Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Lakeland for her important motion. Certainly there is no question that crime wherever it happens is unacceptable and that those who are the victims of crime suffer enormously. One of government's main responsibilities is to stop that suffering in any way that we can.
The point that is made around the rural context is one she is absolutely right about. We know that rural areas are often near the top of Statistics Canada's crime severity index and across the country in rural communities property crimes are plaguing these communities in a way that is utterly and totally unacceptable.
We agree fully and we think this is an area where it is essential that we have bipartisan co-operation to find ways to reduce this scourge so that we do not hear the kinds of stories that the member is talking about. There is no one in any part of this country who should feel scared in their home. There is no one who should feel that they are unsafe. Certainly it is our responsibility to make sure that happens.
We recently had a very good and effective session at the guns and gangs summit held in Ottawa where we heard from experts from across the country, with a very heavy preponderance of those coming from rural communities, to talk about some of the solutions that we need to bring to bear. One of the things that was evident from that was the imperative nature of understanding the needs at a local community level and funding those.
In other words, when I was on council, or when I was on the Durham Regional Police Service's board, the needs in my district of Ajax or the broader Durham region, would not be the same as the member's for Lakeland. The community at a ground level understands what they need to curb crime and make a difference, and how they can build community capacity to create the kinds of safe environments that we mutually desire.
It is one of the reasons we put forward the money in the first year of $32 million growing to $100 million a year in order to build that community capacity and to deal with helping communities curb this type of problem.
I also want to point out that in first nation communities we recognize that they too have also been under-resourced. That is why we were pleased to sign new agreements with first nation police forces that saw an increase of $291.2 million for first nations policing and that included $144 million specifically for officer safety, police, equipment, and for salaries. Starting in 2019, we will see 110 new positions at a cost of $44.8 million.
There are 450 first nation communities across the country and many of the issues we are talking about affect those first nation communities as well. When we are looking at what we can do to restore funding to the RCMP and build up their capacity, similarly we also have to take a look at our first nation communities.
I know the member did not specifically talk about gun-related crime, but I would also make mention of the fact that we are seeing a very disturbing trend in firearms-related victims. We have seen a one-third increase across the country and that is also reflected in rural communities. It is not just victims who are involved in gang-style shootings. We are also seeing it in domestic violence and tragically also in suicides.
The crime element as it pertains to guns is one that is very concerning to us because it bucks the overall trend line down that we see in crime. We see that increase being quite pronounced over the last five years. That is one of the reasons why we had Bill C-71 in front of the House today, not as a panacea but as part of a broader solution in how we can deal with this escalation of gun crime that we are seeing in the country.
While we often see gun crime as an urban phenomenon, we know that roughly three in 10 crimes that happen in relation to a firearm happen in a rural community. In both Saskatchewan and in the Atlantic provinces, firearms-related crimes are higher in rural communities than in urban settings. The firearms legislation is also an important step.
The work the RCMP conducts is mostly rural.
I will talk for a second about some of the initiatives that are happening at the local level with the RCMP to try to address this problem, and hopefully we can look at furthering some of them.
The crime reduction strategy implemented by the RCMP in Alberta, for example, helps police resources target the small percentage of people responsible for a great deal of the criminal activity in the province. That is one of the disturbing trends we often see. The crime we see, which impacts so many of the different stories we are talking about, is committed by a very small number of individuals. By targeting those individuals and going after the ones who are responsible, we can have a much greater impact.
The Alberta RCMP and the Alberta Rural Crime Watch Association recently signed a memorandum of understanding to help citizens take an active role in crime prevention, through patrol programs and police liaisons. There are also four crime reduction teams in Alberta, led by the Alberta RCMP, spread out to focus on rural crime concerns, such as breaking and entering, and property theft. These teams have led to more than 200 arrests, new criminal charges, and recovered stolen property.
I think the key here is what happens when we work as partners with provinces, the federal government, and municipalities. I thank my hon. colleague from Toronto, who got up to speak about the importance of working with local municipalities. It is that intersection of the different levels of government working collaboratively to come at this problem that is going to be absolutely key to our success.
At the same time, we recognize that the number of RCMP officers is absolutely essential. We know that the RCMP cadet enrolment is up 175% over the last couple of years. We are increasingly reaching out to make sure that the RCMP is reflective of the communities it represents, so that when the RCMP is in a rural setting, ideally there are people who have come from that community, know its local circumstances and challenges, and are able to respond accordingly.
As another example of that intersection of different elements working collaboratively to build community capacity, I would point out that in Saskatchewan the province's community safety officer initiative helps address high-priority but low-risk policing needs, including traffic and liquor bylaw enforcement, freeing up the RCMP and municipal police forces to focus on higher needs and more serious crimes. There are other ways of looking at this in terms of resource allocation, to make sure that the RCMP can focus on some of these larger issues, some of the ones that are more severe and causing communities more of a challenge.
The broader message is that the member for Lakeland is 100% right that we have a problem that is utterly and totally unacceptable. We need to bring the full force of government to bear, and that includes not only the RCMP but looking at all the interrelated elements of government that could help solve this problem, to partner with provinces and municipalities, and to do so as much as possible in a bipartisan way.
While we may not completely agree on the solutions, while we may look at it and think that we should do this or that, we both fundamentally agree that it is unacceptable, that it has to be fixed, and that we need to do everything in our power to accomplish that.
On that basis, I am pleased to work with the member opposite on this motion and, in a broader context, on this issue generally.