Homicide in Canada, 2011

By Samuel Perreault

Homicide is a relatively rare offence in Canada, representing less than 1% of all crimes (Brennan 2012). Each year in Canada there are about six times more deaths from suicide and five times more deaths from road accidents than from homicide.Note 1 However, homicide remains the most serious criminal offence, involving significant police resources and invoking the most severe penalties. Homicide is also one of the most noticeable crimes in a country. As they are generally widely publicized by the media due to their severity and visibility, they can contribute to the public's fear of crime (Romer et al. 2003; Chiricos et al. 2000).

In 2011, police reported 598 homicides in Canada, 44 more than the previous year. These 598 homicides resulted in a rate of 1.73 homicides per 100,000 population, an increase of 7% from 2010Note 2 (Table 1a and Table 1b).

Beginning in the mid-1960s, the homicide rate increased steadily for ten years, peaking in 1975 with a rate of 3.03 per 100,000 population. Since then, despite annual fluctuations, the homicide rate has generally declined until stabilizing over the past decade. The 2011 homicide rate is similar to what was observed over much of the past decade (Chart 1).

Chart 1
Homicides and attempted murders, Canada, 1961 to 2011

Description for chart 1

Chart 1 Homicides and attempted  murders, Canada, 1961 to 2011

1. Excludes 329 victims killed in the Air India incident in 1985.
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Homicide Survey.

Although the number of homicides increased in 2011, there were 13 fewer attempted murders. The rate of attempted murders decreased by 3% in 2011, from 1.96 to 1.90 per 100,000 population. The attempted murder rate increased until the early 1980s, surpassing the homicide rate in the mid-1970s. Since then, it has also been on a generally downward trend.

As the vast majority of homicides become known to police and are subject to a thorough investigation, the homicide rate is one of the best measures of crime to compare with other countries.Note 3 The rate of homicide per 100,000 population is used to compare countries with different populations. The 2011 Canadian rate of 1.73 homicides per 100,000 population is the lowest of all the Americas, 14 times lower than in Mexico and about one-third of the rate in the United States. The homicide rate in Canada is more comparable to many European countries and Oceania (Australia and New Zealand), but remains much higher than the rate in Japan and Hong Kong (Chart 2).

Chart 2
Homicide rates for selected countries, 2011

Description for chart 2

Chart 2 Homicide rates for  selected countries, 2011

1. Figures reflect 2009 data.
2. Figures reflect 2010 data.
3. Excludes Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao.
4. Includes England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Source: Statistics Canada and United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime.

Lowest rate of firearm homicides in Canada in almost 50 years

In 2011, a knife or other cutting instrument was the weapon most often used to commit a homicide, accounting for more than one-third (35%) of all homicides in Canada. Virtually all of the increase in homicides in 2011 was due to an increase in the number of homicides committed with a knife or other cutting instrument, up by 39 from 2010 (Chart 3).

Chart 3
Homicides, by most common type of method, Canada, 1961 to 2011

Description for chart 3

Chart 3 Homicides, by most common  type of method, Canada, 1961 to 2011

Note: 'Other' excludes homicides for which the method used was unknown. Data prior to 1974 exclude manslaughter. Therefore, rates for those years may be slightly under-reported. Manslaughter accounts for about 1 out of 10 homicides. Of the manslaughters that took place since 1974, 47% were by beatings, 13% by a knife or other cutting instrument, 12% by a firearm and 28% by another method.
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Homicide Survey.

The next most common methods used to commit homicide in 2011 were firearms (27%), beatings (22%) and strangulation (7%) (Table 2).

There were 158 homicides committed with a firearm in 2011, 13 fewer than the previous year. The 2011 rate of 0.46 firearm homicides per 100,000 population was the lowest in almost 50 years. The recent decline in the rate of firearm homicides is mainly due to a drop in the rate of homicides committed with a handgun, which has fallen nearly 30% over the past four years. However, handguns still accounted for about two-thirds of all firearms used to commit homicide in 2011Note 4 (Table 3 and Chart 4).

Chart 4
Firearm-related homicides, by type of firearm, Canada, 1981 to 2011

Description for chart 4

Chart 4 Firearm-related homicides, by type of firearm, Canada, 1981 to 2011

Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Homicide Survey.

Halifax, Edmonton and Winnipeg recorded highest rate of firearm homicides

The firearm homicide rate varies widely in Canada, depending on where one lives. The vast majority (91%) of firearm homicides that occurred in Canada's census metropolitan areas (CMAs) in 2011 were concentrated in the seven largest CMAs and Halifax. In particular, Halifax (1.72), Edmonton (1.08) and Winnipeg (1.04) reported the highest rates of firearm homicide per 100,000 population in 2011 (Table 4). In addition to these three CMAs, Toronto and Vancouver each reported an average annual rate of over 0.80 firearm homicides per 100,000 population from 2001 to 2010. Rates of firearm homicides tend to be lower in smaller CMAs.

The majority (71%) of firearm homicides that occurred in a CMA in 2011 were committed with a handgun. By comparison, outside of CMAs, rifles or shotguns were the weapons of choice, accounting for 62% of all firearm homicides.

Homicides committed with a handgun and, by extension, those committed with a firearm in a CMA are often attributed to gangs. Over four in ten (44%) firearm homicides committed in a CMA were, according to police, gang-related or suspected to be gang-related.

Multiple victim homicides committed with a firearm declining

In 2011, a total of 50 victims were killed in 22 multiple victim homicide incidents (4% of all homicide incidents). Firearms are more likely than any other weapon to be involved in a multiple victim incident, accounting for just over half of these incidents since 2001. Other common methods used to commit multiple victim homicides include knives or other cutting instruments, beatings, strangulation and smoke (fire).

Multiple victim incidents involving a firearm have generally been declining over the past 30 years (Chart 5). In 2011, there were 10 multiple victim incidents committed with a firearm, accounting for 22 victims, the lowest numbers in more than 30 years.

Chart 5
Multiple victim firearm-related homicide incidents and victims, Canada, 1981 to 2011

Description for chart 5

Chart 5

Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Homicide Survey.

Among the solved multiple victim incidents committed with a firearm since 2001, close to half were family-related.Note 5 However, it should be noted that about one-third of multiple victim firearm-related homicide incidents had not yet been solved by police, meaning that the victim-accused relationship was unknown for these incidents (see the Survey description section at end of the report for more detail).

Gang-related homicides remain stable

The rate of gang-related homicides steadily increased from the early 1990s until 2008, before declining in both 2009 and 2010. In 2011, there were 95 gang-related homicides, a rate of 0.28 per 100,000 population, unchanged from 2010 (Chart 6).

Chart 6
Gang-related homicides, Canada, 1991 to 2011

Description for chart 6

Chart 6

Note: These data became available beginning in 1991.
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Homicide Survey.

Gang-related homicides tend to be more common in the western regions of the country. In 2011, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta reported the highest rates of gang-related homicide in the country (Table 5).

Gang-related homicides are also more of a phenomenon in CMAs. In 2011, 79% of all gang-related homicides occurred in one of Canada's 33 CMAs. All CMAs west of Ontario recorded at least one gang-related homicide in 2011, with the exception of Victoria and Abbotsford–Mission. Winnipeg (1.3 gang-related homicides per 100,000 population), Saskatoon (1.1) and Edmonton (0.9) reported the highest rates in 2011. Winnipeg and Edmonton also reported the highest average rates of gang-related homicides since 2001 (Table 4).

Homicides committed by strangers are at second lowest point in over 40 years

Among solved homicides in 2011, the large majority were committed by someone known to the victim. Homicides committed by strangers accounted for 15% of all homicides. The rate of homicides committed by strangers (0.2 per 100,000 population) fell for a second consecutive year, reaching the second lowest level in over 40 years. Just over one-third (34%) of these homicides were related to drug trafficking or gangs.

Victims are more likely to be killed by an acquaintance or a friend (48% of all homicides in 2011). In 2011, 213 victims were killed by an acquaintance or a friend, 46 more than in 2010. More precisely, an additional 20 homicides were committed by a casual acquaintance in 2011 than in 2010, a further 8 more by a neighbour, 7 by a close friend, and 5 more by an authority figure.

The rate of family homicides, including spousal, remained relatively stable from 2010 to 2011 (Table 6 and Chart 7). Family-related homicides have generally been declining over the past 30 years.

Chart 7
Homicides, by victim-accused relationship, Canada, 1981 to 2011

Description for chart 7

Chart 7

1. Includes boyfriend/girlfriend and other non-spousal intimate relationships, close friends, neighbours, authority figures, business relationships (legal) and casual acquaintances.
2. Includes current and former spouses (legal, common-law, same-sex), parents and children (including biological, adopted, step and foster relationships), siblings and other extended family.
Note: Changes to the relationship categories were made in 1991 in order to include criminal relationship. This chart excludes homicides where the relation was 'criminal relationship'. Therefore, data prior to 1991 are not directly comparable to those after 1991.
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Homicide Survey.

Increase in homicides in 2011 greater for female victims than for male victims

The majority of homicide victims are male. In 2011, 422 (71%) of the 598 homicide victims were male (Table 7). However, compared to the previous year, the increase in the number of homicides was greater for females than for males. In 2011, there were 24 more female victims than in 2010, an increase of 16%, compared to 22 more male victims, an increase of 6% (Chart 8).Note 6

Chart 8
Homicides, by sex of victim, Canada, 1981 to 2011

Description for chart 8

Chart 8

Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Homicide Survey.

Although the homicide rate has decreased for both men and women over the past 30 years, the decline is somewhat more pronounced for women. The rate for women has declined by almost 50%, compared to a drop of almost 25% for men. In 1981, nearly 4 in 10 victims (38%) were female compared to 3 in 10 (29%) in 2011.

Intimate partner homicides stable in recent years

After peaking in 1975, the rate of intimate partner homicides, which includes current and former married, common-law, dating partners and extra-marital lovers, has generally declined until stabilizing in the late 1990s. In 2011, there were 89 intimate partner homicides (76 female victims and 13 male victims) resulting in a rate of 0.26 per 100,000 population,Note 7 almost identical to the rate recorded in each of the previous four years.

While the overall number of intimate partner homicides was stable between 2010 and 2011, there were some differences by gender. The rate of intimate partner homicides committed against females increased by 19%, the third increase in four years, while the rate for male victims declined by almost half. The rate for male victims of intimate partner homicide (0.08 per 100,000 males) was the lowest recorded since data collection began in 1961 (Chart 9).

Chart 9
Intimate partner homicide, by sex of victim, Canada, 1981 to 2011

Description for chart 9

Chart 9

Note: Includes current and former spouses (married, common-law or same-sex), as well as persons in dating and other intimate relationships.
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Homicide Survey.

Of all intimate partner homicides in 2011, 36% were common-law, 36% were married and 26% were other intimate partners.Note 8 Despite an increase in 2011, the number of homicides of legally married spouses (including separated and divorced) has been declining since the early 1980s. The number of homicides of common-law partners has been relatively stable over the past 30 years, while the number of other intimate relationship homicides has doubled since 2003 (Chart 10).

Chart 10
Intimate partner homicide, by relationship type, Canada, 1981 to 2011

Description for chart 10

Chart 10

Note: Includes current and former spouses. Same-sex spouses were removed from this analysis as the Homicide Survey does not collect information on the legal status of same-sex unions. However, other intimate relationships include same-sex partners who have never been married or in a common-law relationship.
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Homicide Survey.

Four in ten homicide victims are 18 to 34 years of age

Homicide victims are usually young. In 2011, more than 4 out of 10 victims (44%) were 18 to 34 years of age. Young adults were particularly over-represented among victims killed by a handgun and in gang-related homicides, accounting for about two-thirds of victims in both instances.

Homicide rates are highest for those 18 to 24 years of age, with a rate of 4.19 homicides per 100,000 population of that age group. Rates then gradually decline with age (Chart 11).

Chart 11
Homicides, by age of victim and accused, Canada, 2011

Description for chart 11

Chart 11

Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Homicide Survey, 2011.

Persons accused of homicide are usually young and male

Most persons accused of homicide are male. In 2011, they accounted for 90% of all persons accused of homicide, a proportion that has remained relatively stable in recent years (Table 7). Accused persons were also relatively young, with an average age of 32 years. Those aged 18 to 24 had the highest rate. Rates then declined with age. The youngest age group, those aged 12 to 17, accounted for about 1 in 10 (8%) persons accused of homicide in 2011.

For most persons accused of homicide, this was not their first offence. Nearly 6 in 10 (59%) accused persons had a criminal record prior to the homicide, usually for another violent crime. Further, among those accused of family-related homicide, police reported that 44% had a history of family violence with the victim.

More than half of homicides committed by a youth involved multiple accused

In 2011, 46 youth aged 12 to 17 were accused of homicide, 10 fewer than in 2010 and 33 fewer than in 2009 (Table 8).

More than half (57%) of these youth committed the homicide with at least one accomplice, compared to 31% of accused persons 18 years of age and over. In about half (56%) of homicides involving a youth, the victim was an acquaintance or had a criminal relationship with at least one of the accused. However, almost four in ten (39%) victims did not know any of the accused. Further, police reported that one-third of all youth accused of homicide were involved in a gang-related homicide in 2011.

Text box 1
Homicide and suspected mental or developmental disorders

Since 1997, the Homicide Survey has collected information on whether the accused person was suffering from a noted or suspected mental or developmental disorder at the time of the homicide. These disorders can cover a wide range of problems such as schizophrenia, psychotic disorder, depression and fetal alcohol syndrome. It should be noted that the information is based on the investigating police officer's assessment and does not reflect a diagnosis from a medical professional.

In 2011, police noted or suspected a mental or developmental disorder in 87 accused persons, or 19% of accused for which this information was available.Note 9 The proportion of accused suspected to have a mental or developmental disorder has generally been increasing since 2003 and, in 2011, was at its highest point since the data became available in 1997.

Since 1997, the presence of a mental disorder was more likely to be observed among female accused (20%) than among male accused (13%). The age of the accused is also a major factor. The older the accused, the greater the probability that they were suspected of having a mental or developmental disorder (Chart 12).

Chart 12
Persons accused of homicide with a suspected mental or developmental disorder, by age group, Canada, 2011

Description for chart 12

Chart 12

Note: This chart reports persons with a suspected mental or developmental disorder as a proportion of all accused within each age category. Excludes accused persons for which this information was unknown.
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Homicide Survey, 2011.

End of text box 1.

 

Text box 2
Homicides related to occupation

Since 1997, the Homicide Survey began collecting information on homicides related to occupation of the victim. Excluding illegal professions such as prostitution or drug trafficking, police identified 210 homicides directly related to legal occupations since 1997.

Nearly one-quarter of all legal occupational homicides were related to the field of law enforcement or private security, with a further one-quarter related to those employed in retail, hotel or bars/restaurants. Factoring in the number of persons working in specific occupations, the highest at-risk occupation is a taxi driver. Police officers, jewelers, service station attendants, security guards and correctional workers were other at-risk occupations.

Persons whose principal "profession" consisted of illegal activities were also at risk to be a victim of homicide. For example, since 1997, police reported that 1,147 drug traffickers and 99 prostitutes have been killed as a direct result of their profession.Note 10

In 2011, 17 persons were victims of homicide directly related to their legal occupation, including three police officers and two real estate agents. There were also 49 drug dealers and 5 prostitutes killed as a direct result of their activities.

End of text box 2.

Text table 1
Homicide related to occupation, by occupation of victim, Canada, 1997 to 2011
Table summary
This table displays the results of homicide related to occupation. The information is grouped by occupation (appearing as row headers), number of victims (1997 to 2011) and average annual rate per 100,000 population working in the occupation, calculated using number and rate units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Occupation Number of victims (1997 to 2011) Average annual rate per 100,000 population working in the occupation
number rate
Taxi driver 23 3.2
Police officer 26 2.6
Jeweler 2 2.4
Gas station attendant 9 1.9
Security guard and related occupations 18 1.2
Correctional officer 3 1.1
Financial agent 3 0.8
Retail manager 19 0.4
Hotel and restaurant/bar manager 7 0.3
Realtor 3 0.3
Janitor 10 0.3
Note: Rates were calculated using population data from the 2006 Census by occupation.
Source:
Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Homicide Survey and 2006 Census.

About three-quarters of all homicides are solved

Slightly more than three-quarters (76%) of all homicides in 2011 were solved by police, similar to the previous two years, but less than the proportion solved during the 1980s and 1990s (Chart 13). The homicide clearance rate dropped steadily from the mid-1980s to 2008. It should be noted that some of the currently unsolved homicides might be solved in future years, although the majority of homicides (70%) are solved within one week (Li and Dauvergne 2006). Nevertheless, homicide has one of the highest clearance rates among all offences (Hotton Mahony and Turner 2012).

Chart 13
Solved homicides, Canada 1981 to 2011

Description for chart 13

Chart 13

Note: The data reflects the proportion of solved homicides at the time the information was submitted to Statistics Canada. Therefore, a certain number of homicides could be resolved at a later date, especially for the recent years.
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Homicide Survey.

Several factors can influence clearance rates. For example, gang-related homicides are particularly complex (Hotton Mahony and Turner 2011). In 2011, more than half (57%) of gang-related homicides had not been solved. Further, of all unsolved homicides in 2011, nearly 4 in 10 were gang-related. Also, homicides committed by strangers may be more difficult to solve (Ousey and Lee 2010; Regoeczi et al. 2000).

The clearance rate for female homicide victims is higher than for male victims. This is partially due to the fact that the majority of victims of gang-related homicides, which are more difficult to solve, are males, and the majority of female victims were killed by someone known to them.

Clearance rates for homicides involving young adults as victims, particularly those 18 to 24 years of age, also tend to be lower than average.

Homicide trends in the provinces and territories

As is the case with crime in general, the homicide rate is generally higher in the western provinces and the territories. In 2011, Nunavut, with 7 homicides, reported the highest rate at 21.0 homicides per 100,000 population, followed by the Northwest Territories at 6.9. For the fifth consecutive year, Manitoba had the highest homicide rate (4.2) among the provinces, followed by Saskatchewan and Alberta. In contrast, Yukon reported the lowest rate, with no homicides in 2011. It was followed by Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.

The increase in homicide rates in 2011 was greatest in Alberta (+39%), Quebec (+24%) and Manitoba (+16%). However, not all jurisdictions reported an increase. The homicide rate in Ontario dropped 16% in 2011 to the lowest rate in that province in more than 40 years.

Over the past decade, the national downward trend in homicide is seen in both Ontario and Quebec. However, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta have all seen their homicide rate increase by at least 25% since 2001 (Chart 14).

Chart 14
Homicide rate, by province, 2011

Description for chart 14

Chart 14

Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Homicide Survey, 2011.

Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island
The lowest homicide rates among the provinces

Four homicides were reported in Newfoundland and Labrador in 2011, the same as in 2010. Newfoundland and Labrador recorded one of the lowest homicide rates in the country in 2011 (0.78 homicides per 100,000 population). Since 2001, 23 of the 45 homicide victims in the province were female, the only province where the number of female victims exceeded the number of male victims.

Prince Edward Island recorded one homicide in 2011, the first since 2008. Since 2001, eight homicides were recorded on the island, resulting in an average annual homicide rate of 0.52 per 100,000 population, the lowest in the country. Prince Edward Island is also the only province not to have had a firearm homicide over the last decade—the last shooting to have occurred was in 1989.

Nova Scotia
Homicide rate in 2011 the highest in over a decade

Nova Scotia recorded 22 homicides in 2011, one more than the previous year (Chart 15). Its 2011 rate of 2.33 homicides per 100,000 population was the highest in the province since 1998 and the highest of any province east of Manitoba.

Seven of the 22 homicides in 2011 were committed with a firearm, resulting in Nova Scotia having the highest rate of firearm homicides among the provinces, tied with Alberta (0.74). There has also been an increase in gang-related homicides in recent years, mainly in the Halifax CMA. Since 2001, there have been 16 gang-related homicides in Nova Scotia, including 14 in the past 5 years.

Chart 15
Homicides, Atlantic Provinces, 1981 to 2011

Description for chart 15

Chart 15

Note: Due to small numbers, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick have been grouped together. See Table 1 for these provinces' separate data.
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Homicide Survey.

New Brunswick
Homicide victims older than in other parts of the country

New Brunswick recorded eight homicides in 2011, one less than in 2010. Its homicide rate of 1.06 per 100,000 population was one of the lowest in the country. As well, Moncton was one of only four CMAs in the country in 2011 to not record a homicide. New Brunswick also has the third-lowest average rate of firearm homicides in the country over the past decade, trailing only Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.

While young adults aged 18 to 24 are usually at highest risk of being homicide victims, they accounted for 8% of victims in New Brunswick since 2001, compared to an average of 22% across the country. In contrast, victims aged 55 and over in the province accounted for 23% of victims compared to an average of 14% across the country.

Quebec
Increase in homicides in 2011

Quebec recorded 105 homicides in 2011, an increase of 25% over 2010 (Chart 16). The 2011 increase was primarily attributable to a jump in non-spousal family-related homicides. While spousal homicides decreased slightly, there were 26 non-spousal family homicides in Quebec in 2011, 16 more than in 2010. Nearly half (46%) of these were committed against someone under 18 years of age.

Chart 16
Homicide, Quebec and Ontario, 1981 to 2011

Description for chart 16

Chart 16 Homicide, Quebec and  Ontario, 1981 to 2011

Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Homicide Survey.

Despite the increase in the province's homicide rate, the 2011 rate was still less than half what it was in 1985. The drop over this period is partially explained by a decrease in firearm homicides, from 96 in 1985 to 33 in 2011. The number of homicides committed by an acquaintance has also experienced a similar decline.

The homicide rate in Quebec is generally lower within CMAs than it is outside of CMAs. The rates in the CMAs of Quebec, Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivières and Saguenay were among the lowest in the country. Even Montreal, the largest CMA in the province, reported a 2011 homicide rate lower than the Canadian average.

Ontario
Homicide rate at lowest point in 45 years

In 2011, Ontario recorded 161 homicides, 28 fewer than the previous year. The rate of 1.2 homicides per 100,000 population was the lowest recorded in the province since 1966 and almost half of what it was in 1991 (Chart 16).

In recent years, the number of gang-related homicides in Ontario has declined, from at least 27 per year between 2005 and 2009 to 22 in 2010 and 20 in 2011. Similarly, the number of firearm homicides declined from 85 in 2005 to 47 in 2011, the lowest number in more than a decade. In 2011, more victims died from stabbings in Ontario than shootings.

The decrease in homicides in Ontario in 2011 was seen in both CMAs and non-CMAs. While Toronto was one of the few CMAs to report a small increase in homicides in 2011, it should be noted that its 2010 rate was the lowest in over a decade.

Manitoba
Highest proportion of homicides committed by strangers

In 2011, police reported 53 homicides in Manitoba, 8 more than in 2010. This increase was driven by an increase in the CMA of Winnipeg. Manitoba recorded the highest homicide rate (4.24 per 100,000 population) among the provinces for the fifth consecutive year, almost double the rate it recorded in 1999 (2.28).

Manitoba reported the highest rate of gang-related homicides in 2011, with a rate more than triple the national average. Manitoba is also the province with the highest proportion of homicides committed by strangers. One-third (33%) of all solved homicides in Manitoba were committed by strangers in 2011, more than double the national proportion of 15%.

Saskatchewan
Highest homicide rate since 2006

Saskatchewan recorded 38 homicides in 2011, 4 more than the previous year. The rate of 3.59 homicides per 100,000 population was the highest in that province since 2006 (Chart 17).

Chart 17
Homicides, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, 1981 to 2011

Description for chart 17

Chart 17 Homicides, Manitoba and  Saskatchewan, 1981 to 2011

Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Homicide Survey.

Compared to other western provinces, and despite a number of gang-related homicides, Saskatchewan has a relatively low rate of firearm homicides. Since 2001, 16% of homicides in the province have been committed with a firearm, which translates into an annual average rate of 0.56 firearm homicides per 100,000 population, just slightly above the national average. However, Saskatchewan has the highest rate of homicides committed with a knife or other cutting instrument.

Alberta
Tied for highest firearm homicide rate among provinces

Alberta recorded 109 homicides in 2011, 32 more than the previous year. Nearly half of these occurred in the Edmonton CMA. Much of the increase was due to an almost doubling of homicides committed by a friend or acquaintance. Family-related homicides remained relatively stable. As is the case for the other Prairie provinces, the homicide rate in Alberta began to increase in the early 2000s (Chart 18).

Chart 18
Homicides, Alberta and British Columbia, 1981 to 2011

Description for chart 18

Chart 18 Homicides, Alberta and  British Columbia, 1981 to 2011

Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Homicide Survey.

In 2011, there were 28 homicides in Alberta committed with a firearm. Although this was much lower than the peak of 42 firearm homicides in 2008, it did result in Alberta recording the highest rate of firearm homicides (0.74) among the provinces, tied with Nova Scotia.

British Columbia
Lowest firearm homicide rate in over 40 years

British Columbia recorded 87 homicides in 2011, 4 more than in 2010. The rate of 1.9 homicides per 100,000 population was the lowest of any province west of Ontario and the second lowest in British Columbia, behind 2010, since the mid-1960s.

British Columbia generally has one of the highest rates of firearm homicides in the country. From 2001 to 2011, 37% of homicides in the province were committed with a firearm, for a rate of 0.8 per 100,000 population. However, in 2011, less than one-quarter of all homicides in British Columbia were committed with a firearm. This resulted in a rate of 0.4, the lowest in the province in over 40 years.

The territories
Highest average homicide rates

No homicides were committed in Yukon in 2011, the first time this has occurred since 2006. Although the average homicide rate in Yukon over the past decade is higher than any of the provinces, it is lower than the other territories (Chart 19). Close to two-thirds (64%) of homicides in Yukon since 2001 were committed by an acquaintance or a friend. Homicides committed by family members accounted for the remaining 36%. There hasn't been a homicide committed by a stranger since 1999.

Chart 19
Homicides, Yukon and Northwest Territories, 1981 to 2011

Description for chart 19

Chart 19 Homicides, Yukon and Northwest Territories, 1981 to 2011

Note: Nunavut not shown as it was not a separate territory until 1999. Data for Northwest Territories includes Nunavut prior to 1999.
Source:
Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Homicide Survey.

In 2011, three homicides were committed in the Northwest Territories, two more than the previous year. The 2011 rate of 6.9 homicides per 100,000 population was the second-highest in the country, behind only Nunavut. However, homicide rates in the Northwest Territories since 1990 are about half of what they were in the 1980s.

Nunavut recorded seven homicides in 2011, one more than in 2010. The rate of 21.0 homicides per 100,000 population was the highest in the country by a wide margin. Since 2001, Nunavut also has the highest annual average homicide rate, at 13.6. Close to one-third (32%) of all homicides in Nunavut since 2001 were committed by a spouse, and close to one-quarter (23%) were committed by another family member. Nunavut has the highest rate of spousal homicide in the country.

Homicide trends in metropolitan areas

Winnipeg, Halifax and Edmonton have highest rates in 2011

Although a large proportion of homicides in Canada fall into the 33 Census metropolitan areas (CMAs), two-thirds of these CMAs reported a homicide rate below the national average in 2011 (Table 9 and Chart 20).

Chart 20
Homicides, by census metropolitan area, 2011

Description for chart 20

Chart 20 Homicides, by census  metropolitan area, 2011

Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Homicide Survey, 2011.

In 2011, Winnipeg, Halifax and Edmonton recorded the highest homicide rates among CMAs. Winnipeg and Halifax each recorded their highest number of homicides and rate since 1981, when CMA data were first tabulated.

In addition to having the highest homicide rate in 2011, with 39 homicides (5.08 homicides per 100,000 population), Winnipeg also has the second highest average rate over the past decade, trailing only Regina.

Halifax's 18 homicides (4.41 per 100,000 population) were, by far, the most ever reported in that CMA since 1981. In recent years, Halifax has had a relatively high number of firearm and gang-related homicides.

With 50 homicides in 2011, 18 more than the previous year, Edmonton recorded its second highest (4.17) homicide rate since 1981, just behind the 4.26 homicides per 100,000 population recorded in 2005. Since 2004, there have been at least 30 homicides each year in the Edmonton CMA. By contrast, the homicide rate in Calgary has declined in recent years. Its 2011 homicide rate of 1.10 was the lowest in that CMA since 2003.

Canada's three largest metropolitan areas all reported increases in their 2011 homicide rates

Among Canada's three largest CMAs, Vancouver reported the highest homicide rate (1.77) in 2011. Vancouver recorded 43 homicides, 7 more than the previous year. Despite this increase, the 2011 rate was the second lowest in that CMA since 1981. There were 15 firearm homicides in Vancouver in 2011, resulting in a rate of 0.62 per 100,000 population, the lowest in that CMA since data were first tabulated in 1991.

With 86 homicides in 2011, 6 more than in 2010, Toronto recorded the most homicides of any CMA. However, controlling for population, Toronto's rate of 1.49 homicides per 100,000 population was well below the national average of 1.73. Similar to Vancouver, Toronto reported a lower than average number of firearm homicides (35). Toronto also reported its lowest rate of gang-related homicides (0.24) since 2002.

Montreal recorded 54 homicides in 2011 for a rate of 1.38 per 100,000 population. This was the lowest rate among the three largest CMAs for the ninth consecutive year. However, similar to the two other large CMAs, Montreal reported more homicides in 2011 than in 2010, up by four.

Summary

In 2011, 598 homicides were reported in Canada, 44 more than the previous year. At the same time that there was an increase in homicides committed with a knife or other cutting instrument, the rate of homicides per 100,000 population committed with a firearm dropped to its lowest level in almost 50 years. Homicides committed by a friend or an acquaintance increased substantially in 2011, while those committed by a stranger declined to their second lowest level in 40 years. On the other hand, family-related homicides and gang-related homicides remained relatively stable.

The highest homicide rates in the country were reported in the territories, with the exception of Yukon being the only jurisdiction to not report a homicide. Among the provinces, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta recorded the highest rates. These provinces also reported the highest rates of gang-related homicides. Alberta, Quebec and Manitoba reported the largest increases in homicides in 2011. Ontario, in contrast, reported a decrease, reaching its lowest point in more than 40 years.

Winnipeg reported the highest homicide rate among all census metropolitan areas (CMAs). Halifax, which has seen increases in both gang-related and firearm-related homicides in recent years, reported the second highest rate, and the highest in that CMA since data became available in 1981. Edmonton reported the third highest homicide rate. The three largest CMAs, Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver, all registered an increase in homicides in 2011. However, two-thirds of CMAs reported rates below the national average.

Survey description

The Homicide Survey collects police-reported data on the characteristics of all homicide incidents, victims and accused persons in Canada. The Homicide Survey began collecting information on all murders in 1961 and was expanded in 1974 to include all incidents of manslaughter and infanticide. Although details on these incidents are not available prior to 1974, counts are available from the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey and are included in the historical aggregate totals.

Whenever a homicide becomes known to police, the investigating police service completes the survey questionnaires, which are then sent to Statistics Canada. There are cases where homicides become known to police months or years after they occurred. These incidents are counted in the year in which they become known to police. Information on persons accused of homicide are only available for solved incidents (i.e. where at least one accused has been identified). Accused characteristics are updated as homicide cases are solved and new information is submitted to the Homicide Survey. For incidents involving more than one accused, only the relationship between the victim and the closest accused is recorded.

Additional data available without charge through CANSIM: tables 253-0001 to 253-0007.

Detailed data tables

Table 1a Number of homicides, by province or territory, 1981 to 2011

Table 1b Homicide rates, by province or territory, 1981 to 2011

Table 2 Homicides, by method, Canada, 2001 to 2011

Table 3 Homicides involving firearms, by type of firearm, Canada, 2001 to 2011

Table 4 Firearm-related and gang-related homicides, selected census metropolitan areas, 2011

Table 5 Number of gang-related homicides, by region, 2001 to 2011

Table 6 Solved homicides, by accused-victim relationship, Canada, 2011

Table 7 Homicide victims and accused persons, by sex, Canada, 2001 to 2011

Table 8 Youth (12 to 17 years) accused of homicide, Canada, 2001 to 2011

Table 9 Homicides, by census metropolitan area, 2010 and 2011

References

Brennan, S. 2012. "Police-reported crime statistics in Canada, 2011." Juristat. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002. (accessed October 30, 2012).

Chiricos, T., Padgett, K. and M. Gertz. 2000. "Fear, TV News, and the reality of crime." Criminology.Vol. 38, no. 3, August. p. 755-786.

Hotton Mahony, T. and J. Turner. 2012. "Police-reported clearance rates in Canada, 2010." Juristat. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002. (accessed October 30, 2012).

Li, G. and M. Dauvergne. 2006. "Homicide in Canada, 2005." Juristat. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002. (accessed October 30, 2012).

Nivette, A. 2011. "Cross-national predictors of crime: A meta-analysis." Homicide Studies.Vol. 15, no. 2. p. 103-131.

Ousey, G. C. and M. R. Lee. 2010. "To know the unknown: The decline in homicide clearance rates: 1980-2000." Criminal Justice Review. Vol. 35, no. 2. p.141-158.

Regoeczi, W.C., Kennedy, L.W. and R.A. Silverman. 2000. "Uncleared homicides – A Canada/United States comparison." Homicide Studies. Vol. 4, no. 2. p. 135-161.

Romer, D., Hall, K.J. and S. Aday. 2003. "Television, news and the cultivation of fear of crime." Journal of Communications. Vol. 53, no. 1, March. p. 88-104.

Van Dijk, J. 2008. The World of Crime: Breaking the Silence on Problems of Security, Justice, and Development Across the World. Sage Publications.

Notes

  1. In 2009, the most recent year for which this information was available, there were 3,890 deaths by suicide and 2,618 deaths in traffic accidents (Statistics Canada. No date. Table 102-0561—Leading causes of death, total population, by age group and sex, annual. CANSIM).
  2. It should be noted that homicides are counted in the year that they become known to police. A small number of homicides included in a given year's total may have occurred in a previous year (e.g., an incident that was initially classified by police as a missing person would be updated to a homicide in the year that police determined the incident was a homicide, and not in the year of the disappearance).
  3. Definitions and methodologies to collect information on homicides vary very little from one country to the next. Therefore, the homicide rate is one of the most reliable measures of crime to compare among countries (Nivette 2011; Van Dijk 2008).
  4. Excludes incidents where the type of firearm was unknown.
  5. Includes incidents with a family relationship between at least one victim and one accused.
  6. In 2011, sex was unknown for two victims.
  7. Rates for intimate partners homicides presented in this report are not directly comparable with rates presented in reports using population aged 15 and over. This report presents intimate partner homicide rates per 100,000 population in order to allow comparisons with other rates presented in this report. Other reports express intimate partner homicide rates per 100,000 population aged 15 and over to correspond to the at-risk population. In 2011, this rate would be of 0.31 per 100,000 population aged 15 and over.
  8. The remaining 2% were same-sex couples, for which detailed information on marital status is not collected by the Homicide Survey.
  9. This information was not provided by police for 16% of all persons accused of homicide in 2011.
  10. Although prostitution is not illegal in Canada, many acts related to sex work are prohibited, such as public communication for the purpose of prostitution, living off the avails of prostitution, and operating or using a bawdy house.