Homicide in Canada, 2014

by Zoran Miladinovic and Leah Mulligan

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Homicide continues to be a relatively rare event in Canada. In 2014, homicide accounted for approximately 0.2% of all deaths in Canada and about 0.1% of all police-reported violent Criminal Code incidents.Note 1 Homicide is regarded as the gravest offence in Canada, and carries among the most severe criminal sanctions. A community's perception of safety can be influenced by its homicide rate (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 beyond the collection of first and second degree murder incidents to include manslaughter and infanticide. Using data from the Homicide Survey, this Juristat first explores the characteristics of all homicide incidents, victims, and accused persons in 2014 and compares these findings to short- and long-term trends.

This Juristat also presents new data on the nature and extent of homicides involving Aboriginal victims and accused persons. The year 2014 marks the first cycle of collection of Homicide Survey data for which complete information regarding Aboriginal identity has been reported for both victims and accused persons, regardless of sex (Text box 1).

Homicide rate at its lowest point since 1966

Police reported 516 homicides in Canada in 2014, 4 more than the previous year.Note 2 The homicide rate (1.45 per 100,000 population) remained stable from the previous year making 2013 and 2014 the years with the lowest homicide rates since 1966 (Chart 1). Further, the homicide rate was 18% lower in 2014 compared to the average for the previous decade (Chart 2).

Chart 1 - Homicide in Canada, 2014

Description for chart 1

While the number of homicides increased slightly in 2014, the number of attempted murders fell for the fifth year in a row (from 801 in 2009 to 617 in 2014) and reached its lowest rate since 1971 (Boyce 2015). In general, attempted murder and homicide have followed similar trends over the past 30 years (Chart 1).

In 2014, there were 480 incidents, the majority of which involved one homicide victim. Ninety-five percent of homicide incidents in 2014 involved one victim, while 4% of incidents involved two victims, and 1% involved three or more victims. Compared with incidents involving one victim, incidents involving two or more victims were more likely to involve firearms (29% versus 55%) and family members (33% versus 50%).

Nova Scotia reports its lowest ever homicide rate

In 2014, Nova Scotia's homicide rate declined by 54% from 2013 to 0.64 per 100,000 population, resulting in the lowest rate ever reported for Nova Scotia since the Homicide Survey began collecting data in 1961 (Table 1b). Five other provinces and territories showed a decline in their homicide rates in 2014: Newfoundland and Labrador (-71%), Saskatchewan (-24%), Manitoba (-15%), Ontario (-9%), and Nunavut (-3%).

Among the 6 jurisdictions that reported an increase in their homicide rate, Prince Edward Island (+198%) had the largest increase, though the rise was the result of 2 more homicides in 2014 compared with 2013. The Northwest Territories (+51%) had the second largest increase, which was the result of an additional homicide in 2014 (Table 1a; Table 1b).

The other 4 jurisdictions that reported an increase in rates for 2014 were New Brunswick (+29%), Alberta (+23%), British Columbia (+15%), and Yukon, which increased from no homicides in 2013 to 3 in 2014.

Quebec's homicide rate was unchanged in 2014, making rates recorded in both 2013 and 2014 the lowest that province has reported since 1966 (0.86 per 100,000 population).

Despite a 15% decrease in its homicide rate in 2014, Manitoba (3.43 homicides per 100,000 population) reported the highest rate among the provinces for the eighth consecutive year. The other two Prairie Provinces, Alberta (2.52 per 100,000 population) and Saskatchewan (2.13 per 100,000 population), had the next highest rates. In contrast, homicide rates were lowest in Newfoundland and Labrador (0.38 per 100,000 population) and Nova Scotia (0.64 per 100,000 population) (Chart 2).

Chart 2 - Homicide in Canada, 2014

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Historically, the territories have had the highest homicide rates in Canada. However, due to small numbers, there is large variability from year to year. In 2014, with 4 homicides, Nunavut reported the highest homicide rate nationally, at 10.93 per 100,000 population.

Among the 10 provinces, most recorded homicide rates in 2014 that were below their previous 10-year average. Only Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick recorded rates in 2014 that were above their 2004 to 2013 average. The 4 western provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia) had the highest average homicide rates over the past decade, while average rates in the eastern provinces were below the national average (Chart 2).

Thunder Bay records unusually high number of homicides

With an above average number of homicides reported in 2014 (11), Thunder Bay had the highest homicide rate among Canada's 34 census metropolitan areas (CMAs).Note 3 At 9.04 per 100,000 population, Thunder Bay's rate was nearly three times that of Winnipeg, which recorded the second highest rate (3.29 per 100,000 population) (Chart 3). Over the previous 10 years, Thunder Bay has averaged about 3 homicides per year at a rate of 2.61 per 100,000 population, but has typically ranked among the CMAs with the highest rates. The increased number of homicides reported in Thunder Bay in 2014 was not the result of multiple-victim or gang-related homicides.

Chart 3 - Homicide in Canada, 2014

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Among the 34 CMAs, 14 reported a decline in their homicide rate in 2014, 14 reported an increase, and 6 remained stable (Table 2). The largest increase was reported by Victoria, whose rate grew from 0.28 per 100,000 population in 2013 (1 homicide) to 1.11 per 100,000 in 2014 (4 homicides). Thunder Bay and Trois-Rivières reported the second and third largest increases, respectively. The largest decreases were reported by Oshawa, Kingston, and Brantford.

With a 51% decrease in its rate, Regina went from having the highest homicide rate in 2013 to eighth highest in 2014 (4.28 per 100,000 versus 2.09). The number of homicides in Regina decreased from 10 to 5 during this period.

Five CMAs reported no homicides in 2014: Saguenay, Sherbrooke, Kingston, Oshawa, and Brantford.

Over the last 10 years, the average homicide rate in CMAs has been lower than non-CMAs. There has been an average of 1.71 homicides per 100,000 population in CMAs over the previous 10 years, compared to 1.90 in non-CMAs. Rates were comparable in 2014 (1.44 for CMAs compared to 1.49 for non-CMAs).

Number of firearm-related homicides increased in 2014

The majority of homicides in Canada are committed by one of three methods: stabbing, shooting, or beating. In 2014, 88% of homicides were committed by one of these methods. Stabbing was the most frequent method used to commit homicide in 2014 (38%). Shooting was the second most frequent method at 31%, followed by beating at 19%. Over the preceding 10 year period of 2004 to 2013, these percentages have remained fairly stable.

In 2014, both the number and rate of firearm homicides in Canada increased. Police reported 156 firearm-related homicides, 21 more than the previous year (Table 3). As such, the rate of firearm-related homicides grew from 0.38 to 0.44 per 100,000 population (+14%). Despite that increase, the 2014 rate of firearm-related homicides was the second lowest ever recorded since the Homicide Survey began tracking these data in 1974.

Among the provinces and territories in 2014, there was variation in the rate of firearm-related homicides. With a single firearms homicide, Nunavut reported the highest rate (2.73 per 100,000 population). Among the jurisdictions that reported at least one firearm-related homicide, Newfoundland and Labrador reported the lowest rate (0.19). Yukon and the Northwest Territories had no firearm-related homicides in 2014. Overall, 10 of the 13 provinces and territories reported a lower rate of firearm-related homicides in 2014 than their respective average from 2004 to 2013 (Table 4).

Handguns were used in approximately 67% of firearm-related homicides in 2014, and they continue to be the most frequently used type of firearm. The rate of handgun-related homicides increased 15% in 2014, to 0.30 per 100,000 population, from 0.26 per 100,000 population in 2013 (Chart 4).

Chart 4 - Homicide in Canada, 2014

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Lowest number and rate of gang-related homicides since 2005

There were 84 gang-relatedNote 4 homicides reported by police in 2014, the lowest number since 2005. As this figure was 1 less than the previous year, the rate (0.24 per 100,000 population) was virtually unchanged. The rate of gang-related homicides has been decreasing since it peaked in 2008 (Chart 5).

Chart 5 - Homicide in Canada, 2014

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Among those provinces or territories that had at least one gang-related homicide in 2014, Saskatchewan had the highest rate (0.62 per 100,000 population), while Nova Scotia had the lowest rate (0.11 per 100,000 population). There were no gang-related homicides in Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Yukon, the Northwest Territories, or Nunavut in 2014.

About eight in ten gang-related homicides occurred in CMAs in 2014. Among CMAs that had at least one gang-related homicide, Regina had the highest rate (1.25 per 100,000 population), while Ottawa had the lowest rate (0.10 per 100,000 population).

Gang-related homicides continue to involve firearms at a higher rate than non gang-related homicides. In 2014, about 76% of gang-related homicides involved a firearm compared with 20% of non gang-related homicides. On average, over the 10 previous years, about 7 in 10 gang-related homicides involved a firearm.

Homicide victims and accused most likely to be male and young

Males make up the majority of both homicide victims and accused. In 2014, 72% of homicide victims and 87% of homicide accused were male, findings that have remained consistent over the past 10 years.

Generally, rates of falling victim to homicide or being accused of homicide continue to be highest for 18- to 24-year-olds, a finding that has been consistent over the last decade. In 2014, there were 2.45 victims for every 100,000 persons in this age group. This compares to 2.36 victims per 100,000 persons aged 25 to 34 years, the age group with the second-highest rate.

Among males, the rate of being accused of homicide in 2014 was highest for 18- to 24-year-olds (6.39 per 100,000 population), as was the rate of being a victim of homicide (4.32 per 100,000 population). Among females, the rate of being accused of homicide in 2014 was also highest for 18- to 24-year-olds (0.91 per 100,000 population), but the rate was one-seventh that of males. The rate of being a victim of homicide was highest for females aged 35 to 44 years (1.44 per 100,000 population).

Among 18- to 24-year-olds, the rate of individuals accused of homicide was 3.71 for every 100,000 persons. This contrasts to 2.68 accused per 100,000 persons aged 25 to 34 years, the age group with the second-highest rate.

Nearly two-thirds of accused were convicted of a previous offence

In 2014, 62% of individuals accused of homicide had previously been convicted of a criminal offence. This aligns with the average for the preceding 10 years (62%). Of those accused of a homicide in 2014 who had a previous conviction for a criminal offence, 19% had been convicted of robbery; 9% of a property offence; 8% of a drug offence; and 2% of homicide.Note 5 An additional 45% had been convicted of another type of violent offence, while 18% had been convicted of other Criminal Code, federal or provincial statute offences.

Homicides committed by acquaintances continue to decrease

As has been the case historically, most solvedNote 6 homicides in 2014 were committed by acquaintances or family members of the victim. In 2014, 37% of victims were killed by an acquaintance and 34% by a family member, including current or ex-spouses. Homicides committed by strangers and as a result of criminal relationships continued to be less frequent (17% and 6%, respectively) (Table 5).

While the rate of acquaintance homicide continued to be higher than rates of homicide committed by family, strangers, or as a result of criminal relationships, it decreased for the third consecutive year in 2014 to reach 0.46 per 100,000 population. In contrast, there was a slight increase in stranger homicides in 2014, rising to a rate of 0.19 per 100,000 population in 2014 from 0.16 the previous year. The rate of homicides as a result of a criminal relationship declined to 0.07 per 100,000 population in 2014 from 0.11 per 100,000 population in 2013 (Chart 6).

Chart 6 - Homicide in Canada, 2014

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More than one in five solved homicides committed by an intimate partner

Previous research has shown that approximately 80% of victims of intimate partner violence, meaning violence by current and former legally married or common-law spouses, current and former dating partners, and other intimate relationships, have been female (Beaupré 2015). With respect to homicide in 2014, females were victims of intimate partner homicide at a rate four times greater than their male counterparts (0.44 per 100,000 females aged 15 and over versus 0.11 for males aged 15 and over) (Table 6). In total, there were 83 intimate partner homicides in Canada in 2014, 11 more than in 2013.

Over the past 20 years, the proportion of intimate partner homicides committed by a legally married spouse (current or former) has been decreasing, from just under 50% in 1994 to 37% in 2014. The proportion of intimate partner homicides committed by a common-law partner or other opposite-sex partner (i.e., current or former dating partners, extra marital lovers, etc.) has been increasing over the same period and accounted for 36% and 23%, respectively, in 2014. It should be noted that the proportion of couples who are legally married has been decreasing in Canada, while the proportion of couples in common-law relationships has been increasing. In 2011, 80% of unions were legally married while 20% were common-law. In comparison, 84% were legally married in 2001 and 16% were common-law (Statistics Canada 2012).

The proportion of same-sex intimate partner homicides has remained stable since 1997, the earliest date from which data are available. In 2014, same-sex partner homicides accounted for about 4% of intimate partner homicides.

Slight increase in homicides related to victim's profession

In 2014, there were 81 homicides related to the victim's profession, 3 more than in the previous year. The majority of these homicides were linked to illegal activities, including drug trafficking and prostitution (83%). While the number of prostitutes killed as a result of their profession decreased from 12 in 2013 to 4, it should be noted that the number in 2013 was particularly high. Between 2004 and 2013, an average of 7 prostitutes were victims of homicide each year.

In 2014, there were 14 homicide victims whose death was related to their legal profession. This was up from 4 the previous year. Of these victims, police officers made up the largest proportion (21%). There were 3 police officers killed in 2014, which was 2 more than the year before. The highest number of police officers killed in a given year was 5 in 2005.

Decrease in youth accused of homicide

In 2014, the rate of youth accused of homicide declined 36%, reaching its lowest point since 1969. In 2014, there were 1.07 youth accused of homicide for every 100,000 youth aged 12 to 17 in Canada, compared with 1.67 in 2013. Overall, there were 25 youth accused of homicide in Canada in 2014, 15 fewer than the previous year.

Youth accused of homicide in 2014 tended to be involved in a gang-related incident more frequently than adults accused of homicide (16% versus 8%).

One in five persons accused of homicide suspected of having a mental or developmental disorder

Since 1997, the Homicide Survey has collected information on the suspected presence of mental or developmental disordersNote 7 among persons accused of homicide. This information is based on the perception of the investigating officer and does not necessarily reflect a medical or clinical diagnosis.

In 2014, police suspected 88 individuals accused of homicide of having a mental or developmental disorder, representing 22% of all accused.Note 8 This is slightly higher than in 2013 (18%) and is also higher than the average over the previous ten years (15%).

There is large variation by age in those accused of homicide that were suspected of having a mental or developmental disorder (Chart 7). In 2014, those aged 55 to 64 years (43%) accounted for the largest proportion of accused with suspected mental or developmental disorders. In comparison, those aged 18 to 24 accounted for the lowest proportion (11%). When examining the suspected presence of a mental or developmental disorder in accused over an average of 10 years of homicide data, it appears the presence increases with age.

Chart 7 - Homicide in Canada, 2014

Description for chart 7

Homicides involving Aboriginal victims and accused persons

Aboriginal people occupy a distinct social, cultural and political status in Canada as bearers of constitutionally protected Aboriginal and Treaty rights. As such, there have been a number of reports that have documented the need for data on the representation of Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system as victims and as accused (Kong and Beattie 2005). More recently, the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal girls and women has been at the forefront in Canada and many national and international organizations have made recommendations to address and monitor the issue (Native Women's Association of Canada 2010; Pearce 2013; Royal Canadian Mounted Police 2014; Royal Canadian Mounted Police 2015; The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada 2015; United Nations 2014; United Nations 2015).Note 9

As a result of this focus on missing and murdered Aboriginal females and the 2014 Royal Canadian Mounted Police report titled, Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: A National Operational Overview, Statistics Canada has worked with the Canadian policing community to improve the quality of data it collects on the Aboriginal identity of both male and female victims and persons accused of homicide (Text box 1; Text box 2). The reporting of Aboriginal identity by police to the Homicide Survey is an important contribution towards understanding the extent and nature of the victimization of Aboriginal people in Canada.

This section will first provide findings from revised Homicide Survey data for female victims from 1980 to 2014, and then will provide findings from 2014 which includes data for both males and females. Rates for homicide and persons accused of homicide, by Aboriginal identity, are included in this report. Rates are calculated per 100,000 Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal population counts. Where rates are reported by sex, age, or geographical area, the rates are based on population counts specific to the groups being analyzed. Refer to the 'Data sources' section of this Juristat report for more information.

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Text box 1
Defining Aboriginal identity collected on the Homicide Survey

Aboriginal identity is reported by police to the Homicide Survey and is determined through information found with the victim or accused person, such as status cards, or through information supplied by victims' or accused persons' families, the accused persons themselves, community members, or other sources (i.e., such as band records). Forensic evidence such as genetic testing results may also be an acceptable means of determining the Aboriginal identity of victims.

For the purposes of the Homicide Survey, Aboriginal identity includes those identified as First Nations persons (either status or non-status), Métis, Inuit, or an Aboriginal identity where the Aboriginal group is not known to police. Non-Aboriginal identity refers to instances where the police have confirmed that a victim or accused person is not identified as an Aboriginal person. Aboriginal identity reported as 'unknown' by police includes instances where police are unable to determine the Aboriginal identity of the victim or accused person, where Aboriginal identity is not collected by the police service, or where the accused person has refused to disclose their Aboriginal identity to police.

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Aboriginal female victims of homicide in Canada from 1980 to 2014

In 2014, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) worked with police services across Canada to obtain data regarding the Aboriginal identity of female victims of homicides that occurred between 1980 and 2013, in order to produce their reports titled Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: A National Operational Overview (Royal Canadian Mounted Police 2014) and Update to the National Operational Overview (Royal Canadian Mounted Police 2015). These data were reported to Statistics Canada and added to the Homicide Survey database, in order to allow for the analyses of homicides involving Aboriginal female victims over time. Following this collaboration, detailed data on the Aboriginal identity of homicide victims were also made available for homicides that occurred in 2014, and will continue to be collected by Statistics Canada.

Between 1980 and 2014 police services across Canada reported a total of 6,849 homicides involving female victims. Among these victims, police identified that 1,073 were Aboriginal and 5,665 were non-Aboriginal. The Aboriginal identities of about 2% were reported as unknown by police. Where the Aboriginal identity was known, Aboriginal females represented 16% of female homicides for these years (Table 7; Chart 8).

Chart 8 - Homicide in Canada, 2014

Description for chart 8

Number of homicides of Aboriginal females relatively stable while declining for non-Aboriginal females

The number of police-reported Aboriginal female homicides has remained relatively stable over the past 34 years, while there has been a decline in the number of non-Aboriginal female homicides. Since 1991, the reported number of non-Aboriginal female homicides has been declining, and this is similar to the overall trend for homicide observed in Canada (Table 1a; Table 7; Chart 8). However, the opposite is true for Aboriginal female homicides, which has generally not declined from the years 1980 to 2014 (Table 7; Chart 8). As such, Aboriginal females have continued to account for an increasing proportion of total female homicide victims. For instance in 1991, Aboriginal females accounted for 14% of all female victims, compared with 21% in 2014. The lowest proportion of Aboriginal female homicides was 8% in 1984, and the highest proportion was 23% which occurred in 2004 and 2007, as well as in 2012 and 2013.

Average rate of Aboriginal female homicide is six times higher than for non-Aboriginal females

From 2001 to 2014,Note 10 the average rate of homicides involving Aboriginal female victims was 6 times higher than that of homicides where female victims were not Aboriginal (average rate of 4.82 per 100,000 compared to 0.81) (Table 7; Chart 9).Note 11

Chart 9 - Homicide in Canada, 2014

Description for chart 9

Further, the rate of non-Aboriginal female homicides has remained relatively stable over the past 13 years, in comparison to the rate of Aboriginal female homicide which has varied. The rate of homicides involving Aboriginal females reached peaks in 2002 (7.49 per 100,000 population) and 2004 (7.47 per 100,000), with lowest points recorded in 2008 (3.32 per 100,000) and 2014 (3.64 per 100,000). In comparison, the rate of non-Aboriginal female homicides has remained slightly less than one non-Aboriginal female victim per 100,000 population since peaking in 2002 at 1.08 victims per 100,000 (Table 7; Chart 9).

Aboriginal female victims overrepresented in the territories and prairies

Between the years of 2001 and 2014,Note 12 police-reported rates of homicides involving Aboriginal female victims in the three territories were higher than the overall rate in Canada (Table 8; Chart 10). This was also the case for each of the provinces in the prairie region (Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta).

Chart 10 - Homicide in Canada, 2014

Description for chart 10

The largest differences in rates of homicides involving Aboriginal females compared to non-Aboriginal females were noted in Yukon, where the rate of Aboriginal female homicide was 12 times higher than that of non-Aboriginal females (7.00 per 100,000 compared to 0.58). This was followed by Saskatchewan, where the rate of homicide for Aboriginal females was 11 times higher (6.01 per 100,000 compared to 0.54).

Police reported solving 9 in 10 female homicides regardless of Aboriginal identity

Between the years 1980 and 2014, police reported solving close to 9 in 10 (89%) homicides of Aboriginal female victims reported during this period. This is equal to the proportion of non-Aboriginal female homicides reported during this same time period that were solved.

Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal female victims of homicide most frequently victimized by family members

Of the total solved Aboriginal female homicides reported by police between 1980 and 2014, more than half (53%) were committed by family members (including current or former legally married spouses or common-law partners or other family members). In comparison, a slightly higher proportion (60%) of non-Aboriginal female homicides was committed by family members. In contrast, Aboriginal female homicides were committed by an acquaintance more often than non-Aboriginal female homicides (26% compared to 21%). The proportion of homicides committed by strangers was comparable for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal females (8% compared to 10%).

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Text box 2
Data quality of Aboriginal identity collected on the Homicide Survey

The Aboriginal identity of victims and accused persons as reported to the Homicide Survey had historically been under-reported to Statistics Canada since its collection began in 1997. For example, between 2003 and 2013, the Aboriginal identity had been reported by police as 'unknown' for about half of all victims and persons accused of homicide.Note 13 Under-reporting of Aboriginal identity was due in large part to policies upheld by many police services across Canada which aimed to protect the privacy of victims and persons accused of homicide (Kong and Beattie 2005).

In response to increasing efforts in Canada to address societal concerns regarding the prevalence of missing and murdered Aboriginal girls and women, the policing community has amended their policies which prevented the reporting of Aboriginal identity of victims and persons accused of homicide to the Homicide Survey (Royal Canadian Mounted Police 2014; Royal Canadian Mounted Police 2015). As a result, in 2014 the Aboriginal identity of the majority of victims and persons accused of homicide was reported by police, with only 3% reported as 'unknown'. In addition, the Homicide Survey database has been updated to include the revisions to historical records for female victims of homicide from 1980 to 2013, namely to update their Aboriginal identity. These updates were received by Statistics Canada as a result of a collaborative effort with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who conducted follow-ups with police services to obtain this information for the purpose of publishing their report Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: A National Operational Overview (Royal Canadian Mounted Police 2014).

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Aboriginal victims and accused persons of homicide in 2014

Homicide rate for Aboriginal people six times higher than for non-Aboriginal people

In 2014, Aboriginal people were victims of homicide at a rate which was about 6 times higher than that of non-Aboriginal people (7.20 victims per 100,000 population versus 1.13) (Table 9b). That year, 117 of the 516 homicide victims reported by police were Aboriginal, accounting for 23% of victims (Table 9a).Note 14 In contrast, Aboriginal people accounted for close to 5% of the projected population counts in Canada for 2014 (Statistics Canada 2011).Note 15 Overrepresentation of Aboriginal people victimized by crime in Canada continues to be a pervasive issue (Brennan 2011; Brzozowski et al. 2006; Perreault 2011; Perreault 2015; Scrim 2010).

Homicide rates were higher for Aboriginal people than their non-Aboriginal counterparts in 2014, regardless of sex (Table 9b). The rate of homicide for Aboriginal males was 7 times higher than for non-Aboriginal males (10.86 per 100,000 population versus 1.61). Among females, the rate was 6 times higher (3.64 per 100,000 versus 0.65).

Regardless of Aboriginal identity, males are more frequently the victims of homicides compared to females (refer to the preceding section of this report for further information). This difference was more pronounced among Canada's Aboriginal population. Aboriginal males were 3 times more likely to be homicide victims compared to Aboriginal females (10.86 per 100,000 versus 3.64). For non-Aboriginal people, the rate was 2 times higher for males compared to females (1.61 per 100,000 versus 0.65) (Table 9b).

Homicide rate of Aboriginal people highest in Manitoba and the territories

Among the provinces where police reported at least one homicide of an Aboriginal victim, the rate of homicides involving Aboriginal victims was highest in Manitoba (13.29 per 100,000), followed by Alberta (11.55 per 100,000). All three territories reported high rates of homicide for Aboriginal peoples. The lowest rates were reported by Quebec (2.24) and Nova Scotia (2.56). Further, there were no Aboriginal homicide victims reported in 2014 for Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick (Table 9b).

In 2014, the overrepresentation of Aboriginal people as homicide victims was greatest in Manitoba where the rate was 9 times higher than the rate for non-Aboriginal people (13.29 per 100,000 versus 1.41). This was followed by Nova Scotia, Ontario and Alberta where the rates were 6 times higher, and Saskatchewan where the rate was 5 times higher (Table 9b).

Overrepresentation for both male and female Aboriginal homicide victims was also highest in Manitoba where homicide rates for Aboriginal males were ten times greater than the rate for non-Aboriginal males. Among Aboriginal females in Manitoba, the rate was eight times higher (Table 9b).

Homicide rates for Aboriginal people comparable within and outside of CMAs

The rates of homicide against Aboriginal victims are similar both within and outside of census metropolitan areas (CMAs). For every 100,000 Aboriginal people residing within a CMA in 2014, 7.01 were victims of a homicide, while the rate among those living outside of a CMA was 7.31. For non-Aboriginal homicides, a slightly higher rate occurred within CMAs compared to outside of CMAs (1.22 per 100,000 population compared to 0.88) (Chart 11).

Chart 11 - Homicide in Canada, 2014

Description for chart 11

Police reported that about 6 in 10 (62%) homicides of Aboriginal people in 2014 occurred outside of a CMA. Most Aboriginal people in Canada were estimated to live outside of a CMA in 2014, according to population projections of Aboriginal people by CMAs (Statistics Canada 2011).

A higher proportion of homicides of Aboriginal people were solved by police than those of non-Aboriginal people

In 2014, a higher proportion of homicides of Aboriginal victims were solved by police than those of non-Aboriginal victims. Of the 117 homicides of Aboriginal victims reported by police in 2014, the majority (85%) were solved.Note 16 In comparison, of the 382 homicides of non-Aboriginal victims, about 7 in 10 (71%) were solved by police within the reporting year (Chart 12).

Chart 12 - Homicide in Canada, 2014

Description for chart 12

Of the solved homicides of Aboriginal victims, police reported solving more than three quarters (78%) within 7 days. More specifically, 15% of solved Aboriginal homicides were solved on the same day the homicide occurred and 63% were solved within the time period of 1 day past the date of the homicide incident, up to 7 days past the incident date. In comparison, police solved about 7 in 10 (69%) homicides of non-Aboriginal victims within 7 days from the date of the homicide incident.

A higher proportion of Aboriginal male homicides were solved by police in 2014, compared to those of non-Aboriginal males (86% compared to 65%). However, the opposite was true for female homicides. Police reported solving more homicides involving non-Aboriginal female victims in 2014 compared to those involving Aboriginal females (87% compared to 80%).

Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal victims of homicide most often knew the person accused of their deaths

In 2014, the majority of Aboriginal victims of homicide were killed by someone known to them. Of the 99 solved homicides of Aboriginal people, 87% were committed by someone the victim knew.Note 17 The same was true for 81% of solved homicides involving non-Aboriginal victims. The difference largely lies in that a higher proportion of Aboriginal victims were killed by an acquaintance than non-Aboriginal victims (42% versus 35%) (Table 10).

With respect to the type of acquaintance, Aboriginal homicide victims in 2014 were victimized by casual acquaintances (35%) and close friends (7%). While non-Aboriginal victims were also victimized by casual acquaintances (23%) and close friends (4%), non-Aboriginal homicides were also committed within legal business relationships (4%), by neighbours (2%) and by authority figures (2%). A smaller proportion of homicides involving Aboriginal victims were committed by strangers, relative to those involving non-Aboriginal victims (13% compared to 19%) (Table 10).

Homicides committed by a family member other than a spouse more prevalent among Aboriginal female victims than non-Aboriginal female victims

While over 9 in 10 Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal female victims knew the persons accused of their homicides, differences exist in the type of relationship between victim and accused. For instance, the proportion of Aboriginal female victims killed by a family member, other than a spouse, was greater than for non-Aboriginal female victims (38% versus 23%). As such, the proportion killed by a spouse or ex-spouse was lower (33% versus 45%). Homicides committed within an intimate relationship (not including spouses), or as a result of a criminal relationship, were slightly more common among Aboriginal female victims (Chart 13).

Chart 13 - Homicide in Canada, 2014

Description for chart 13

Homicides committed by spouses more common among Aboriginal male victims than non-Aboriginal male victims

Overall, Aboriginal male victims of homicide were more likely than their non-Aboriginal counterparts to be killed by someone they knew (84% versus 74%). Specifically, the prevalence of death at the hands of a spouse was notably more common among Aboriginal male victims than among non-Aboriginal males (9% compared to 1%). In contrast, homicides committed by other family members (not including spouses) were notably lower (9% compared to 17%). On the other hand, homicides perpetrated by an acquaintance were higher for Aboriginal male victims (53% versus 46%) (Chart 14).

Chart 14 - Homicide in Canada, 2014

Description for chart 14

In terms of spousal homicide, prevalence is higher among females than males, regardless of Aboriginal identity. Police-reported data suggest, however, that the divide between female and male victims may be wider among non-Aboriginal victims with 45% of non-Aboriginal female victims having been killed by a spouse or ex-spouse in 2014 compared to 1% of males. Among Aboriginal homicide victims, the same was reported for 33% of female victims and 9% of male victims.

History of family violence more common in homicides of Aboriginal victims

Of the solved homicides of Aboriginal victims where a family member was among those accused of their deaths, about two thirds of victims (68%) had experienced a prior history of family violence between the accused and at least one of the homicide victims involved in the incident.Note 18 In comparison, among non-Aboriginal homicides committed by family members, about half had a history of family violence (52%).

Aboriginal homicide victims killed in a residence more frequently than non-Aboriginal victims

Among the total homicides reported by police where the location of the incident was known,Note 19 homicides of Aboriginal people occurred more often within a residence (72%) relative to incidents involving non-Aboriginal victims (58%).Note 20

While a larger proportion of male Aboriginal victims compared to their non-Aboriginal counterparts were killed in a residence (74% versus 46%), the opposite was true for Aboriginal female victims (66% of Aboriginal female victims compared to 88% of non-Aboriginal female victims). Rather, a higher proportion of homicides of Aboriginal females occurred on a street, a road, or a highway, compared to homicides of non-Aboriginal females (17% compared to 1%).

Arguments or quarrels two times more likely in homicides of Aboriginal people

Arguments or quarrels were the most frequently reported motives related to incidents of homicide involving both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal victims. However, this type of motive was almost two times more common in homicides involving Aboriginal victims (48% compared to 27%). The second most likely motive involved in the homicide of an Aboriginal person was frustration, anger or despair (17%), which was also the second-most common motive for homicides involving non-Aboriginal victims (20%).

Motives that were less common in homicides of Aboriginal people were the settling of accounts (i.e., unpaid debts related to drug or gang-related activities) (6% versus 17% among homicides of non-Aboriginal peoples) and revenge (2% versus 9%).

For both male and female Aboriginal people, homicide rates highest among those aged 35- to 44-year-olds

For both male and female Aboriginal people, the risk of becoming a victim of homicide in 2014 was highest for those 35 to 44 years of age (20.56 per 100,000 population and 8.62 per 100,000). While homicide rates were far lower overall for non-Aboriginal people regardless of age, 35- to 44-year-olds were also at highest risk among non-Aboriginal females (1.06). In contrast, 18- to 24-year-olds were at greatest risk among non-Aboriginal males (Table 12; Chart 15).

Chart 15 - Homicide in Canada, 2014

Description for chart 15

Previous convictions for violent offences more common among Aboriginal victims

Previous involvement with the criminal justice system has been examined as a risk factor among homicide victims (Ezell and Tanner-Smith 2009). Aboriginal victims of homicide were two times more likely than non-Aboriginal victims to have been previously convicted of a criminal offence. Two thirds (66%) of Aboriginal homicide victims had previous criminal convictions, compared to 37% of non-Aboriginal victims. More specifically, 59% of Aboriginal victims with prior convictions were convicted of violent offences, while 22% were convicted of other Criminal Code or Federal/Provincial Statute offences. In comparison, a smaller proportion of non-Aboriginal victims with previous criminal convictions had been convicted of a violent offence (46%).

Aboriginal people accused of homicide at a rate ten times higher than non-Aboriginal people

The overall rate of Aboriginal persons accused of homicide in Canada was 10 times higher than the rate for non-Aboriginal accused persons in 2014 (8.55 accused per 100,000 population compared to 0.82 per 100,000) (Table 11b). Of the 431 persons accused of homicides in 2014, one third (32%) were Aboriginal, and close to two thirds (65%) were non-Aboriginal. For the remaining 3%, police reported their Aboriginal identity as unknown (Table 11a).Note 21

In 2014, of the 55 female persons accused of homicide, 28 were Aboriginal (accounting for 51%) and 25 were non-Aboriginal (accounting for 45%). The rate of Aboriginal females accused of homicide however was 23 times higher than the rate of non-Aboriginal female accused (3.39 per 100,000 compared to 0.15). For the 376 male accused persons, 30% were Aboriginal, while 68% were non-Aboriginal. The rate of Aboriginal male accused was 9 times higher than the rate of their non-Aboriginal counterparts (13.86 accused per 100,000 compared to 1.51) (Table 11b).

Among Aboriginal people accused of homicide, rates were highest among 25- to 34-year-olds (21.16 accused per 100,000 population) and 18- to 24-year-olds (20.28 per 100,000). Aboriginal males accused of homicide tended to be older than accused Aboriginal females. The highest rate of accused for Aboriginal males was among those aged 25 to 34 years, while for Aboriginal females, the highest rate was reported for those between the ages of 18 to 24 years (Table 12; Chart 16).

Chart 16 - Homicide in Canada, 2014

Description for chart 16

Non-Aboriginal accused persons more likely to suffer from suspected mental health or developmental disorder

Among homicides where police reported the suspected presence of a mental or developmental disorder of the accused person,Note 22 suspected mental or developmental disorders were less common among Aboriginal people accused of homicide than among non-Aboriginal people.Note 23 Among Aboriginal accused persons, 15% included a suspected mental or developmental disorder (as reported by police). This compares to 24% of non-Aboriginal accused persons with suspected mental or developmental disorders.

Previous convictions for violent offences higher amongst Aboriginal accused persons

The risk of an individual being convicted of violent criminal activities has been shown to be higher for those who have a prior criminal history (Hanson 2009). The majority (81%) of Aboriginal accused persons had been previously convicted of criminal offences, with close to 7 in 10 previously convicted of violent crimes.Note 24 This compares to about half (52%) of non-Aboriginal accused persons who had been previously convicted. Non-Aboriginal people accused of homicide were less likely to have been previously convicted for a violent offence (63%).

Summary

There were 516 homicides in Canada in 2014, four more than the previous year. However, the homicide rate remained stable (1.45 per 100,000 population) making 2013 and 2014 the years with the lowest homicide rates since 1966. The 516 homicide victims in 2014 were the result of 480 incidents, 95% of which involved a single victim. Males and young people aged 18 to 24 tend to make up the majority of both homicide victims and accused.

Among the provinces, Newfoundland and Labrador reported the lowest homicide rate in 2014, at 0.38 per 100,000 population. Six provinces and territories showed a decline in their homicide rates in 2014: Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Nunavut. In 2014, Nova Scotia reported the lowest homicide rate it has ever reported to the Homicide Survey.

The number and rate of firearm-related homicides increased in Canada in 2014, with handguns used in 67% of firearm-related homicides. In contrast, the number and rate of gang-related homicides reached their lowest levels since 2005.

Most solved homicides were committed by an acquaintance of the victim (37%), echoing a trend observed over the past 20 years. More than one in five solved homicides in 2014 was committed by an intimate partner. Among intimate partner homicides, females were the victim at a rate four times that of males.

The number of homicides committed by youth in Canada in 2014 decreased to 25, from 40 in 2013. Both the number and rate of homicides committed by youth reached their lowest levels since 1969.

Eighty-eight individuals accused of homicide in 2014 were suspected of having a mental or developmental disorder (22% of accused). The proportion of homicide accused suspected of having a mental or developmental disorder in 2014 was higher than in 2013 and higher than the average for the previous ten years (15%).

In 2014, police reported complete data regarding the Aboriginal identity of victims and persons accused of homicide in Canada. Aboriginal people are over-represented as victims and persons accused of homicide.

The homicide rate of Aboriginal people was 6 times higher than that of non-Aboriginal people (7.20 per 100,000 population compared to 1.13). Homicide rates were higher for Aboriginal people, regardless of sex. The rate of homicide for Aboriginal males was 7 times higher than for non-Aboriginal males and 6 times higher among females.

In 2014, a higher proportion of homicides of Aboriginal victims (85%) were solved by police than those of non-Aboriginal victims (71%). That year, solve rates were higher for Aboriginal male victims compared to non-Aboriginal male victims, yet lower among Aboriginal female victims when compared to their non-Aboriginal counterparts.

While in the majority of the solved homicides reported by police, victims knew the person accused of their deaths, a higher proportion of Aboriginal victims were killed by someone known to them compared to non-Aboriginal victims (87% versus 81%). The difference largely lies in that a slightly higher proportion of Aboriginal victims were killed by an acquaintance than non-Aboriginal victims, mostly casual acquaintances.

The rate of Aboriginal persons accused of homicide was 10 times higher than that of non-Aboriginal persons (8.55 per 100,000 population compared to 0.82). For Aboriginal females accused of homicide, the rate was 23 times higher than that of non-Aboriginal female accused (3.39 per 100,000 compared to 0.15). For Aboriginal males, the rate of accused was 9 times higher than their non-Aboriginal counterparts (13.86 accused per 100,000 compared to 1.51).

Survey description

Data sources

Homicide Survey

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.

Due to revisions to the Homicide Survey database, annual data reported by the Homicide Survey prior to 2013 may not match the annual homicide counts reported by the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey (UCR). Data from the Homicide Survey is appended to the UCR database each year for the reporting of annual police reported crime statistics. Each reporting year, the UCR includes revised data reported by police for the previous survey year. In 2014, a review of data quality was undertaken for the Homicide Survey for all survey years from 1961 to 2013. The review included the collection of incident, victim and charged / suspect chargeable records that were previously unreported to the Homicide Survey. In addition, the database was updated to exclude those deaths, and associated accused records, which are no longer deemed homicides by police (i.e., occurrences of self-defence, suicide, criminal negligence causing death which had originally been deemed a homicide by police). For operational reasons, these revisions were not applied to the UCR Survey.

Population estimates

Denominators of homicide rates by Aboriginal identity for the years of 2001 to 2014 are based on population counts provided by the Demography Division of Statistics Canada. Population counts prior to 2001 were not available for this Juristat release. In absence of the availability of annual estimates of the Canadian population by Aboriginal identity, the population counts used in this report are either derived or projected, depending on the years. As such, these population counts are subject to a certain level of uncertainty, and subject to revisions in the future. Between the years of 2001 and 2011, population counts were calculated using linear interpolations between the 2001 and 2006 censuses of population and the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS), adjusted for net under coverage, partially enumerated reserves, and populations living in collective dwellings. For the years 2012 to 2014, population counts were obtained from custom projections based on the adjusted 2011 NHS. The selected projections assumptions regarding components of growth are mostly based on the reference scenario of "Population Projections by Aboriginal Identity in Canada, 2006-2031", with further calibration on recent data from the population estimates program at the provincial/territorial level. Population counts for the month of June were selected for each year, as it represents the mid-point of each reference year.

During the time period in which this Juristat release was prepared, the Demography Division of Statistics Canada released an updated version of the projected population counts which were used to calculate the homicide rates by Aboriginal identity. Analysis was conducted to test the sensitivity of the findings between the two versions of the population counts. As a result, the differences observed ranged from no change between the rates, to a maximum change of -0.52 per 100,000 population.

Detailed data tables

Table 1a Number of homicides, by province or territory, 1984 to 2014

Table 1b Rate of homicides, by province or territory, 1984 to 2014

Table 2 Homicides, by census metropolitan area, 2013 and 2014

Table 3 Homicides, by type of method, Canada, 2004 to 2014

Table 4 Homicides, by shootings and stabbings, by province or territory, 2014

Table 5 Homicides, by accused-victim relationship, Canada, 2013 and 2014

Table 6 Intimate partner homicides, by sex of victim, Canada, 1994 to 2014

Table 7 Total female victims of homicide, by Aboriginal identity, Canada, 1980 to 2014

Table 8 Total female victims of homicide, by Aboriginal identity, Canada, provinces and territories, 2001 to 2014

Table 9a Homicide victims, by sex and Aboriginal identity, province or territory, 2014

Table 9b Rate of homicide victims, by sex and Aboriginal identity, province or territory, 2014

Table 10 Homicides, by accused-victim relationship and Aboriginal identity, Canada, 2014

Table 11a Persons accused of homicide, by sex and Aboriginal identity, province or territory, 2014

Table 11b Rate of persons accused of homicide, by sex and Aboriginal identity, province or territory, 2014

Table 12 Homicide victims and persons accused of homicide, by age and sex, Aboriginal identity, Canada, 2014

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Notes

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