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Published: Sunday, 1/18/2004

Types and jail terms vary, but crime numbers alike in U.S., Canada

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BOWLING GREEN - Projecting two images onto a large screen, Rosemary Gartner presented the common perception of the settlers of both the American and Canadian frontiers.

One drawing showed an unarmed Canadian mounted policeman, typically known as a “Mountie.” The other depicted a gun-slinging cowboy.

“There is a longstanding belief among Canadians and Americans that Canada is a more law-abiding, peaceful nation than the United States,” said Ms. Gartner, a professor of criminology and sociology at the University of Toronto.

“Here, the cultural hero is the disciplined, uniformed Mountie with no gun in sight versus the American gunslingers. These are the two stereotypes that reign in many people s minds.”

But although Canadians have been portrayed to be more law-abiding than their southern neighbors, Ms. Gartner told more than 100 attendees of the 17th Reddin Symposium yesterday that the statistics don t necessarily support the theory.

The results of a victimization survey showed that in both countries, one in every four or five residents reported being the victim of some sort of crime in 2000.

But where the stereotypes tend to ring true is in the area of violent crime.

Data collected over the last two decades show that while Canadians appear to be just as likely as Americans to commit a property crime, violent crime in the United States is two to three times higher than in Canada.

The professor spoke of crime and criminal punishment trends in her home country and in the United States. Sponsored by the Bowling Green State University s Canadian Studies Center, the symposium brings together researchers and community members to discuss various U.S.-Canada issues.

This year the day-long seminar focused on crime and the criminal justice center and featured Ms. Gartner, Canadian attorney Terrance Sweeney, Superior Court Justice John McGarry, and Bowling Green Municipal Judge Mark Reddin, after whose family the symposium is named.

Most predominant among the differences between the two country s criminal justice systems were the punishments imposed. Both Ms. Gartner and Justice McGarry spoke of the relatively light sentences given to those convicted of crimes in Canada in comparison to the harsher sentences handed down in the United States.

In particular, as U.S. leaders continue to promote more “get tough on crime” legislation, Canadian leaders recently enacted a rule that demanded judges look for alternatives to jail time when appropriate.

“When I hear of the sentences that American judges impose, it staggers me,” said Justice McGarry, who presides over the Superior Court in London, Ontario. “Our sentences aren t nearly as long as yours.”

Judge Reddin admitted that the sentencing guidelines handed down often tie judges hands.



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