The commonly cited statistic that lists Canada as the safest major country in the world is not so much myth as it is an inflated legend, based in reality but embellished to suit a larger national narrative.
While many have repeated this stat, few can name a definitive source. Canada has undoubtedly topped lists of the world's safest countries, but the ranking has taken on a life of its own. The legend is pervasive in Canadian society, it echoes through government halls and spreads through megaphones on tourist buses.
The legend is just one more differentiating factor in a national mythos that strives, above all, to distinguish Canada from the United States.
Canada is a country rich in culture with much to be proud of in the way of progressive policy. But efforts to assuage Canadian social problems by comparing them to American disorder can actually cause real harm.
In fact, the legend of the low Canadian crime rate serves to erase the violence and systemic issues that many experience every day across the country.
In recent months, this has become especially true in Toronto, a city heralded as one of the safest on the continent. But a recent spike in violent crime is leading residents and officials, alike, to reevaluate city politics and culture. Talk to any Torontonian and you will hear that the state of the city is inexplicably deteriorating.
Two devastating attacks this year, especially, have given residents just cause for alarm. In April, a militant mysogynist plowed through a crowd with his van, killing ten people and wounding several others. On Sunday, a lone gunman opened fire on pedestrians on Danforth Street, killing three, including himself.
The two tragedies are, of course, unrelated and abhorrent crimes. But they are outliers in a troubling trend.
Gun-related crime has spike dramatically in Toronto. According to statistics from the city police department, fatalities from gun crime are double today what they were by the same time last year.
An epidemic of gun violence is affecting the way some residents view their city, according to the CBC.
Such conerns have led officials to invest millions in addressing gun violence, both through an increase in police presence and a crackdown on the increasing trade of illegal guns, many of which come from the United States.
These measures are good first steps in an effort to curb violence but do little to address systemic issues. Economic inequality, especially, is the unspoken factor that underlies what is actually, according to Statistics Canada, a nationwide rise in violent crime.
Canadian cities like Toronto and Vancouver have become wildly unaffordable. Montreal, too, a city that still has a remarkably low cost-of-living, has seen housing prices creep steadily up as luxury development and investment downtown affect listings across the city.
Canadian officials need to look beyond the surface to confront the root issues of economic inequality and a lack of accessible services that have produced the increase in crime we see today. Indeed, the relationship between crime and inequality is well proven.
What the hell is happening in Toronto? Gun violence, yes, but also ever-deepening economic inequality nationwide. And we need to start talking about it.