.: http://angusreid.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/2020.01.09-PDFJustice.pdf
  11. Click here to read the full questionnaire used in this report.: http://angusreid.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/2020.01.09-Justice-Questionnaire.pdf
  12. shachi.kurl@angusreid.org: mailto:shachi.kurl@angusreid.org
  13. dave.korzinski@angusreid.org: mailto:dave.korzinski@angusreid.org
  14. 176857792: https://www.dreamstime.com/toronto-canada-toronto-police-bicycle-patrol-officers-guarding-university-avenue-downtown-toronto-toronto-canada-toronto-image176857792
  15. Vadim Rodnev: https://www.dreamstime.com/skyisme_info
  16. Dreamstime.com: https://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos

Source URL: https://angusreid.org/justice-system-confidence-2020/