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Homicide in Canada

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Police reported 610 homicides in Canada during 2009, virtually unchanged from 2008. The number of gang-related homicides fell by 10% from the year before, but still accounted for 1 in 5 homicides in 2009.

Homicide rates peaked in mid-1970s

After peaking in the mid-1970s, the national homicide rate per 100,000 population generally declined until 1999 and has been relatively stable since.

In 2009, homicide victims were most likely to be stabbed. Police reported 210 homicides committed by stabbing, 179 by shooting, 116 by beating and 43 by strangulation or suffocation. About two-thirds of the firearm homicides were committed with a handgun.

As in previous years, the large majority of victims knew their killer. Of the 454 homicides that were solved by police in 2009, 14% were killed by a spouse, 19% by another family member, 39% by an acquaintance, 9% by someone known to them through a criminal relationship and 18% by a stranger.

Provincially, Manitoba had the highest homicide rate for the third consecutive year, followed by Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Alberta. Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador had the lowest rates.

Among census metropolitan areas (CMAs), Abbotsford–Mission had the highest homicide rate for the second straight year, followed by Thunder Bay and Winnipeg.

In 2009, 78 youth aged 12 to 17 were accused of committing homicide, 23 more than in 2008. It was the second highest rate per 100,000 youth in over 30 years.

Decline in gang-related homicides

Police reported 124 gang-related homicides in 2009, 14 fewer than in 2008. This decline was due mainly to a decrease in Alberta, where gang-related homicides dropped from 35 in 2008 to 13 in 2009.

Among the 10 largest CMAs, Winnipeg had the highest rate of gang-related homicides, followed by Vancouver. Police reported 30 gang-related homicides in Toronto, the most of any CMA. However, taking population into account, Toronto's rate per 100,000 population was third highest.

Firearm homicides down

Police reported 179 homicides committed with a firearm in 2009, 21 fewer than in 2008. In terms of rates, this was a 12% decline, reversing an upward trend recorded between 2002 and 2008. Prior to 2002, rates of firearm homicides had been declining since the mid-1970s.

Of the 179 firearm homicides, 112 involved handguns, 29 involved a rifle or shotgun and 14 a sawed-off rifle or shotgun. Declines were reported in all three of these categories in 2009.

Among the 10 largest CMAs, Vancouver and Toronto reported the highest rates of homicides committed with a firearm in 2009. Handguns remained the most common type of firearm involved in homicides in major metropolitan areas.

Two-thirds of recovered firearms not registered

Between 2005 and 2009, police recovered 253 firearms that were used to commit homicide where the registration status with the Canadian Firearms Registry could be determined.

Of these, 31% were registered and 69% were not registered. Of the firearms that were registered, 67% were rifles or shotguns, 22% were handguns and 12% were sawed-off rifles or shotguns.

Also during this five-year period, police were able to determine the ownership of the firearm in 212 homicide incidents. Of these, 49% were owned by the accused, 8% by the victim and 43% by another person.

Slight increase in spousal homicides

Police reported 65 spousal homicides in 2009, 3 more than in 2008. Despite this increase, the rate of spousal homicide has generally been declining since the mid-1970s.

Women continue to be about three times more likely to be victims of spousal homicide than men. In 2009, 49 women were killed by a current or former spouse, 4 more than in 2008, while 15 men were killed by a spouse, 2 fewer than in 2008. In addition, there was 1 same-sex spousal homicide.

Also, women continue to be more at risk than men of being killed by an ex-spouse. In 2009, 14 of the 49 female spousal victims were killed by a separated or divorced spouse, compared with 2 of the 15 male victims.

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

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3315.

The Juristat article "Homicide in Canada, 2009", Vol. 30, no. 3 (85-002-X, free), is now available. From the Key resource module of our website under Publications, choose All subjects, then Crime and Justice, and Juristat.

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.

Table 1

Homicides by census metropolitan area
Census metropolitan area 2009
  number rate1
500,000 and over population    
Winnipeg 32 4.15
Vancouver 61 2.62
Edmonton 30 2.58
Calgary 24 1.95
Toronto 90 1.61
Hamilton 9 1.26
Montréal 44 1.15
Ottawa² 10 1.08
Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo 4 0.77
Québec 2 0.27
100,000 to less than 500,000 population    
Abbotsford-Mission 9 5.22
Thunder Bay 6 5.01
Saguenay 5 3.44
Halifax 12 3.01
Kingston 4 2.52
Greater Sudbury 4 2.43
Saskatoon 6 2.26
Trois-Rivières 3 2.02
Regina 4 1.88
Kelowna 3 1.68
Windsor 5 1.51
Moncton 2 1.49
Brantford 2 1.44
St. Catharines–Niagara 5 1.13
Victoria 3 0.85
Peterborough 1 0.82
Guelph 1 0.81
Oshawa 3 0.75
Gatineau³ 2 0.66
London 3 0.61
Sherbrooke 1 0.54
Barrie 1 0.51
St. John's 0 0.00
Saint John 0 0.00
Rates are calculated per 100,000 population.
Ottawa refers to the Ontario part of the Ottawa–Gatineau CMA.
Gatineau refers to the Quebec part of the Ottawa–Gatineau CMA.

Table 2

Homicides by province and territory
  number rate1
Canada 610 1.81
Newfoundland and Labrador 1 0.20
Prince Edward Island 0 0.00
Nova Scotia 15 1.60
New Brunswick 12 1.60
Quebec 88 1.12
Ontario 178 1.36
Manitoba 57 4.66
Saskatchewan 36 3.49
Alberta 95 2.58
British Columbia 118 2.65
Yukon 2 5.94
Northwest Territories 2 4.60
Nunavut 6 18.64
Rates are calculated per 100,000 population.