Most Canadians feel violence has risen in their community during the COVID-19 pandemic with many fearing things will only get worse going forward, according to a new poll.
As the third anniversary of COVID-19 arrives, polling by Ipsos conducted exclusively for Global News and released Thursday suggests 58 per cent of Canadians believe there has been more violence in their community since the pandemic began in March 2020.
Among those who feel violence has increased, two-thirds or 65 per cent believe it’s because the pandemic has negatively impacted mental health.
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Half of the respondents also blamed the breakdown of common values and social cohesion and a similar proportion said economic uncertainty has led to the increased violence.
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Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos public affairs, said the public perception on violence mirrors what Canadians are seeing in the news every day.
“When Canadians talk about violence … what they see in the news, what they read online – the more lurid a situation tends to get most of the attention – which would lead people to think to a certain extent that these things are actually increasing,” he said in an interview.
“It’s really what they’re experiencing, not necessarily in their personal lives, but what they’re experiencing through the media for the most part.”
Who are the victims of violence?
The first year of the pandemic saw the highest number of police-reported hate crimes since Statistics Canada began tracking data in 2009.
Police-reported crime was stable in the second year of the pandemic, but violent crime was up, according to the most recent national data from Statistics Canada.
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The incidence and severity of violent crime – as measured by the Crime Severity Index (CSI) – rose in 2021 with higher rates of Level 1 sexual assault, harassment, threatening behaviours and homicide reported across the country.
Level 1 sexual assault is typically defined as incidents that involve “minor physical injuries or no injuries to the victim,” compared to Level 2 sexual assault which involves “a weapon, threats, or causing bodily harm.” Level 3 sexual assault is more commonly known as aggravated sexual assault — involving “wounding, maiming, disfiguring or endangering the life of the victim,” according to a justice department note.
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Most Canadians who were polled by Ipsos said they feel women (70 per cent) and immigrants (64 per cent) have become greater targets of violence in the country.
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Women were also more likely than men to report feeling unsafe while walking in their neighbourhood at night (36 per cent) or taking a taxi or ride-share (20 per cent). Overall, a majority of Canadians still said they felt safe where they reside and going about their daily lives.
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In its August 2022 release, StatCan reported higher numbers of hate-motivated crimes targeting religion, sexual orientation and race or ethnicity.
The Ipsos poll suggests there’s not much optimism about the future, with eight in 10 people saying they believe acts of violence will increase in Canada.
More than half (57 per cent) also feel not enough is being done by the government to counter the problem.
These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between February 15 and 17, 2023, on behalf of Global News. For this survey, a sample of 1,350 Canadians aged 18+ was interviewed. Quotas and weighting were employed to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the Canadian population according to census parameters. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ± 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadians aged 18+ been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.
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