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Spousal violence in Canada’s provinces and territories
Family violence against children and youth
Family violence against older adults
Family homicides

Spousal violence in Canada’s provinces and territories

  • In 2006, over 38,000 incidents of spousal violence were reported to police across Canada. This represents approximately 15% of all police-reported violent incidents.

  • There has been a steady decline in police-reported spousal violence over the most recent 9-year period (1998 to 2006).

  • As a proportion of all violent incidents, spousal violence reported to police was more prevalent in Nunavut and Quebec (20% each), and lowest in British Columbia, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick (8% each).

  • Females continue to be the most likely victims of police-reported spousal violence, accounting for 83% of victims compared to 17% males. This holds true for every province and territory across Canada.

  • Incidents of spousal violence were more common between current partners than former partners (69% vs. 31%).

  • Common assault (61%) was the most frequently reported violent offence committed by a current or ex-spouse, followed by major assault (14%), uttering threats (11%) and criminal harassment (8%). Assaults accounted for a large proportion of spousal violence in the western provinces and territories, while criminal harassment and uttering threats were most prevalent in Quebec.

  • Male victims of spousal abuse were nearly twice as likely as female victims to report incidents of major assault (23% of male victims vs. 13% of female victims). One possible explanation may be that while male spousal abusers are more likely to use physical force, female abusers tend to rely on weapons.

  • Charges were laid by police in three-quarters (77%) of all police-reported incidents of spousal violence in 2006. Incidents involving female victims were more likely to result in a charge being laid than those involving male victims. The percentage of spousal violence incidents that have resulted in police charging has remained fairly stable over the 9-year period from 1998 to 2006. Police charging for spousal abuse was highest in Manitoba (92%) and Ontario (90%), and lowest in Newfoundland and Labrador (56%) and New Brunswick (57%).

  • Injuries were more likely to be sustained by current spouses than former spouses (59% vs. 27%), as well as by victims living in the territories and western provinces. Injuries resulting from the use of a weapon (7%), though not common, were more likely among male victims than females (15% vs. 5%), and more likely among victims of spousal abuse living in Manitoba (13%) and Saskatchewan (10%).

Family violence against children and youth

  • Police-reported data in 2006 indicate that children and youth under 18 years of age are most likely to be physically or sexually assaulted by someone they know.

  • For every 100,000 young persons, 334 were victims of physical or sexual violence by a friend or an acquaintance, 187 experienced violence by a family member, and 101 were victimized by a stranger.

  • When children and youth are victims of family violence, parents are the most commonly identified perpetrators. In 2006, 107 per 100,000 children and youth were physically or sexually assaulted by a parent.

  • The rate of physical assault by a parent was more than 3 times higher than the rate of sexual assault (83 compared to 24 victims per 100,000 children and youth).

  • Girls (under the age of 18) experienced somewhat higher rates of physical assault by family members than boys (133 compared with 116 incidents per 100,000 population). The rate of sexual assault committed by family members was 4 times higher for girls compared to boys (102 vs. 25 incidents per 100,000 population).

  • About 4 in 10 child and youth victims of family violence sustained a physical injury in 2006, compared to 5 in 10 when the perpetrator was a non-family member. The majority of injuries sustained were considered to be minor injuries requiring no professional medical treatment or only some first aid.

  • Boys were more likely than girls to sustain physical injuries resulting from family violence (46% compared to 35%).

Family violence against older adults

  • Police-reported data consistently show that seniors (aged 65 years of age and over) are the least likely age group to be victimized. In 2006, the rate of violent crime committed against seniors was 16 times lower (149 per 100,000) than the rate committed against 15 to 24 year olds, the age group at highest risk (2,395 per 100,000).

  • Similar to all victims of crime, senior victims were more likely to report being victimized by someone they knew (83 per 100,000) than by a stranger (40 per 100,000). Among perpetrators known to senior victims, friends or acquaintances were the most common (34 per 100,000).

  • The rate of police-reported family violence against seniors was 43 incidents for every 100,000 persons aged 65 years and over. While the overall rates of violence against seniors were higher for senior men (150 vs. 103 for senior women), rates of family violence were higher for senior women (47 vs. 37 per 100,000).

  • Senior victims of family violence were most likely to report being victimized by an adult child (14 per 100,000) or current or former spouse (13 per 100,000).

  • Police-reported data show that over half of violent incidents committed against seniors do not result in physical injury to the victim, whether perpetrated by a family (54%) or non-family member (60%). When physical injuries are sustained, they are generally minor in nature.

Family homicides

Spousal homicides

  • According to the Homicide survey, spousal homicides represented 17% of all solved homicides in Canada, and nearly half (47%) of all family homicides in 2006.

  • Overall, rates of spousal homicides for both male and female victims have been declining over the last 30 years (1977 to 2006). The rate of spousal homicide against females has been between 3 and 5 times higher than the rate for males.

  • Over the past decade (1997 to 2006), the largest proportion of spousal homicides involved victims living in common-law relationships (39%). Another one-third (36%) of spousal homicides occurred between married persons, followed by those who were separated (23%) or divorced (2%).

  • Spousal homicide rates were highest for young adults. Between 1997 and 2006, young women (aged 15 to 24) were killed at a rate that was nearly 3 times higher than for all female victims of spousal homicide. Similarly, the rate of young males (aged 15 to 24) killed by their spouse was more than 4 times that of all male spouses.

  • Over the past decade (1997 to 2006), the rate of firearm-related spousal homicides decreased by nearly 50%.

Family homicides against children and youth

  • Six in 10 homicides against children and youth were committed by family members in 2006.

  • Over the past three decades (1977 to 2006), the majority of family perpetrated homicides against children under 18 years of age were committed by a parent (90%). Fathers are more likely than mothers to be the perpetrators.

  • Infants (less than 1 year of age) experienced higher rates of family-related homicide compared to older children. During the most recent 10-year period (1997 to 2006), about one-quarter of children and youth killed by a family member were infants. Baby boys tend to be at somewhat greater risk than baby girls.

Family homicides against older persons

  • The rate of homicide is lower among seniors (aged 65 years and older) compared to those under 65 years of age. This is consistent with overall police-reported crime rates which show that older Canadians are the least likely age group to be victimized.

  • Family-perpetrated homicides against seniors represented a relatively small proportion (2.5%) of all homicides in Canada in 2006. With few exceptions, over the past three decades (1977 to 2006), the rate of family-related homicide against seniors has been lower than that of non-family perpetrated homicides.

  • Senior female victims killed by a family member were most likely to be killed by their spouse (40%) or adult son (34%). Senior male homicide victims were most likely to be killed by their adult son or step-son (61%).