An analysis of Statistics Canada information shows that in Calgary there are fewer charges per reports of level one sexual assault than in five other major cities and Canada as a whole.
Level one sexual assault does not involve a weapon or endanger the life of the victim, however the victim’s “sexual integrity is violated.”
In an emailed statement provided by Lindsay Nykoluk of the Calgary Police Service, the CPS explained it is difficult to determine the cause of the statistical difference.
“There are also differences in the resources that agencies have available to them, including some agencies – like the Calgary Police Service – having better access to alternative methods of dealing with offenders that do not involve charges, such as restorative justice or treatment programs.”
According to Statistics Canada, between 2010 and 2014 the average number of level one sexual assaults reported in Calgary was 49.5 per 100,000 people. By comparison, the average number of charges actually laid in the city was 14 per 100,000 people. That means for every charge there were 3.53 reports of level one sexual assault, compared to the Canadian average of 2.3 reports for every charge.
Other major cities like Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Edmonton, Quebec City and Kitchener have lower rates of reports per charge, ranging from to 2.31 to 3.33. Montreal, Ottawa and Hamilton had similar ratios to Calgary, ranging from 3.58 to 3.86 reports per charge.
While the CPS could not explain the lower ratio of charges to reports for level one sexual assault, the police statement indicated that municipalities, crown prosecutors and police agencies gather all the sexual assault data differently.
Danielle Aubry, executive director of Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse, agreed it’s difficult to compare jurisdictions.
“The police services define what a clear case is differently. If one department does it differently and finds things differently you can’t compare those two,” Aubry said. “That’s fundamentally a problem that we have across Canada that these things are not done in a uniform kind of way, so it’s a frustration for people because there is no answer.”
Dr. Rashmee Singh, an assistant professor at the University of Waterloo for the department of sociology and legal studies, agreed that every city does things differently, potentially affecting the ratio of reports versus charges.
For example, Singh points out Ontario has a policy that makes it mandatory for police to lay criminal charges when there is a report of domestic violence. Toronto has 2.3 reports per charge, similar to the Canadian average.
Scharie Tarver, a Mount Royal University criminology professor, offered a different opinion as to why Calgary’s ratio is so low compared to Canada’s.
“It could be a number of things or simply due to lack of resources,” says Tarver. “The Crown is understaffed and they [may have] other high profile murders or gang stuff going on, so that unless it’s a slam dunk then they won’t take it.”
“I really think it’s less people coming forward and less evidence being collected and the Crown not willing to proceed because they are overloaded with other really heavy cases that require a lot of hours,” she said.
But Avril Inglis, a senior Crown prosecutor for the province of Alberta, says the CPS would be the agency to receive complaints of sexual assault and it is their decision to lay charges or not.
“If the charges are not laid then Alberta Justice does not suddenly intervene,” she said. “So, for Calgary, it is much more a police issue.”
The editor responsible for the piece is Brendan Stasiewich, firstname.lastname@example.org