Homicide in Canada, 2015

by Leah Mulligan, Marsha Axford and André Solecki

Homicides continue to account for a small proportion of all police-reported violent Criminal Code offences in Canada, representing 0.2% in 2015.Note 1 While homicide continues to be a relatively rare occurrence in Canada, rates of homicide are considered benchmarks for levels of violent activity both in Canada and internationally (Ouimet 2014). Further, perceptions of safety within communities may be influenced by their homicide rates (Romer et al. 2003).

Since 1961, police services have been reporting detailed information on homicide occurrences in Canada through Statistics Canada's Homicide Survey. Using data drawn from the Homicide Survey, this Juristat article explores prevalence and characteristics of homicide incidents, victims, and accused persons reported in 2015, and compares these findings to short and long term trends. A special analysis of the circumstances surrounding homicides of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal females committed by ‘casual acquaintances’ from 1980 to 2015 is also presented (see Text box 1).

Number and rate of homicides at their highest point since 2011

Among the provinces Saskatchewan reported the highest homicide rate in 2015

Regina records the highest homicide rate among census metropolitan areas

Homicide rates continue to be higher for Aboriginal people than for non-Aboriginal people

Female homicide victims more likely than male victims to have been reported as a missing person

Number of firearm-related homicides increases for second consecutive year

Gang-related homicides increased in 2015 following a three year decline

Fewer homicides committed by strangers, more by criminal associates

Majority of homicide victims and accused persons were male

Increase in number and rate of youth accused of homicide from previous year

Accused persons aged 65 and older most likely to have a suspected mental or developmental disorder

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Text box 1
Female homicides committed by ‘casual acquaintances’

The incidence of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls is a significant issue in Canada (Government of Canada 2015; Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada 2016). While statistics are emerging on the issue (Miladinovic and Mulligan 2015; Royal Canadian Mounted Police 2014; Royal Canadian Mounted Police 2015), additional information will assist to further understand and address it. For instance, according to homicide records from 1980 to 2015, police reported that 18% of Aboriginal female victims and 11% of non-Aboriginal female victims were killed by a ‘casual acquaintance’. To better understand the circumstances surrounding homicides of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal females committed by casual acquaintances, special analysis of these records from 1980 to 2015 was conducted.

For this analysis, police-reported narratives included on the Homicide Survey were examined. Specifically, narratives were examined for every female homicide victim reported by police between 1980 and 2015 and who was killed by a casual acquaintance.Note 16 The completion of the narrative, as well as the extent of the details provided, are optional for police filling out the questionnaire.

As of 2015, the Homicide Survey describes the relationship category of ‘casual acquaintance’ as a person known to the victim and with whom the victim did not have a romantic, sexual, or close friendship and whose relationship cannot be better described by another ‘acquaintance’ relationship type collected on the survey (i.e., close friend, neighbour, authority figure, business relationship or criminal relationship). Roommates and fellow inmates with no close personal friendship are included in the definition of casual acquaintance. It is important to note that some relationship types currently collected by the Homicide Survey were introduced in different years, therefore they may not have been available for selection by police when reporting the relationship type for the incidents that were examined.

Of the 6,230 female victims of homicide between 1980 and 2015, 12% or 748 were reported as being killed by a ‘casual acquaintance’.Note 17Note 18 Close to one-quarter (24%) of these female victims killed by a casual acquaintance were AboriginalNote 19 (Table 8).

For about half of the victims (52% or 390), the police narratives provided enough information to allow for further analysis of the nature and context of the ‘casual acquaintance’ relationship between accused and victim. Overall, 17% of the accused-victim relationships could be better described by an existing relationship type collected by the Homicide Survey (e.g., neighbour, or other intimate partner) and in 35% of cases, new categories were created to better describe the relationship. In 48% of cases, the relationship of the accused to the victim did not change from ‘casual acquaintance’, either because the information provided in the narratives was sufficient to conclude that the relationship was best described as ‘casual acquaintance’, or because the narrative did not offer sufficient details to determine in greater detail the nature of the relationship between accused and victim.Note 20

Overall, 18% of the 748 victims were killed by what can be described as a ‘co-substance user’, which means their relationship, as determined by the narrative, was based solely on the co-consumption of alcohol, drugs or other intoxicating substances immediately prior to the homicide (Table 8). Homicides that occurred between co-substance users tended to happen in bars, private residences or a public outdoor location.Note 21 The co-substance user relationship was more common among Aboriginal females killed by a casual acquaintance (38%) than among non-Aboriginal females (12%). The vast majority of these victims were adults, however youth aged 12 to 17 comprised a higher proportion of non-Aboriginal female victims (16% versus 84% of adults) than Aboriginal female victims (7% versus 93% of adults).

Of the victims and accused who were co-substance users prior to the victim’s death, 39% of the homicides occurred after they left the location where they had been consuming substances together (e.g., the accused and victim went to one of their homes after a party, or had stopped at another location). While this was true for one-quarter (27%) of homicides of Aboriginal victims, half (51%) of non-Aboriginal victims had left the location of co-substance use with the accused prior to their deaths.Note 22

Between 1980 and 2015, 6% of female victims of a casual acquaintance were killed by an ‘other’ non-family household member, (e.g., roommates, boarders who were not paying rent or “couch surfers”).Note 23 This type of relationship was reported for 3% of Aboriginal female victims compared to 6% of non-Aboriginal female victims.

For 4% of victims of a casual acquaintance, the accused was a fellow resident in an institutional setting, such as a hospital or nursing home.Note 24 The proportion was higher among non-Aboriginal female victims compared to Aboriginal female victims (5% versus 1%). Moreover, a higher proportion of non-Aboriginal female victims of a casual acquaintance were killed by a neighbour (6% versus 1%).

Other types of ‘casual acquaintance’ relationships identified within the special analysis included a partner or ex-partner of a family member (3%) (excludes a partner or ex-partner of the victim’s parentNote 25). The prevalence of this type of relationship was similar for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal female victims. However, a slightly higher proportion of Aboriginal female victims of a casual acquaintance were killed by a partner or ex-partner of the person with whom the victim was having or had previously had a sexual relationship (3% versus 1%).Note 26

The special analysis presented here was a collaborative effort between the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics and the Department of Justice Canada. The review of records and the analysis was conducted by André Solecki and Marsha Axford of the Department of Justice Canada, Research and Statistics Division.

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Text box 2
Solved status of homicides collected by the Homicide Survey

A homicide incident is considered solved (or ‘cleared’Note 27) when police report laying or recommending a charge of homicide against at least one accused person. Police may also report solving homicides by other means (e.g., the suicide of the accused person). Where there are multiple victims involved in a single homicide incident, the solved status of the incident applies to each victim. In incidents where there are multiple accused persons involved, a homicide is considered solved on the date when the first accused person in the case is identified by police.

Homicides may be solved months to years after they occur, and the Homicide Survey collects updates for previously reported homicides to revise the solved status, and to allow for the collection of additional details gathered throughout homicide investigations, if applicable. In all cases, the Homicide Survey reports the number of solved homicides according to the year in which the incident came to the attention of police and was reported to the Homicide Survey.

Since the Homicide Survey is a police-reported source of data, it does not track court-related outcomes for homicide incidents such as decisions put forth by Crown Attorneys, convictions, or sentencing-related information. For further information related to court decisions for homicide charges brought before the adult criminal court system in Canada, please refer to the Juristat report, “Adult criminal court statistics in Canada, 2013/2014” (Maxwell 2015) or CANSIM table 252-0053.

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Text box 3
Victims reported by police as a missing person prior to their deaths

As of the 2015 reporting year, police are asked by the Homicide Survey to report whether victims were previously reported as missing persons prior to the discovery of their homicides. Specifically, the survey question asks whether the victim had been reported as a missing person to their police service, or any other police service in Canada. Victims reported as a previously missing person must have had a missing person report filed and active at the time when the victim was discovered. In 2015, police reported the missing person status of the victim for the majority of reported homicides, with less than 1% which were reported as ‘unknown’ by police.

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Charts

Chart 1

Description for Chart 1
Chart 1
Homicides and attempted murders, Canada, 1965 to 2015
Table summary
This table displays the results of Homicides and attempted murders. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), Homicide and Attempted murder, calculated using rate per 100,000 population units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Year Homicide Attempted murder
rate per 100,000 population
1965 1.41 0.57
1966 1.25 0.65
1967 1.66 0.68
1968 1.81 0.87
1969 1.86 1.03
1970 2.19 1.22
1971 2.15 1.53
1972 2.34 1.85
1973 2.43 2.15
1974 2.62 2.28
1975 3.02 2.77
1976 2.84 2.95
1977 3.00 2.88
1978 2.76 3.10
1979 2.61 3.12
1980 2.41 3.23
1981 2.61 3.63
1982 2.66 3.75
1983 2.69 3.47
1984 2.60 3.60
1985 2.72 3.34
1986 2.17 3.37
1987 2.43 3.46
1988 2.15 3.12
1989 2.40 3.04
1990 2.37 3.27
1991 2.69 3.72
1992 2.58 3.72
1993 2.18 3.43
1994 2.06 3.18
1995 2.00 3.20
1996 2.14 2.97
1997 1.96 2.89
1998 1.85 2.47
1999 1.77 2.26
2000 1.78 2.50
2001 1.78 2.34
2002 1.86 2.16
2003 1.74 2.23
2004 1.96 2.10
2005 2.06 2.55
2006 1.86 2.57
2007 1.81 2.41
2008 1.84 2.17
2009 1.81 2.38
2010 1.63 1.96
2011 1.76 1.94
2012 1.58 1.91
2013 1.45 1.81
2014 1.47 1.77
2015 1.68 2.16

Chart 2

Description for Chart 2
Chart 2
Homicides, by province, 2015
Table summary
This table displays the results of Homicides. The information is grouped by Province (appearing as row headers), Average 2005 to 2014 and 2015, calculated using rate per 100,000 population units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Province Average 2005 to 2014 2015
rate per 100,000 population
Canada 1.72 1.68
British Columbia 2.12 2.03
Alberta 2.59 3.17
Saskatchewan 3.20 3.79
Manitoba 4.18 3.63
Ontario 1.38 1.26
Quebec 1.14 0.93
New Brunswick 1.07 1.46
Nova Scotia 1.67 1.27
Prince Edward Island 0.57 0.68
Newfoundland and Labrador 0.91 0.57

Chart 3

Description for Chart 3
Chart 3
Proportion of homicide victims by Aboriginal identity and sex, who were previously reported as a missing person, 2015
Table summary
This table displays the results of Proportion of homicide victims by Aboriginal identity and sex percent (appearing as column headers).
  percent
Aboriginal
female victims
17.07
Non-Aboriginal
female victims
18.18
Aboriginal
male victims
7.48
Non-Aboriginal
male victims
7.57

Chart 4

Description for Chart 4
Chart 4
Homicides, by most common method, Canada, 1985 to 2015
Table summary
This table displays the results of Homicides. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), Shooting, Stabbing and Beating, calculated using rate per 100,000 population units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Year Shooting Stabbing Beating
rate per 100,000 population
1985 0.86 0.88 0.47
1986 0.67 0.63 0.48
1987 0.76 0.70 0.51
1988 0.63 0.63 0.52
1989 0.79 0.62 0.47
1990 0.70 0.77 0.47
1991 0.97 0.80 0.51
1992 0.87 0.74 0.53
1993 0.68 0.67 0.40
1994 0.68 0.53 0.37
1995 0.59 0.62 0.41
1996 0.72 0.66 0.44
1997 0.65 0.56 0.38
1998 0.50 0.62 0.41
1999 0.55 0.47 0.41
2000 0.60 0.49 0.42
2001 0.55 0.55 0.39
2002 0.48 0.58 0.40
2003 0.52 0.45 0.39
2004 0.54 0.64 0.43
2005 0.69 0.61 0.44
2006 0.59 0.64 0.37
2007 0.57 0.57 0.36
2008 0.60 0.61 0.37
2009 0.54 0.62 0.35
2010 0.51 0.49 0.34
2011 0.46 0.60 0.37
2012 0.49 0.47 0.33
2013 0.38 0.55 0.29
2014 0.44 0.53 0.28
2015 0.50 0.60 0.37

Chart 5

Description for Chart 5
Chart 5
Gang-related homicides, Canada, 1995 to 2015
Table summary
This table displays the results of Gang-related homicides. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), rate per 100,000 population (appearing as column headers).
Year rate per 100,000 population
1995 0.08
1996 0.10
1997 0.09
1998 0.17
1999 0.15
2000 0.24
2001 0.20
2002 0.15
2003 0.28
2004 0.23
2005 0.33
2006 0.32
2007 0.36
2008 0.42
2009 0.37
2010 0.28
2011 0.28
2012 0.27
2013 0.24
2014 0.23
2015 0.27

Chart 6

Description for Chart 6
Chart 6
Persons accused of homicide with a suspected mental or development disorder, by age group, Canada, 2015
Table summary
This table displays the results of Persons accused of homicide with a suspected mental or development disorder. The information is grouped by Age group (years) (appearing as row headers), 2015 and Average 2005 to 2014, calculated using percent of accused persons units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Age group (years) 2015 Average 2005 to 2014
percent of accused persons
12 to 17 11.8 9.9
18 to 24 15.4 8.8
25 to 34 13.6 15.7
35 to 44 22.4 21.1
45 to 54 27.1 26.0
55 to 64 10.5 31.3
65 and older 36.4 37.3

Detailed data tables

Table 1a Number of homicides, by province or territory, 1985 to 2015

Table 1b Rate of homicides, by province or territory, 1985 to 2015

Table 2 Homicides, by census metropolitan area, 2014 and 2015

Table 3 Rates of homicide victims and accused persons, by sex and Aboriginal identity, province or territory, 2015

Table 4 Homicides, by shootings and stabbings, by province or territory, 2015

Table 5 Firearm-related homicides, by type of firearm, Canada, 1995 to 2015

Table 6 Homicides, by gang-related and firearm-related status and census metropolitan area, 2015

Table 7 Homicides, by closest accused to victim relationship, Canada, 2014 and 2015

Table 8 Detailed circumstances of homicides committed by ‘casual acquaintances’ involving female victims, by Aboriginal identity, 1980 to 2015

References

Allen, M. 2016. "Police-reported crime statistics in Canada, 2015." Juristat. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002-X.

Government of Canada. 2015. Making Real Change Happen: Speech from the Throne to Open the Forty-second Parliament of Canada. December 4, 2015. (accessed August 24, 2016).

Hotton Mahoney, T. and Turner, J. 2012. “Police-reported clearance rates in Canada, 2010.” Juristat. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002-X.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. 2016. National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls: Background on the Inquiry. (accessed August 24, 2016).

Maxwell, A. 2015. “Adult criminal court statistics in Canada, 2013/2014.” Juristat. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002-X.

Miladinovic, Z. and Mulligan, L. 2015. “Homicide in Canada, 2014.” Juristat. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002-X.

Ouimet, M. and Montmagny-Grenier, C. 2014. “Homicide and violence—International and cross-national research: The construct validity of the results generated by the World Homicide Survey.” International Criminal Justice Review, 2014. Vol. 24, Issue 3. p. 222-234.

Romer, D., Hall Jamieson, K. and Aday, S. 2003. "Television, news and the cultivation of fear of crime." Journal of Communication. Vol. 53, Issue 1, March. p. 88-104.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police. 2014. Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: A National Operational Overview. (accessed August 11, 2015).

Royal Canadian Mounted Police. 2015. Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: 2015 Update to the National Operational Overview. (accessed August 11, 2015).

Statistics Canada. 2011. Table 051-0056 – Estimates of Population by Census Metropolitan Area, Sex and Age Group for July 1, Based on the Standard Geographical Classification (SGC) 2011, Annual (persons). CANSIM (database). (accessed August 11, 2016).

Statistics Canada. 2015. Projections of the Aboriginal Population and Households in Canada, 2011 to 2036, Annual (persons). Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 91-552-X.

Survey description

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 (based on the report date). 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 is 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 2014 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 2015, a review of data quality was undertaken for the Homicide Survey for all survey years from 1961 to 2014. 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 excludes deaths, and associated accused records, which are not deemed as homicides by police any longer (i.e., occurrences of self-defence, suicide, criminal negligence causing death which had originally been deemed, but no longer considered homicides, 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 2015 are based on population counts provided by the Demography Division of Statistics Canada (Statistics Canada 2015). 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 2015, 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 "Projections of the Aboriginal Population and Households in Canada, 2011 to 2036", with further calibrations to adjust for fertility, mortality, immigration and emigration, taken from the population estimates from 2012 to 2015. Population counts were selected for the mid-point of the year.

Notes

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