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The Daily

Wednesday, October 17, 2007
2006 (correction)

The national homicide rate dropped 10% in 2006, following increases in each of the previous two years. The number of homicides committed with a firearm fell for the first time in four years in 2006, according to a detailed analysis of homicide data.

Canada's police services reported 605 homicides in 2006, 58 fewer than the previous year. As a result, the national homicide rate fell to 1.85 homicides per 100,000 population. However, increases were seen in other serious violent crimes, such as attempted murder, serious assaults and robberies, in both 2005 and 2006.

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The homicide rate has been on a general decline since it peaked in the mid-1970s at just over 3 homicides per 100,000 population. It had reached a 35-year low of 1.73 in 2003.

Of the 605 homicides, 190 were committed with a firearm, 33 fewer than in 2005. This resulted in a 16% drop in the rate of firearm homicides. Both the rate of handguns and rifles/shotguns decreased in 2006, while the rate of sawed-off rifles and shotguns doubled from 2005.

Note to readers

Aggregate statistics on homicide in Canada for 2006 were first released in The Daily on July 18, 2007, as part of a wide-ranging report on crime. This report represents a more detailed analysis of the homicide data.

The Criminal Code classifies homicide as first degree murder, second degree murder, manslaughter or infanticide. Deaths caused by criminal negligence, suicide, and accidental or justifiable homicide are not included.

The large majority of homicide victims were killed by someone they knew. About one-third of victims were killed by an acquaintance, 17% by a spouse, 19% by a family member other than a spouse and 12% by someone known through criminal activities. Strangers accounted for the remaining 17%, similar to previous years.

The rate of youth aged 12 to 17 accused of homicide was at its highest point since 1961. A total of 84 young people were accused of homicide in 2006, 12 more than in 2005. However, the number of victims killed by a youth remained virtually unchanged.

Shooting deaths down after three consecutive years of increases

Last year's decline in shooting deaths halted three consecutive years of increases. It also meant that stabbing deaths outnumbered homicides involving firearms. Some 210 victims, just over one-third of the total, were killed by stabbings, 20 more than the number killed by shootings.

Over the past 20 years, shootings and stabbings have each accounted for about one-third of all homicides. Prior to 1985, shootings were much more common than stabbings.

Among Canada's largest cities, Toronto experienced the most shooting deaths, with 34 in 2006. However, taking population into account, Toronto's firearm homicide rate was less than half that of Edmonton, the city with the highest rate.

The longer-term trend has been a decline since the mid-1970s in the rate of firearms used to commit homicide. However, trends differ depending on the type of firearm.

Prior to 1990, rifles/shotguns were used far more frequently than handguns. However, since the late 1970s, the use of rifles/shotguns began to decrease, while the use of handguns remained relatively stable. By 1991, the number of handgun homicides surpassed that of rifles/shotguns, and the gap has continued to grow since.

In 2006, handguns accounted for 108, or over half, of the 190 victims killed by a firearm. A further 36 victims were killed by a rifle/shotgun, 24 by a sawed-off rifle/shotgun and 22 by another or unknown type of firearm.

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Majority of recovered firearms were not registered

Of the 48 recovered firearms in 2006 where the registration status was known, police reported that the majority, 30, were not registered with the Canadian Firearms Centre, while 18 were registered.

Of the 45 recovered firearms where ownership could be determined, police reported that 26 were owned by the accused and 2 by the victim. The remaining 17 firearms were owned by someone other than the accused or victim, of which 10 were reported to have been stolen.

Slight increase in spousal homicides

Police reported 78 spousal homicides, 4 more than in 2005 and the first increase in the last five years. The spousal homicide rate has generally been declining since the mid-1970s. Spousal homicides are those that involve people who are married, separated or divorced, and people in common-law relationships, including same-sex spouses.

The increase in spousal homicides was due to an increase in the number of men killed by their wives, up from 12 in 2005 to 21 in 2006. The large majority of spousal homicides against men were committed by their common-law spouse.

However, women are still much more likely than men to be victims of spousal homicide. In 2006, a total of 56 women were killed by their husband, 6 fewer than in 2005 and the fifth consecutive annual decline. One-quarter of these were committed by a separated or divorced spouse.

Rate of youth accused of homicide highest since data first collected

The rate of youth accused of homicide was at its highest since data were first collected in 1961. The increase in the youth homicide rate in 2006 parallels the increase in the rate of youth crime overall between 2005 and 2006, including a 3% increase in total youth violent crime.

While the rate of youth accused reached an all-time high in 2006, 5 years ago the rate was at a 30-year low. Youth accused of homicide can vary greatly from year to year, due to the relatively small number of youth who commit homicide.

With 18 youths accused of homicide in 2006, Manitoba reported the highest rate of youth homicide in the country, more than double that of the next highest province. Manitoba and Alberta each reported that youths accounted for about 1 in 4 persons accused of homicide, the highest proportion among the provinces.

Gang involvement was more prevalent in homicides where youth were implicated. Police reported evidence of gang involvement among 22% of homicide incidents where at least one youth was accused, compared to 9% of incidents committed by adults.

One in six homicides were gang-related

In total, police reported 104 gang-related homicides in 2006, including both youths and adults. Gang-related homicides accounted for about 1 in every 6 homicides, similar to the previous year.

Half of these homicides occurred in the census metropolitan areas (CMAs) of Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver. The province of Quebec reported the highest proportion of homicides involving gangs, at just over 1 in 4.

Three-quarters of gang-related homicides in 2006 were committed with a firearm, usually a handgun, compared with less than one-quarter of non-gang-related homicides.

Homicide rates highest in the West

Historically, homicide rates have generally been higher in the Western provinces than in the East. In 2006, the four Western provinces—Saskatchewan, followed by Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia—recorded the highest rates among the provinces.

Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick recorded the lowest rates among the provinces. Quebec recorded its lowest homicide rate in 40 years.

With 9 homicides in 2006, Regina reported the highest rate (4.49 homicides per 100,000 population—corrected) among Canadian CMAs, followed by Edmonton (3.68). Toronto, Canada's largest CMA, reported a rate almost identical to the national average (1.83).

Bucking the national downward trend was the Ottawa – Gatineau area, which reported an unusually high number of homicides (25) in 2006. The rate of 3.10 in Gatineau was the highest in almost 20 years, and Ottawa's rate of 1.81 was the highest in over a decade.

Available on CANSIM: tables 253-0001 to 253-0006.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3315.

The Juristat: "Homicide in Canada, 2006," Vol. 27, no. 8 (85-002-XIE, free), is now available from our website. From the Publications module, under Free Internet publications, choose Crime and justice, then Juristat. A paper version (85-002-XPE, $11/$100) is also available. See How to order our products.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Client Services (toll-free 1-800-387-2231; 613-951-9023), Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.

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