Survey description

Data sources

General Social Survey – Victimization

In 2014, Statistics Canada conducted the victimization cycle of the General Social Survey (GSS) for the sixth time. Previous cycles were conducted in 1988, 1993, 1999, 2004 and 2009. The purpose of the survey is to provide data on Canadians’ personal experiences with eight offences, examine the risk factors associated with victimization, examine rates of reporting to the police, assess the nature and extent of spousal violence, measure fear of crime, and examine public perceptions of crime and the criminal justice system.

This report is based on Cycle 28 of the General Social Survey (GSS) on victimization conducted in 2014. The target population was persons aged 15 and over living in the 10 Canadian provinces, except for people living full-time in institutions. In 2014, the survey was also conducted in the three territories using a different sampling design; the results for these regions will be available in a separate report to be released in 2016.

Once a household was selected and contacted by phone, an individual 15 years or older was randomly selected to respond to the survey. An oversample of immigrants and youth was added to the 2014 GSS for a more detailed analysis of these groups.

In 2014, the sample size was 33,127 respondents. Of that number, 2,787 were from the oversample.

Data collection

Data collection took place from January to December 2014 inclusively. Responses were obtained by computer-assisted telephone interviews (CATI). Respondents were able to respond in the official language of their choice.

Response rates

The overall response rate was 52.9%, down from 61.6% in 2009. Non-respondents included people who refused to participate, could not be reached, or could not speak English or French. Respondents in the sample were weighted so that their responses represent the non-institutionalized Canadian population aged 15 and older.

Data limitations

As with any household survey, there are some data limitations. The results are based on a sample and are therefore subject to sampling errors. Somewhat different results might have been obtained if the entire population had been surveyed. This article uses the coefficient of variation (CV) as a measure of the sampling error. Estimates with a high CV (over 33.3%) were not published because they were too unreliable. In these cases, the symbol “F” is used in place of an estimate in the figures and data tables. Estimates with a CV between 16.6 and 33.3 should be used with caution and the symbol “E” is used. Where descriptive statistics and cross-tabular analyses were used, statistically significant differences were determined using 95% confidence intervals.

Incident-based Uniform Crime Reporting Survey

The Incident-based Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Survey collects detailed information on criminal incidents that have come to the attention of, and have been substantiated by Canadian police services. Information includes characteristics pertaining to incidents (weapon, location), victims (age, sex, perpetrator-victim relationships) and accused persons (age, sex). In 2014, data from police services covered 99% of the population of Canada. The count for a particular year represents incidents reported in that year, regardless of when the incident actually occurred.

The UCR Trend Database (2009 to 2014) represents 99% of police services in Canada. Analysis of this six-year trend database is limited to only those offences that have complete victim records and where UCR offence classification has remained constant over the six-year period. For the purpose of this Juristat article, the offences included in the trend analysis include attempted murder, physical assault (levels 1, 2, and 3) and sexual assault (levels 1, 2, and 3).

Homicide Survey

The Homicide Survey collects detailed information on all homicides that have come to the attention of, and have been substantiated by, Canadian police services. Information includes characteristics pertaining to incidents (weapon, location), victims (age, sex, accused-victim, relationship), and accused persons (age, sex). Coverage for the Homicide Survey has represented 100% of the population since recording began in 1961. The count for a particular year represents all homicides reported in that year, regardless of when the death actually occurred.


Assault (physical): refers to three levels of physical assaults which include the following categories:

Attempted murder: attempt by any means, including conspiracy, to commit murder.

Census metropolitan area (CMA): consists of one or more neighbouring municipalities situated around a major urban core. A CMA must have a total population of at least 100,000 of which 50,000 or more live in the urban core. To be included in the CMA, other adjacent municipalities must have a high degree of integration with the central urban area, as measured by commuting flows derived from census data. A CMA typically comprises more than one police service.

Criminal harassment: is defined as repeatedly following another person from place to place or repeatedly attempting to contact the person against their wishes causing that person to reasonably fear for their personal safety or the safety of anyone known to them.

Family and non-family: the nature of the relationship between the victim and the accused is determined by establishing the identity of the accused relative to the victim. Family members include spouses, children, siblings, parents or other persons related to the victim by blood, marriage or another legal relationship (e.g. adoption). All other relationships are considered to be non-family.

Homicide: includes first and second degree murder, manslaughter and infanticide. Deaths caused by criminal negligence, suicide, accidental or justifiable homicides are not included in this classification.

Intimate partner violence: violence committed by spouses and dating partners, that is violence committed within an intimate relationship. This category includes victims aged 15 to 89.

Major injuries: are those that require professional medical treatment or immediate transportation to a medical facility.

Minor injuries: are defined as those that do not require professional medical treatment or only some first aid.

Non-intimate partner violence: violence committed by a family member (parent, child, other immediate or extended family member), a friend, an acquaintance, an associate (in business or in a criminal relationship), an authority figure, a neighbour or a stranger. Includes victims under 90 years of age.

Older adults and seniors: are used interchangeably in this report and refer to Canadians aged 65 years or older. Victims aged 90 years and older are excluded from analyses due to instances of miscoding of unknown age within this age category.

Sexual offence: encompasses a wide range of criminal acts in the Criminal Code of Canada. Such conduct ranges from unwanted sexual touching to sexual violence resulting in serious physical injury or disfigurement to the victim. It also includes special categories of offences designed to protect children from sexual abuse:

Spouse: the husband or wife through marriage or common-law and includes same-sex partners. Where indicated, separated and/or divorced spouses are also included in this category. The separated or divorced category includes the former husband or wife (by marriage or by common law relationship) who is separated or divorced at the time of the criminal incident.

Spousal violence: violence committed against a spouse (married or common-law) or an ex-spouse (from a marriage or common-law relationship).

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