Homicide in Canada

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In 2010, police reported 554 homicides in Canada, 56 fewer than the year before. This decline follows a decade of relative stability. The homicide rate fell to 1.62 for every 100,000 population, its lowest level since 1966.

The overall drop in homicides was driven largely by fewer incidents in the western provinces. With 35 fewer homicides in 2010 than in 2009, the rate in British Columbia fell to its lowest point since the mid-1960s. Police in Alberta reported 18 fewer homicides, while those in Manitoba reported 12 fewer.

Homicides in Canada

Homicides in Canada

Chart description: Homicides in Canada

Despite declines, the highest rates of homicide in 2010 were in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Homicide rates have been generally higher in the western provinces and northern territories than in the eastern part of the country for many decades.

Police in several of the nation's largest census metropolitan areas reported substantially fewer homicides in 2010. The homicide rate in Vancouver, with 25 fewer killings, fell 42% to its lowest level since data in metropolitan areas became available in 1981.

Thunder Bay recorded the highest homicide rate for the second year in a row. The next highest rates were in Saskatoon and Regina.

Further decline in firearm homicides

Police reported 170 homicides with a firearm in 2010, down from 180 the year before. This is consistent with a general decline in firearm-related homicides seen over the past three decades.

Much of the decline in firearm-related homicides since the early 1980s can be attributed to a decrease in homicides involving rifles or shotguns. Rates of homicide involving rifles or shotguns in 2010 were about one-fifth of those seen 30 years ago.

Handguns accounted for 64% of homicides committed with a firearm in 2010, while rifles or shotguns accounted for 23%. Other firearms such as sawed-off shotguns, automatic firearms or other firearm-like weapons represented the remainder.

In 2010, one-half of all homicides in Toronto were committed with a firearm, compared with 44% in Vancouver and 33% in Montréal.

Stabbings (31%) were nearly as common in 2010 as shootings (32%). Another 22% of homicides involved beatings and 8% were by strangulation or suffocation. The remaining homicides used other means such as motor vehicles, fire and poisoning.

Gang-related homicides down for second year in a row

In 2010, 94 homicides were considered by police to be gang related, down from 124 in 2009 and the second annual decline. Gang-related homicides reached a record high of 138 in 2008.

Despite these recent declines, the rate of gang-related homicide has generally been increasing in all provinces since collection of this information began in 1991. The only exception is in Quebec, where gang-related homicide was at its highest in 2000.

About three-quarters of gang-related homicides were committed with a firearm. In addition, the motive of about 6 in 10 gang-related homicides was the settling of accounts.

Intimate partner homicides remain stable

In recent years, the number of intimate partner homicides, including spousal homicides, has been relatively stable. In 2010, there were 89 victims of homicide by an intimate partner, 1 more than the number reported in 2009.

In 2010, common-law spouses accounted for 45% of homicides committed by an intimate partner, followed by legal spouses and dating partners, both at 28%.

This was a considerable shift from the previous 10-year period when the largest share of people accused of killing an intimate partner was legal spouses, at 42%.

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

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3315.

The Juristat article "Homicide in Canada, 2010" (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 Information and Client Services (toll-free 1-800-387-2231; 613-951-9023), Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.