Homicide in Canada, 2013
by Adam Cotter
- Homicide rate at its lowest point since 1966
- Quebec records lowest homicide rate in over 50 years
- Regina records highest homicide rate among census metropolitan areas
- Lowest rate of firearm-related homicide in over 40 years, but stabbings increase in 2013
- Fewer gang-related homicides in 2013
- Majority of solved homicides are solved within the first week of coming to the attention of police
- Homicides committed by strangers decrease
- One in five solved homicides committed by an intimate partner
- Both victims and persons accused of homicide are typically male
- Homicides related to the victim’s profession decrease slightly
- Slight increase in youth accused of homicide in 2013
- One in five persons accused of homicide suspected of having a mental or developmental disorder
- Three-quarters of accused persons under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the homicide
- Survey description
- Detailed data tables
Homicide continues to be a relatively rare event in Canada, accounting for about 0.1% of all police-reported violent crime and about 0.2% of all annual deaths. In a given year in Canada, there are about 4 times more deaths from motor vehicle accidents and about 7 times more deaths from suicide than there are deaths from homicide.Note 1 While rare, homicide is the most serious criminal offence in Canada and can have devastating consequences for families, communities, and society more broadly. Homicides also require considerable police and criminal justice resources and, due to their visibility, can contribute to the public’s perception of safety (Romer et al. 2003).
Since 1961, police services have been reporting detailed information on homicides in Canada through Statistics Canada’s Homicide Survey. In 1974, the survey was expanded to include manslaughter and infanticide. Using data from the Homicide Survey, this Juristat explores the characteristics of homicide incidents, victims, and accused persons in 2013 and compares these findings to short- and long-term trends.
For the second consecutive year, the number of homicides reported by Canadian police services decreased. In total, 505 homicides were reported in 2013, 38 fewer than in the previous year, and the fewest number of homicide victims in Canada in over 40 years.Note 2 As a result, Canada’s homicide rate fell 8% to 1.44 per 100,000 population, the lowest rate recorded since 1966 (Table 1a; Table 1b; Chart 1).
In addition to the decline in homicides in 2013, there were also 23 fewer victims of attempted murder in Canada. As a result, the rate of attempted murder in Canada reached its lowest point since 1971 (Boyce, Cotter and Perreault 2014). In general, attempted murder and homicide have followed similar trends over the past 20 years (Chart 1).
Text box 1
International homicide rates
International comparisons of crime can be difficult to make due to differences in laws, trends in reporting to police, or standards for counting or recording criminal offences. However, homicide numbers and rates serve as a barometer of violence in society and allow for international comparisons more readily than other types of crime due to similar definitions across countries and the increased likelihood that they are reliably reported and thoroughly investigated (Nivette 2011; Shaw et al. 2003; United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2011).
In 2013, Canada continued to rank relatively high in homicide rate compared with the latest published data from peerNote 3 countries (Text box 1 chart). While Canada's homicide rate (1.44 per 100,000 population) was comparable to those recorded in Belgium (1.6 per 100,000 population) and Finland (1.6 per 100,000), it was well above homicide rates in Switzerland (0.6 per 100,000) and Japan (0.3 per 100,000). As has been the case historically, the United States continued to have a homicide rate higher than other peer countries. In 2013, the homicide rate in the United States (4.7 per 100,000) was about three times higher than that of Canada.
End of text box.
The decline in homicides at the national level was the result of a large decrease in Quebec, where there were 40 fewer homicide victims in 2013 than there were in 2012 (Table 1a). The year-over-year decrease was partly a reflection of a higher than average number of homicides in 2011 and 2012, when there were 105 victims and 108 victims, respectively. However, the 68 homicides reported in 2013 represented the fewest number of victims of homicide in that province since 1967, and was well below the average number of victims over the previous ten years (97). As a result, Quebec’s homicide rate in 2013 (0.83 per 100,000 population) was the lowest ever recorded in that province since data collection began in 1961. Only Prince Edward Island (0.69 per 100,000) reported a lower homicide rate among the provinces than Quebec in 2013 (Table 1b).
The decline in Quebec was the result of decreases across the province. Each census metropolitan areaNote 4 (CMA) in Quebec had fewer homicides in 2013 than in 2012, with the largest decreases reported in Saguenay and Montréal (each with 4 fewer victims). In addition, there were 26 fewer homicides in areas in Quebec outside of CMAs. A decrease in multiple-victim homicides also contributed to Quebec’s overall decline, as there were 2 incidents with multiple victims in 2013 compared with 8 in 2012. That said, there were also considerably fewer homicides involving single victims in 2013 (64 compared with 88).
In contrast to the decline in Quebec, some provinces recorded modest increases in the number of homicide victims in 2013, with the largest increases occurring in British Columbia (+5 victims), Ontario (+4), and Newfoundland and Labrador (+4).
Manitoba recorded a 7% decrease in homicide rate from 2012. However, with 49 homicides, Manitoba continued to have the highest homicide rate (3.87 per 100,000 population) among the provinces for the seventh consecutive year. Continuing the trend evidenced over the past 20 years, the highest homicide rates were observed in the western provinces. Manitoba was followed by Saskatchewan (2.71 per 100,000), Alberta (2.04 per 100,000), and British Columbia (1.66 per 100,000).
Along with the West, the territories tend to have higher homicide rates. In recent years, this has not held true for Yukon. For the third consecutive year, there were no homicides recorded in Yukon. However, Nunavut, with 4 victims, and the Northwest Territories, with 2 victims, had homicide rates higher than those recorded in any province in 2013 (11.24 per 100,000 population and 4.59 per 100,000 population, respectively). While Nunavut had the highest rate of any province or territory for the ninth consecutive year, the homicide rate in that territory reached its lowest point since 2006.
In 2013, most provinces recorded homicide rates that were below their previous 10-year average, with the exception of Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island. The four western provinces have recorded the highest average homicide rates over the past decade, while rates in the eastern provinces (Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic provinces) have tended to be below the national average (Chart 2).
Reflecting the trends at the provincial level, three of the four highest homicide rates among Canada’s CMAs were recorded in the West (Table 2, Chart 3). In 2013, Regina recorded the highest homicide rate among CMAs (3.84 per 100,000 population), followed by Winnipeg (3.24 per 100,000), while Edmonton (2.09 per 100,000) ranked fourth. Thunder Bay, which recorded the highest homicide rate in 2012, had 4 fewer homicides in 2013 and reported the third-highest homicide rate among CMAs (2.46 per 100,000).
There were no homicides reported in five CMAs in 2013: Moncton, Saguenay, Sherbrooke, Peterborough, and Guelph. For Moncton, it was the third consecutive year where no homicides were recorded, while for Guelph, it was the second consecutive year.
In 2013, the five largest CMAs (Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton) accounted for 43% of all homicides in Canada, while also accounting for 43% of the population of Canada. These five CMAs also followed the general pattern of higher homicide rates in the West (Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton) and below average rates in the East (Toronto and Montréal).
Consistent with previous years, homicide rates in CMAs were lower than those in non-CMAs, despite a perception that violent crime is more common in large urban areas (Francisco and Chénier 2007). In 2013, the homicide rate in non-CMAs was about 9% higher than in CMAs (1.52 per 100,000 population compared to 1.40).
Text box 2
Multiple-victim homicides in Canada
The 505 homicide victims reported by police in 2013 were a result of 480 separate homicide incidents. The vast majority (95%) of homicide incidents in 2013 involved a single victim, while there were a smaller number of homicide incidents with two victims (4%) and three victims (less than 1%).
Since 2003, there have been 272 multiple-victim incidents of homicide, accounting for 4% of all homicide incidents over this period. In these incidents, a total of 615 victims were killed. In comparison, although the United States tends to have a considerably higher homicide rate than Canada (see Text box 1), roughly 5% of homicide incidents involve multiple victims, similar to the proportion in Canada (Smith and Cooper 2013).
Of all homicide incidents since 2003, those with multiple victims have been more likely than those involving single victims to involve a firearm (53% compared to 30%). They have also been more likely to involve a female victim (61% compared to 27%). In addition, when an accused person was identified, multiple-victim incidents involved a family member as the accused person more frequently than single-victim incidents (55% compared to 32%).Note 5 For multiple-victim homicide incidents involving family, the accused was most frequently a parent (54%).Note 6
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The large majority of homicides in Canada are committed by one of three methods: shooting, stabbing, or beating. In 1979, for the first time, the number of victims who died as the result of stabbing exceeded the number of victims of beatings; since then, shooting and stabbing have been the two primary methods of homicide in Canada. This trend continued in 2013, as stabbings (40% of all homicides) and shootings (27% of all homicides) were the two primary methods of homicide, followed by beatings (21%) (Table 3; Chart 4).
While shooting and stabbing continued to be the two most frequent methods of homicide in 2013, there were 41 fewer shootings and 31 more stabbings in Canada compared with 2012. As a result, the rate of firearm-related homicide decreased 25%, while the rate of homicides committed by stabbing increased 18%.
Both the decrease in shootings and the increase in stabbings were driven by Ontario and Alberta. In 2013, the largest decreases in firearm-related homicides were reported in these two provinces (17 fewer victims in Ontario, 13 fewer in Alberta). Much of these decreases occurred in the CMAs of Toronto and Edmonton (each with 10 fewer victims). Additionally, Ontario and Alberta each reported 12 more victims of homicides committed by stabbing in 2013, with much of the increase in these provinces occurring in Calgary (10 more victims) and Toronto (7 more victims).
As a result of the decline in shootings, the 2013 rate of firearm-related homicides was the lowest recorded by the Homicide Survey since comparable data became available in 1974 (0.37 per 100,000 population) (Table 4). British Columbia, with 29 victims of firearm homicide, reported the highest rate among the provinces (0.63 per 100,000), followed by Newfoundland and Labrador, with 3 victims (a rate of 0.57 per 100,000).
The most frequent type of firearm used to commit homicide differed across the provinces. The rate of homicide committed with a handgun was highest in British Columbia (0.52 per 100,000), followed by Newfoundland and Labrador (0.38) and Ontario (0.26). New Brunswick (0.26) and Manitoba (0.24) recorded the highest rates of rifle or shotgun homicide.
Among CMAs, Abbotsford-Mission (1.13 per 100,000 population), Kelowna (1.08 per 100,000), and St. John’s (0.99 per 100,000) reported the highest rates of firearm-related homicide, each with two victims in 2013 (Table 5). In 2013, the firearm-related homicide rate was higher in CMAs than in non-CMAs. This was driven by a considerably higher rate of handgun-related homicide in CMAs (0.31 per 100,000) compared with non-CMAs (0.08 per 100,000). In contrast, homicides were committed with rifles or shotguns at a higher rate in non-CMAs than in CMAs (0.23 per 100,000 compared with 0.03).
Since peaking in the 1970s, the firearm-related homicide rate has generally been declining. Continuing a trend that began in 1991, handguns were the most frequently used type of firearm in firearm-related homicides in 2013. About two-thirds (68%) of firearm-related homicides in 2013 were committed with a handgun, a proportion which is similar to firearm-related violent crime in general (Cotter 2014).Note 7 While handguns continued to account for the majority of firearm-related homicides in 2013, the rate of homicides committed with a handgun was at its lowest point since 1998 (0.24 victims per 100,000 population) (Chart 5).
Not only did handgun-related homicides decline in 2013, but homicides committed with a rifle or shotgun also declined slightly, to a rate of 0.09 per 100,000 population. While the rate of rifle or shotgun homicide has been relatively stable since 2006, the rate in 2013 was 89% below the rate in 1975, when it was at its highest recorded point.
After three years of no change, gang-relatedNote 8 homicides decreased in 2013. There were 85 homicides classified as gang-related by police in Canada in 2013, 11 fewer than in 2012 (Table 6). As a result of the decline, the gang-related homicide rate (0.24 per 100,000 population) was at its lowest point since 2004 (Chart 6).
Gang-related homicides decreased across most regions in Canada in 2013, with the exception of British Columbia (+7) and Manitoba (+3). As a result, these two provinces reported the highest rates of gang-related homicide: 0.63 per 100,000 population in Manitoba and 0.59 per 100,000 population in British Columbia. Similar to the overall trend in homicide, Quebec reported the largest decrease in gang-related homicide (-8), followed by Ontario (-7).
The decline in gang-related homicide was noted across most CMAs, with the largest declines reported in Saskatoon (3 fewer victims of gang-related homicides), followed by Halifax, Québec, Montréal, Ottawa, Thunder Bay, and Calgary (each with 2 fewer). In contrast, Kelowna and Vancouver each reported two more victims of gang-related homicide in 2013 than in 2012. Twelve of Canada’s 34 CMAs reported at least one gang-related homicide in 2013, with Kelowna (1.08 per 100,000 population) reporting the highest rate (Table 7). Unlike homicide in general, rates of gang-related homicide tend to be higher in CMAs than in non-CMAs, and this continued to be the case in 2013.
Gang-related homicides also tend to involve firearms more frequently than non-gang-related homicides. In 2013, 71% of gang-related homicides were committed with a firearm, compared with 15% of non-gang-related homicides.Note 9 In total, there were 60 gang-related homicides committed with a firearm in 2013, 83% of which were committed with a handgun.
Of the homicides that came to the attention of police in 2013, about three-quarters (76%) were solved. This proportion is equal to the previous ten-year average (76%). Homicides can be solved by police through the laying or recommendation of charges against an accused person, by the suicide of the accused person, or through other means (for example, death of the accused by means other than suicide). In 2013, nine in ten (91%) solved homicides resulted in charges being laid or recommended, while the remainder were cleared by suicide of the accused (8%) or through other means (2%).Note 10
The proportion of homicides that were solved varied by province and territory in 2013. In Newfoundland and Labrador (7 homicides), Prince Edward Island (1 homicide), New Brunswick (7 homicides), the Northwest Territories (2 homicides), and Nunavut (4 homicides), all homicides which came to the attention of police in 2013 were solved. In addition, the proportion of solved homicides was above the national average in Manitoba (92%) and Saskatchewan (97%), the provinces with the highest homicide rates in 2013. In contrast, the proportion of solved homicides was lowest in British Columbia (42%) and Quebec (69%), a trend which has been noted over the past 20 years (Trussler 2010).Note 11
The likelihood of a homicide being solved by police is influenced by a number of factors. For example, previous research has shown that homicides involving gangs, firearms, or the illegal drug trade are less likely to be solved by police (Armstrong et al. 2013; Hotton Mahony and Turner 2012; Trussler 2010). In 2013, this trend continued, as gang-related homicides were less likely to be solved than non-gang related homicides (32% compared to 89%), homicides committed with a firearm were less likely to be solved than homicides not involving firearms (53% compared to 88%), and those related to the illegal drug trade were less frequently solved than those that were not related (55% compared to 85%).
In addition, police-reported data indicate that the majority of solved homicides are solved within seven days of occurring.Note 12 In total, nearly seven in ten (69%) were solved within one week, while a further 26% were solved between 8 and 364 days. The remainder (5%) were solved one year or more after the incident occurred. Of homicides which occurred and were solved since 2003, the medianNote 13 length of time between a homicide occurring and police solving the incident is two days.
Some of the factors which can influence the likelihood of police solving a homicide can also influence the length of time between the homicide occurring and being solved by police. Homicides related to the illegal drug trade had a longer median length of time between the homicide occurring and being solved (7 days), as did gang-related homicides (6 days). Firearm-related homicides were similar to homicides that were not committed using a firearm, with each reporting a median of 2 days between the incident occurring and being solved. However, solved gang-related homicides that were committed with the use of a firearm had a median of 16.5 days between occurring and being solved by police.
As has been the case historically, most solved homicides in 2013 were committed by acquaintances or family members of the victim (Chart 7).Note 14 While the rates of both acquaintance homicide and family homicide decreased for the second consecutive year, they continued to be substantially higher than the rates of homicides committed by strangers or those committed in the context of a criminal relationship.Note 15
Overall, most victims of violent crime know the accused, which is also the case for victims of homicide. In 2013, nearly nine in ten (87%) solved homicides were committed by someone known to the victim, while the remainder (13%) were committed by a stranger (Table 8). In total, there were 49 homicides committed by a stranger in 2013, 16 fewer than the previous year and 25 fewer than the average over the past ten years. As a result of the decrease, the 2013 rate of homicides committed by a stranger (0.14 per 100,000 population) was at its lowest point in over 40 years, since comparable data became available.
In contrast to the decline in stranger homicides, homicides committed by acquaintances remained relatively stable in 2013. There were 149 victims of homicide committed by an acquaintance in 2013, below the average over the past 10 years (158). Similarly, there were 82 victims of non-spousal family relationships (i.e., parent, child, sibling, or extended family)Note 16 in 2013, which was virtually equal to the average over the past 10 years (81).
Homicides involving criminal relationshipsNote 17 were one of the few categories to increase, with 36 such homicides in 2013 compared to 23 in 2012. This increase was almost entirely the result of an increase in Ontario (12 more victims). Despite the increase, the number of victims killed in the context of a criminal relationship remained below the average over the past 10 years (46).
Previous research has shown that approximately one-quarter of violent offences are committed by an intimate partner, which includes current and former spouses (legal and common-law), current and former dating partners, and other intimate relationships (Sinha 2013). In 2013, 18% of solved homicides were committed by an intimate partner.
There were 68 intimate partner homicides in 2013, 14 fewer than the previous year. Of these victims, 56 – or 82% – were female, as females continued to have higher rates of intimate partner homicide than males (Chart 8). In 2013, there were 0.37 female victims of intimate partner homicide for every 100,000 females (age 15 and over), a rate that was five times that of males (0.08 per 100,000 males age 15 and over).
There have been notable decreases in intimate partner homicides for both male and female victims over the past two decades. The 2013 intimate partner homicide rate for males was 73% lower than it was in 1993, while the rate for females declined by nearly half (-48%) over the same period of time. Research has shown that these decreases may be related to a number of factors, such as increased community-based support, resources, and services, improved training of police officers, and social and economic changes such as delayed marriage and/or childbirth, rising income levels, and increased labour force participation rates for women (Dawson, Pottie Bunge and Balde 2009; Johnson 2006).
Over the past 20 years, intimate partner homicides have most frequently been committed by legal or common-law spouses. In 2013, for the first time, homicides committed by those in other intimate relationships (i.e. current and former dating partners or other intimate relationships) accounted for a virtually equal proportion of intimate partner homicides compared to legal or common-law spousal relationships (Chart 9). About one-third of intimate partner homicides were committed by other intimate partners (34%), common law partners (32%), and legally married spouses (31%), while the remainder (3%) were committed by a same-sex partner.
The decline in intimate partner homicides recorded in 2013 was entirely the result of a decrease in the number of homicides committed by a current or former legally married spouse. There were 17 fewer such victims in 2013. In contrast, there was an increase in homicides committed by other intimate partners (+4) and the number of homicides committed by a current or former common-law spouse was unchanged.
Consistent with historical trends, the majority of homicide victims and accused persons in 2013 were male. About 7 in 10 (71%) homicide victims were male, as were about 9 in 10 (88%) accused persons (Chart 10; Table 9).
Those at highest risk of becoming a victim or of being accused of homicide in 2013 were persons aged 18 to 24 years (2.85 victims and 4.06 accused persons per 100,000 population aged 18 to 24). Beyond the 18 to 24 year old age group, rates for both homicide victims and those accused of homicide decreased with age (Chart 11).
In addition, more than half (54%) of all persons accused of homicide in 2013 had previously been convicted of a criminal offence. Of those previously convicted, more than two-thirds (68%) had been convicted of a prior violent offence. Of the remaining accused with a prior conviction, 10% had been convicted of a drug offence, 9% of a property offence, and 13% of another Criminal Code offence or federal or provincial statute offence. In 2013, eight accused persons, who were involved in nine separate homicide incidents, had a prior conviction for homicide. They accounted for 4% of all accused persons with a prior conviction.
Since 1997, the Homicide Survey has collected information on the victim’s primary occupation, including both legal and illegal professions. Police are asked to indicate whether or not the victim’s occupation was in some way connected to their death.
There were 78 homicides related to the victim’s profession in 2013, four fewer than the previous year. The majority (95%) of homicides related to the victim’s profession in 2013 were linked to illicit activities, such as drug trafficking or sex work.Note 18 While the number of victims of homicide related to an illegal occupation increased in 2013, from 68 victims to 74, it remained below the previous ten-year average (90). Of the 74 victims, 12 were sex workers, 7 more than the previous year.
In total, four victims of homicide were killed due to their legal profession, ten fewer than in 2012 and less than half of the average over the past ten years (11). Among legal professions, previous research has indicated that police officers and taxi drivers are among the professions most at-risk of homicide due to their occupation (Perreault 2012). In 2013, one police officer and one taxi driver were victims of homicide due to their profession.
Text box 3
Missing and murdered Aboriginal women
In 2014, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) published a report on missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada (Royal Canadian Mounted Police 2014). In preparing the report, the RCMP combined data from 1980 to 2012 from the Homicide Survey with its own data on Aboriginal identity and data on Aboriginal identity from other police services. The Homicide Survey data were provided by Statistics Canada with the agreement of police services to share their data and with the necessary safeguards in place to protect confidentiality.
In total, the report found there were 1,017 Aboriginal female victims of homicide between 1980 and 2012, accounting for 16% of all female homicide victims over that period. In 2011, 4% of the total female population identified as an Aboriginal person. According to the report, between 1980 and 2012, the number of Aboriginal female victims remained relatively stable from one year to the next, while the number of non-Aboriginal female victims decreased. As a result, among homicides with a female victim, the proportion of homicides with an Aboriginal female victim has increased (Royal Canadian Mounted Police 2014).
Statistics Canada is working with the RCMP and other police services to update its database with the supplementary data the RCMP used for the report and to continue to receive this data for subsequent years.
For more information on missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada, see Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: A National Operational Overview (Royal Canadian Mounted Police 2014).
End of text box.
After reaching its lowest point in more than 10 years in 2012, the rate of youth accused of homicide increased 14% in 2013, to 1.63 for every 100,000 youth (ages 12 to 17) (Table 10, Chart 12). There were 39 youth accused of homicide in 2013, 4 more than the previous year. This increase was driven entirely by female youth, as there were 5 female youth accused of homicide in 2013 compared to 1 in 2012. Despite the increase, the number of female youth accused of homicide in 2013 was still below the average over the previous ten years (7). Consistent with historical trends, the majority of youth accused of homicide were male.
While youth accounted for 9% of all persons accused of homicide in 2013, some characteristics of homicides involving youth accused differed from those involving adult accused. For example, 30% of youth accused of homicide were accused in a gang-related incident, compared to 9% of adults. In addition, similar to findings for persons accused of crime more broadly (Carrington et al. 2013), youth accused of homicide were more likely than adults to be accused of a homicide involving at least one other accused person (38% compared to 28%).Note 19
Since 2003, there have been 7 children (under the age of 12) accused of homicide in Canada. While a small number of children have been accused of homicide over this period, it is important to note that, in Canada, children under the age of 12 cannot be held criminally responsible for homicide, or any other criminal offence.Note 20
Text box 4
Murder-suicides in Canada
Murder-suicidesNote 21 represent a distinct form of homicide (Brennan and Boyce 2013; Liem 2010). Of all homicides solved by police since 2003, 1 in 10 (8%) have involved the subsequent suicide of the accused person. Over this period, there have been 327 incidents of murder-suicide in Canada, resulting in the deaths of 392 victims and 330 accused persons.
Compared with homicides cleared by other means,Note 22 murder-suicides are more likely than other solved homicides to involve a female victim (79% compared to 28%), to be family-related (75% compared to 29%), and to involve more than one victim (15% compared to 3%). In addition, the median age of persons accused of murder-suicide since 2003 is 45 years, almost double the median age of persons accused of other homicides (25 years).
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Since 1997, the Homicide Survey has collected information on the suspected presence of mental or developmental disordersNote 23 among persons accused of homicide. It is important to note that this information is based on the perception of the investigating officer and does not necessarily reflect a medical or clinical diagnosis.
In 2013, police suspected that 75 persons accused of homicide had a mental or developmental disorder, accounting for approximately one in five (19%) accused persons.Note 24 While this was the same proportion of accused persons as in 2012, it was higher than the average over the previous ten years (15%).
Over the last decade, the proportion of accused persons who had or were suspected of having a mental or developmental disorder tended to increase with age. In 2013, consistent with the past ten years, the proportion of accused persons who had or were suspected of having a mental or developmental disorder was highest among those aged 65 and older (Chart 13).
Three-quarters of accused persons under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the homicide
Research suggests that violent crime, including homicide, may often be linked to the consumption of alcohol or drugs (Kuhns et al. 2013). Since 2003, alcohol and/or drug consumption has been a factor in the majority of homicides. Of all homicides where information on consumption of an intoxicating substance was known to police, just under six in ten victims (59%) and nearly three-quarters of accused persons (72%) were under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or another intoxicating substanceNote 25 at the time of the incident (Chart 14).
While the proportion of accused persons who had consumed an intoxicating substance was higher than that of victims, the types of substances consumed were similar. For both victims and accused persons, alcohol was the most common substance. About one-third of victims (32%) and four in ten accused persons (41%) were under the influence of alcohol at the time of the homicide, while a further 17% of victims and 22% of accused persons were under the influence of alcohol in addition to another type of drug. The consumption of drugs or other intoxicants alone was comparatively less frequent, as about 10% of both victims and accused persons were under the influence of drugs or other intoxicating substances not including alcohol.
In addition, since 2003, the most common motivation for persons accused of homicide has been an argument or quarrel, accounting for 37% of all homicides with known motives. Of these, the large majority (84%) involved an accused person who had consumed alcohol and/or drugs at the time of the incident.Note 26
There were 505 homicides in Canada in 2013, 38 fewer than the previous year. The homicide rate reached 1.44 per 100,000 population, its lowest point since 1966. The decline at the national level was the result of fewer homicides in Quebec, as the homicide rate in that province was the lowest ever reported. Homicide rates were highest in the West and in the North, with the exception of Yukon where there were no homicides for the third consecutive year.
While the firearm-related homicide rate was at the lowest point recorded by the Homicide Survey, police reported an increase in the rate of homicides committed by stabbing. These two methods continued to account for the majority of homicides in Canada.
As in previous years, most homicide victims were killed by someone they knew. There were 16 fewer homicides committed by strangers in 2013, resulting in the lowest stranger homicide rate reported since comparable data became available. In addition, there were 14 fewer intimate partner homicides in 2013. In contrast, there were 13 more homicides committed by someone known to the victim through a criminal relationship.
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. Information collected through the victim and incident questionnaires are also accordingly updated as a result of a case being solved. For incidents involving more than one accused, only the relationship between the victim and the closest accused is recorded.
Armstrong, J., Plecas, D., and I.M. Cohen. 2013. The value of resources in solving homicides: The difference between gang related and non-gang related cases. Centre for Public Safety and Criminal Justice Research. University of the Fraser Valley.
Brennan, S. and J. Boyce. 2013. “Section 2: Family-related murder-suicides.” In M. Sinha, “Family violence in Canada: A statistical profile, 2011.” Juristat. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002-X. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2013001/article/11805-eng.pdf (accessed July 24, 2014).
Royal Canadian Mounted Police. 2014. Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: A National Operational Overview. http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/pubs/mmaw-faapd-eng.htm (accessed July 17, 2014).
Sinha, M. 2013. “Section 1: Overview of family violence”. In M. Sinha, “Family violence in Canada: A statistical profile, 2011.” Juristat. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002-X. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2013001/article/11805-eng.pdf (accessed July 24, 2014).
Shaw, M., J. Van Dijk and W. Rhomberg. 2003. “Determining Trends in Global Crime and Justice: An Overview of Results From the United Nations Surveys of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems.” Forum on Crime and Society. Vol. 3, nos. 1 and 2. p. 35-63.
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