Police-reported crime statistics in Canada, 2017

by Mary Allen

Release date: July 23, 2018

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Highlights

  • Police-reported crime in Canada, as measured by the Crime Severity Index (CSI), increased for the third consecutive year in 2017. The CSI measures the volume and severity of police-reported crime in Canada, and has a base index value of 100 for 2006. In 2017, the national CSI increased 2% from 71.7 in 2016 to 72.9, but the index was 24% lower than a decade earlier in 2007.
  • The change in the CSI in 2017 was the result of increases in police-reported rates of numerous offences, most notably sexual assault (level 1), possession of stolen property, motor vehicle theft, and homicide. A 2% decline in the rate of breaking and entering mitigated the impact of these increases on the CSI.
  • At 5,334 incidents per 100,000 population, the police-reported crime rate—which measures the volume of police-reported crime—increased 1% in 2017. This rate was 23% lower than a decade earlier in 2007.
  • There were over 1.9 million police-reported Criminal Code incidents (excluding traffic) reported by police in 2017, almost 45,300 more incidents than in 2016.
  • In 2017, the overall volume and severity of violent crime—as measured by the violent CSI (or VCSI)—was 80.3, 5% higher than the previous year. More than half of the increase was the result of increases in the rates of police-reported incidents of sexual assault (level 1), homicide, and robbery. The police-reported violent crime rate, which measures the volume of violent police-reported crime, increased 3% to 1,098 incidents per 100,000 population. Rates for almost all violent violations increased.
  • The overall volume and severity of non-violent crime—as measured by the non-violent CSI (or NVCSI)—remained unchanged in 2017 as increases in the possession of stolen property and motor vehicle theft were offset by a decline in other offences, particularly breaking and entering.
  • After notable increases in property offences in 2015, there was no noticeable change in the overall rate of police-reported property crime in 2016 and a 1% increase in 2017. The property offences with notable increases in 2017 were possession of stolen property (+15%), theft of $5,000 or over (+10%) and motor vehicle theft (+6%). However, their overall impact on the rate of property crime was offset by a 2% decline in breaking and entering.
  • The rate of fraud continued to increase for the sixth year in a row, with a 2% increase between 2016 and 2017, marking a 14% increase over the rate reported a decade previously.
  • Most provinces and territories reported higher CSIs in 2017 compared to the previous year. Increases in each of the territories were generally small (+1% in Yukon and Nunavut, and +2% in the Northwest Territories). While the CSI increased 2% in Quebec and 3% in Manitoba, larger increases were reported in New Brunswick (+11%), Nova Scotia (+6%), Ontario (+5%) and Alberta (+5%). Four provinces reported decreases in their CSIs: Newfoundland and Labrador (-9%), Prince Edward Island (-7%), Saskatchewan (-6%) and British Columbia (-5%).
  • In 2017, more than half of Canada’s census metropolitan areas (CMAs) reported increases in their CSI values. The largest increases were recorded in the CMAs of Greater Sudbury (+25%), Moncton (+15%), Guelph (+15%), and Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo (+14%). The CMAs with the largest declines in CSI were St. John’s (-15%), Regina (-11%), and Vancouver (-6%).
  • In 2017, police reported 660 homicides, 48 more than the previous year. This represents a 7% increase in the homicide rate from 1.69 homicides per 100,000 population in 2016 to 1.80 homicides per 100,000 population in 2017. The increase in the national number of homicides is primarily the result of notably more homicides in British Columbia (+30) and Quebec (+26). In contrast, the largest decreases in the number of homicides were seen in Saskatchewan (-17) and Ontario (-10).
  • The rate of attempted murder increased 4% between 2016 and 2017 (+41 victims). This was primarily due to 49 more attempted murders in the province of Quebec, most of which are attributable to the 2017 shooting incident at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Québec. Attempted murders also increased in Ontario (+25). The national increase in 2017 was tempered by 24 fewer attempted murders in Saskatchewan.
  • Police-reported rates of cannabis-related drug offences declined for the sixth consecutive year in 2017. The combined rate of possession, trafficking, production and importation or exportation of cannabis declined 15% from 2016 with all provinces and territories reporting declines.
  • The rate of police-reported impaired driving decreased by 4% in 2017 to 188 incidents per 100,000 population, representing the sixth consecutive decline. The decline, however, was driven by a decline in alcohol-impaired driving (-5%), as the rate of drug-impaired driving increased 10%.
  • There were 3,489 incidents of police-reported drug-impaired driving in 2017, 353 more than the previous year. The rate of drug-impaired driving (10 per 100,000 population) remained low compared to the rate of alcohol-impaired driving (179 per 100,000 population). In 2017, rates of police-reported drug-impaired driving increased in all provinces and territories except Nova Scotia.
  • In 2017, the youth Crime Severity Index (YCSI), which measures both the volume and severity of crimes involving youth accused (both charged and not charged), increased 3%. This was the first notable increase in the youth CSI since 2007. Over half of the increase was due to higher rates of youth accused of robbery (+13%) and homicide (+108% from 24 to 50 homicides). Increases in the rate of youth accused of sexual assault (level 1) and sexual violations against children also contributed to the rise. The increase in the YCSI was partly offset by declines in breaking and entering (-7%) and attempted murder (-53%).
  • The violent youth CSI increased 12% in 2017 due to increases in robbery and homicide as well as sexual assault (level 1) and sexual violations against children. The non-violent youth CSI declined 4% primarily as a result of the decline in youth accused of breaking and entering and theft of $5,000 or under.

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Since 1962, Statistics Canada has collected information on all criminal incidents reported by Canadian police services through its annual Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Survey.Note In addition to the UCR Survey, Statistics Canada also collects information on victims of crime through the General Social Survey (GSS) on Canadians’ Safety (Victimization), conducted every five years. Unlike the UCR Survey, the GSS on Victimization collects data on victims’ self-reported experiences with crime which include incidents that may not have been brought to the attention of the police. These complementary surveys are the main sources of data on crime in Canada.

This Juristat article presents findings from the 2017 UCR Survey.Note In order to make comparisons across police services and over time, crime counts within the article are based on the most serious violation in a criminal incident (see “Key terminology and definitions”). This article explores trends in the volume and severity of police-reported crime at the national, provincial/territorial and census metropolitan area levels. In addition, the article presents more detailed information on changes in violent and non-violent criminal offences as well as impaired driving and drug offences. Finally, the article looks at trends in youth accused of crime.Note

Police-reported crime statistics within the context of 2017

Police-reported crime statistics are based on what is reported to the police and are affected by large-scale criminal events, social movements or changes in legislation, policies and procedures (Text box 3). There were a few particularly significant events that occurred in Canada in 2017 that provide context to the national statistics that year.

In January 2017, a mass shooting occurred at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebéc. The attack resulted in six homicides and 40 attempted murders (Perreaux 2018; Mathieu 2017). This incident accounts for increases in attempted murder rates not only for Québec (the city) and the province of Quebec, but for the nation. Also during 2017, there was significant attention in news reports and social media such as #MeToo and Time’s Up that raised awareness of the prevalence of sexual assault and sexual harassment and demanded accountability. This public attention may have resulted in more victims deciding to report their victimization to police (see, for example, Coubrough 2018; Winiewski 2017; Laframboise 2017). In addition, media reports on the differences in how police classify sexual assaults as founded or unfounded resulted in file reviews by police and renewed commitment to victims (Doolittle 2017; Doolittle et al. 2017; Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police 2017). These events may have contributed to increases in reported sexual assaults across many parts of Canada for 2017. In this context, a detailed examination of the increase in police-reported sexual assault is planned for release in Fall 2018.

Police-reported crime in Canada

Canada’s Crime Severity Index increased for third year in a row

The Crime Severity Index (CSI) measures both the volume and severity of police-reported crime in Canada and has a base index value of 100 for 2006 (see Text box 1). Canada’s CSI increased 2% from 71.7 in 2016 to 72.9 in 2017, marking the third consecutive annual increase (Table 1a). Between 1998 and 2014, Canada’s CSI steadily declined, with the exception of a 3% increase reported in 2003. In 2015, the CSI increased 5%, followed by smaller increases in 2016 and 2017 (Chart 1). Despite these recent increases, the 2017 CSI was 24% lower than a decade prior in 2007.

Chart 1

Data table for Chart 1

Data table for Chart 1
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 1. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), Crime Severity Index, Violent Crime Severity Index and Non-violent Crime Severity Index, calculated using index units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Year Crime Severity Index Violent Crime Severity Index Non-violent Crime Severity Index
index
1998 119 98 127
1999 111 99 116
2000 107 98 110
2001 105 97 108
2002 104 96 107
2003 107 98 110
2004 104 96 107
2005 101 99 102
2006 100 100 100
2007 95 98 94
2008 91 95 89
2009 88 94 85
2010 83 89 81
2011 78 86 74
2012 75 82 73
2013 69 74 67
2014 67 71 65
2015 70 75 68
2016 72 77 70
2017 73 80 70

The 2% rise in the CSI in 2017 was the result of increases in police-reported rates of numerous offences, most notably sexual assault (level 1), possession of stolen property, motor vehicle theft, and homicide. A 2% decline in the rate of breaking and entering mitigated the impact of these increases on the CSI. As noted above, increased public attention to issues of sexual assault as well as changes in the response by police to accusations of sexual assault may have contributed to the increase in reported sexual assaults for 2017.

At 5,334 incidents per 100,000 population, the police-reported crime rate—which measures the volume of crime per 100,000 population—increased 1% in 2017 (Table 1b). Like the CSI, Canada’s crime rate was on a downward trend until a 3% increase in 2015, with small increases since (Chart 2). Canada’s 2017 crime rate was 23% lower than in 2007.

Chart 2

Data table for Chart 2

Data table for Chart 2
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 2. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), Total, Violent crimes, Property crimes and Other crimes, calculated using rate per 100,000 population units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Year Total Violent crimes Property crimes Other crimes
rate per 100,000 population
1962 2,771 221 1,891 659
1963 3,022 249 2,047 726
1964 3,245 284 2,146 815
1965 3,199 299 2,091 809
1966 3,511 347 2,258 907
1967 3,850 381 2,484 985
1968 4,336 423 2,826 1,087
1969 4,737 453 3,120 1,164
1970 5,212 481 3,515 1,217
1971 5,311 492 3,649 1,170
1972 5,355 497 3,634 1,224
1973 5,773 524 3,704 1,546
1974 6,388 553 4,151 1,684
1975 6,852 585 4,498 1,769
1976 6,984 584 4,533 1,867
1977 6,971 572 4,466 1,933
1978 7,154 580 4,579 1,995
1979 7,666 610 4,903 2,153
1980 8,343 636 5,444 2,263
1981 8,736 654 5,759 2,322
1982 8,773 671 5,840 2,262
1983 8,470 679 5,608 2,182
1984 8,387 701 5,501 2,185
1985 8,413 735 5,451 2,227
1986 8,727 785 5,550 2,392
1987 8,957 829 5,553 2,575
1988 8,919 868 5,439 2,613
1989 8,892 911 5,289 2,692
1990 9,485 973 5,612 2,900
1991 10,342 1,059 6,160 3,122
1992 10,040 1,084 5,904 3,052
1993 9,538 1,082 5,575 2,881
1994 9,125 1,047 5,257 2,821
1995 9,008 1,009 5,292 2,707
1996 8,932 1,002 5,274 2,656
1997 8,475 993 4,880 2,603
1998 8,093 995 4,569 2,529
1999 7,695 971 4,276 2,449
2000 7,610 996 4,081 2,534
2001 7,592 995 4,004 2,593
2002 7,516 980 3,976 2,560
2003 7,773 978 4,125 2,670
2004 7,601 957 3,976 2,668
2005 7,326 962 3,744 2,620
2006 7,246 968 3,605 2,673
2007 6,908 952 3,335 2,621
2008 6,632 938 3,096 2,598
2009 6,462 926 3,005 2,531
2010 6,160 907 2,802 2,451
2011 5,780 869 2,586 2,324
2012 5,633 842 2,521 2,270
2013 5,196 767 2,344 2,085
2014 5,048 734 2,321 1,992
2015 5,213 753 2,428 2,033
2016 5,275 765 2,479 2,030
2017 5,334 785 2,507 2,042

Canadian police services reported over 1.9 million Criminal Code incidents (excluding traffic) in 2017, almost 45,300 more incidents than in 2016. In addition to these incidents, there were about 125,400 Criminal Code traffic offences, about 90,600 Controlled Drugs and Substances Act offences, and almost 30,800 other federal statute violations (such as the Youth Criminal Justice Act and the Income Tax Act) recorded by police in 2017. In total, there were just over 2.2 million police-reported Criminal Code and “other federal statute” incidents in 2017.

Although the CSI and the crime rate are separate measures, with the CSI accounting not only for volume but also changes in the relative severity of police-reported crime (see Text box 1), both measures show similar trends in police-reported crime in Canada since 1998, the earliest year for which the CSI was calculated.

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Text box 1
Measuring police-reported crime

In Canada, there are two complementary ways to measure police-reported crime: the traditional crime rate and the Crime Severity Index (CSI). While both measures take into account the volume of police-reported crime, the CSI also accounts for the severity of crime. Both the traditional crime rate and the CSI measure crime based on the most serious violation in the criminal incident (see “Survey description” for more details). The most serious violation is determined by criteria in the following order of priority: violations against a person take precedence over violations not against a person; the greatest maximum penalty prescribed by law; violations causing death take precedence over other violations with the same maximum penalty; or, if the above rules do not break a tie, the police service uses discretion to determine which is the most serious violation in the incident.Note

Crime rate

The traditional crime rate has been used to measure police-reported crime in Canada since 1962, and it is generally expressed as a rate per 100,000 population. The crime rate is calculated by summing all Criminal Code incidents reported by the police and dividing by the population. The crime rate excludes Criminal Code traffic violations, as well as other federal statute violations such as drug offences.

To calculate the traditional police-reported crime rate, all offences are counted equally, regardless of their severity. For example, one incident of homicide is counted as equivalent to one incident of theft. As such, one limitation of the traditional crime rate is that it can easily fluctuate as a result of variations in high-volume but less serious offences, such as theft of $5,000 or under or mischief. In other words, a large decline in frequent but less serious violations may cause the police-reported crime rate to decrease even when the number of more serious but lesser volume incidents, such as homicides or robberies, increased.

In addition to the overall crime rate, rates are calculated for violent crime, property crime and other Criminal Code offences. Further, the rates of youth who have either been charged by police or dealt with through the use of extrajudicial measures are available for all crime categories.

Crime Severity Index

The Crime Severity Index (CSI) was developed to address the limitation of the police-reported crime rate being driven by high-volume, relatively less serious offences. The CSI not only takes into account the volume of crime, but also the relative severity of crime.

In order to calculate the police-reported CSI, each violation is assigned a weight. CSI weights are based on the violation’s incarceration rate, as well as the average length of prison sentence handed down by criminal courts.Note The more serious the average sentence, the higher the weight assigned to the offence, meaning that the more serious offences have a greater impact on the index. Unlike the traditional crime rate, all offences, including Criminal Code traffic violations and other federal statute violations such as drug offences, are included in the CSI.

To calculate the CSI, the weighted offences are summed and then divided by the population. Similar to other indexes (e.g., Consumer Price Index), to allow for ease of comparison, the CSI is then standardized to a base year of “100” (for the CSI, the base year is 2006). All CSI values are relative to the Canada-level CSI for 2006. CSI values are available back to 1998.

In addition to the overall CSI, both a violent CSI (VCSI) and a non-violent CSI (NVCSI) have been created, which like the overall CSI are available back to 1998. The VCSI is comprised of all police-reported violent violations, and the NVCSI is comprised of all police-reported property violations, other Criminal Code violations, Criminal Code traffic violations, and other federal statute violations. All types of CSI measures are also available for youth who have been accused of a crime (charged and not charged).

To adjust to changes in sentencing patterns, and Criminal Code and other federal statutes, the weights are updated every five years. The most recent update was carried out in 2018 and applies to 2016 revised and 2017 data presented in this article.

For more information on the CSI, see Measuring Crime in Canada: Introducing the Crime Severity Index and Improvements to the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey (Wallace et al. 2009), The Methodology of the Police-Reported Crime Severity Index (Babyak et al. 2009), Updating the Police-Reported Crime Severity Index Weights: Refinements to the Methodology (Babyak et al. 2013) and the “Measuring Crime in Canada: A detailed look at the Crime Severity Index” video (Statistics Canada 2016).

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Nine of thirteen provinces and territories reported increases in Crime Severity Index

Between 2016 and 2017, nine of Canada’s thirteen provinces and territories reported increases in their CSI. In order of magnitude, the provinces which reported increases were: New Brunswick (+11%), Nova Scotia (+6%), Alberta (+5%), Ontario (+5%), Manitoba (+3%), and Quebec (+2%) (Table 2a). The Northwest Territories had a 2% increase, and Yukon and Nunavut reported 1% increases in their CSIs. The notable increase in CSI in New Brunswick was mostly the result of increases in fraud and breaking and entering; in Nova Scotia, fraud, followed by homicide and sexual assault (level 1) were the main contributors to the increase. Increases in sexual assault (level 1) were also important contributors to increased CSIs in Quebec, Ontario and the Northwest Territories.

As in previous years, a change in the rate of breaking and entering was a contributing factor behind increases or decreases in CSIs for almost all provinces and territories (see Text box 2). In Newfoundland and Labrador, a large decrease in the rate of breaking and entering (-21%) was the main contributor to the 9% drop in the CSI. It was also the main driver of the 5% decrease in British Columbia. In Prince Edward Island, a 7% CSI drop was the result of notable decreases in fraud, theft of $5,000 or under as well as breaking and entering.

In Saskatchewan, decreases in homicide, fraud, and breaking and entering contributed to a 6% decline in the CSI. The decrease in the CSI in Saskatchewan is also partly attributable to a change in the classification of some incidents involving alcohol consumption on a dry reserve. These incidents were previously reported by some police services as violations under the Indian Act and included in “other federal statues”. In 2017, these detachments were advised that the Federal Prosecutors will no longer prosecute Indigenous community by-law infractions under the Indian Act; therefore, these detachments started reporting these types of offences as mischief or disturbing the peace under the Criminal Code, which have a lower weight in the CSI than federal statute offences. A 48% increase in violent firearms offences slightly offset the decrease in CSI in Saskatchewan.

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Text box 2
Violations contributing to the change in the Crime Severity Index (CSI) between 2016 and 2017, by province and territory


Text box 2
Violations contributing to the change in the Crime Severity Index (CSI), by province and territory, Canada, 2016 and 2017
Table summary
This table displays the results of Violations contributing to the change in the Crime Severity Index (CSI). The information is grouped by Province or territory (appearing as row headers), Percent change in CSI from 2016 to 2017 and Violations driving the change in CSI (appearing as column headers).
Province or territory Percent change in CSI from 2016 to 2017 Violations driving the change in CSI
Canada 2 Sexual assault (level 1), possession of stolen property, motor vehicle theft, homicide; offset by decrease in breaking and entering
Newfoundland and Labrador -9 Breaking and entering
Prince Edward Island -7 Fraud, theft of $5,000 or under, breaking and entering
Nova Scotia 6 Fraud, homicide, sexual assault (level 1)
New Brunswick 11 Fraud, breaking and entering
Quebec 2 Sexual assault (level 1), sexual violations against children, homicide; offset by decrease in breaking and entering
Ontario 5 Robbery, theft of $5,000 or under, breaking and entering, sexual assault (level 1)
Manitoba 3 Robbery, theft of $5,000 or under
SaskatchewanText box Note 1 -6 Homicide, fraud, breaking and entering
Alberta 5 Breaking and entering, possession of stolen property
British Columbia -5 Breaking and entering, child pornography, theft of $5,000 or under, robbery, partially offset by increase in homicide
Yukon 1 Homicide; offset by decrease in breaking and entering
Northwest Territories 2 Sexual assault (level 1), sexual violations against children, assault (levels 1 and 3); offset by decreases in mischief and motor vehicle theft
Nunavut 1 Homicide; offset by decreases in breaking and entering and attempted murder

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Similar to previous years, CSI values and crime rates were highest in the Territories (Table 2b). In all three territories, a large part of the difference between the territorial and the national CSI can be explained by relatively high numbers of incidents of mischief, which accounted for 35% of Criminal Code incidents (excluding traffic) in the Territories (compared to 13% nationally). The Northwest Territories and Nunavut reported the highest CSIs (303.8 and 297.6, respectively) and crime rates (40,914 and 34,948 incidents per 100,000 population, respectively).

Despite some fluctuations over the years, almost all provinces and territories reported lower CSIs and lower crime rates in 2017 than in 2007 (Charts 3 to 6). Only Yukon reported a higher CSI in 2017 than 10 years before. The CSI for Yukon was 2% higher than in 2007 and there was no change in the crime rate. The increase in CSI was primarily the result of the 8 homicides reported by Yukon in 2017 compared to 2 in 2007. While the CSI for Nunavut was 6% lower than in 2007, the crime rate was 16% higher.Note

Chart 3

Data table for Chart 3

Data table for Chart 3
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 3. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Canada, calculated using Crime Severity Index units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Year Newfoundland and Labrador Prince Edward Island Nova Scotia New Brunswick Canada
Crime Severity Index
1998 76 73 105 90 119
1999 69 79 105 90 111
2000 70 76 95 85 107
2001 69 75 93 83 105
2002 71 85 94 85 104
2003 74 91 101 88 107
2004 79 82 107 88 104
2005 79 77 102 80 101
2006 73 72 101 74 100
2007 75 64 92 71 95
2008 71 69 84 72 91
2009 71 66 84 71 88
2010 79 66 84 69 83
2011 72 67 79 66 78
2012 68 73 77 68 75
2013 68 65 70 60 69
2014 62 55 67 56 67
2015 66 50 63 63 70
2016 69 49 62 62 72
2017 63 45 66 69 73

Chart 4

Data table for Chart 4

Data table for Chart 4
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 4. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia and Canada, calculated using Crime Severity Index units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Year Quebec Ontario British Columbia Canada
Crime Severity Index
1998 113 101 167 119
1999 104 92 156 111
2000 102 89 145 107
2001 97 87 147 105
2002 94 85 148 104
2003 93 83 155 107
2004 90 78 153 104
2005 90 77 146 101
2006 91 79 140 100
2007 85 75 132 95
2008 83 71 122 91
2009 81 69 112 88
2010 76 66 104 83
2011 73 61 97 78
2012 70 59 95 75
2013 62 52 88 69
2014 57 50 91 67
2015 56 51 94 70
2016 56 53 94 72
2017 57 55 89 73

Chart 5

Data table for Chart 5

Data table for Chart 5
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 5. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Canada, calculated using Crime Severity Index units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Year Manitoba Saskatchewan Alberta Canada
Crime Severity Index
1998 154 176 123 119
1999 153 167 119 111
2000 150 169 111 107
2001 153 176 115 105
2002 148 176 116 104
2003 161 200 125 107
2004 163 192 124 104
2005 157 181 122 101
2006 156 171 116 100
2007 151 165 114 95
2008 130 153 112 91
2009 138 150 106 88
2010 127 148 98 83
2011 116 144 88 78
2012 114 139 86 75
2013 101 126 85 69
2014 97 124 87 67
2015 106 137 104 70
2016 115 150 105 72
2017 118 141 110 73

Chart 6

Data table for Chart 6

Data table for Chart 6
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 6. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Canada, calculated using Crime Severity Index units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Year Yukon Northwest Territories Nunavut Canada
Crime Severity Index
1998 226 267 Note ...: not applicable 119
1999 230 255 219 111
2000 268 252 250 107
2001 249 260 289 105
2002 264 297 319 104
2003 259 339 361 107
2004 245 353 372 104
2005 199 343 327 101
2006 180 316 280 100
2007 186 336 316 95
2008 183 343 327 91
2009 181 326 333 88
2010 171 348 343 83
2011 155 342 315 78
2012 157 339 318 75
2013 170 315 285 69
2014 189 290 283 67
2015 185 322 274 70
2016 188 298 293 72
2017 189 304 298 73

Rural rates of police-reported crime are higher than urban rates

In 2017, 17% of Canada’s population was served by rural police services.Note However, 25% of violent crime, 18% of property crime and 24% of other Criminal Code offences were reported by rural police. Overall, 21% of crime in 2017 took place in rural Canada.

At the national level, the rate of crime is higher among rural populations. The rate of violent crime was 63% higher in rural communities than in urban areas in 2017 (1,620 versus 995). In addition, the rate of property crime was 10% higher (3,523 versus 3,190 incidents per 100,000 population) and the rate of other Criminal Code offences was 61% higher (1,447 versus 897). As a result, the overall crime rate in 2017 was 30% higher in rural than in urban areas (6,591 versus 5,082 incidents per 100,000 population).

Overall, urban and rural crime in Canada have followed similar trends since 2009. Between 2016 and 2017, the rural crime rate declined 1% while urban crime increased 2%. Violent, property and other crime all decreased in rural areas, while rates among urban populations increased.

Higher rate of rural crime in Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan

In 2017, relatively high rural crime rates were reported in Manitoba (42% higher than the province’s urban crime rate), Alberta (38% higher) and Saskatchewan (36% higher).Together, these three provinces accounted for 47% of Canada’s rural crime in 2017. In particular, Saskatchewan and Manitoba each accounted for 7% of Canada’s rural population, but 15% and 12% of rural crime, respectively. Similarly, Alberta accounted for 12% of the rural population, but 21% of rural crime.

In Manitoba and Saskatchewan, the high rates of rural crime were the results of higher rates of all types of crime (violent, property and other crime). In Alberta, however, the difference was largely due to high rates of property crime.

Newfoundland and Labrador was the only other province to report a rural crime rate that was notably higher than the urban crime rate in 2017 (11% higher). In Quebec, rural crime was slightly higher than urban crime in 2017 (1% higher).

More than half of Canada’s census metropolitan areas recorded increases in the severity of police-reported crime

Between 2016 and 2017, more than half of Canada’s census metropolitan areas (CMAs) reported increases in their CSI (Table 3).Note The largest increases in CSI were recorded in the CMAs of Greater Sudbury (+25%), Moncton (+15%), Guelph (+15%), and Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo (+14%). Among other offences, breaking and entering and fraud were important contributors to the increases in all of these CMAs (see Table 5). Relatively large increases in sexual assault (level 1) had an impact on CSIs—either driving increases or offsetting declines—in Brantford, Kingston, Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo, Guelph, London, Gatineau, Montréal, Sherbrooke, and Halifax.

The largest decreases in CSI were reported in St. John’s (-15%), Regina (-11%) and Vancouver (-6%). Lower rates of breaking and entering were again important drivers of the changes in all three of these cities. In Regina, a decrease in robbery also contributed to the decline. In Vancouver, in addition to lower rates of breaking and entering, declines in theft of $5,000 or under and child pornography were also factors in the city’s lower CSI for 2017. Decreases in CSIs were also reported in Peterborough, Victoria, Kelowna, Saguenay, Abbotsford-Mission, Saskatoon, and Brantford.

The CMAs with the lowest CSIs continued to be Barrie (45.3), Québec (48.5) and Toronto (48.7). While there was no change in the CSI for Barrie in 2017, both Québec and Toronto reported increases (+8% and +3%, respectively). The increase in Québec was partly the result of notable increases in attempted murder and homicide (which are largely attributable to the shooting at the Grand Mosque in Quebéc in January 2017), and fraud. In Toronto, the increase was partly due to increased rates of theft of $5,000 or under, robbery, and breaking and entering.

Saskatoon (115.0), Edmonton (112.3) and Regina (111.9) were the CMAs with the highest CSIs in 2017, as has been the case since 2015 (Chart 7). They also had the highest crime rates in 2017 (Table 4). Relatively high CSIs were also recorded in Winnipeg (106.9), Kelowna (98.2), Abbotsford-Mission (88.8), and Vancouver (88.2).

 

Chart 7

Data table for Chart 7

Data table for Chart 7
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 7. The information is grouped by Census metropolitan area (appearing as row headers), Crime Severity Index (appearing as column headers).
Census metropolitan areaData table Note 1 Data table Note 2 Data table Note 3 Crime Severity Index
St. John’s 66.8
Halifax 64.4
Moncton 85.8
Saint John 56.5
Saguenay 55.4
Québec 48.5
Sherbrooke 51.9
Trois-Rivières 53.1
Montréal 58.2
GatineauData table Note 4 56.7
OttawaData table Note 5 50.8
Kingston 61.2
Peterborough 53.4
Toronto 48.7
Hamilton 58.4
St. Catharines–Niagara 56.2
Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo 69.9
Brantford 86.3
Guelph 64.3
London 69.9
Windsor 71.7
Barrie 45.3
Greater Sudbury 83.5
Thunder Bay 85.7
Winnipeg 106.9
Regina 111.9
Saskatoon 115.0
Calgary 81.8
Edmonton 112.3
Kelowna 98.2
Abbotsford–Mission 88.8
Vancouver 88.2
Victoria 62.4
Canada 72.9

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Text box 3
Factors influencing police-reported crime

There are many factors that influence police-reported crime statistics. First, an incident must come to the attention of police. The decision by an individual to report criminal incidents to police has a considerable impact on the number of crimes ultimately recorded by police. The 2014 General Social Survey on Canadians’ Safety (Victimization), which provides the most recent information on Canadians’ crime reporting behaviour for selected offences, indicated that about one-third (31%) of crimes are reported to police (see Text box 5 for more detail on the reasons for not reporting).

Second, differences between individual police services, such as available resources or departmental priorities, policies and procedures can also have an effect on police-reported crime. For instance, as a crime prevention measure, some police services have implemented initiatives to focus attention on prolific or repeat offenders within the community. Moreover, certain crimes such as impaired driving and drug offences can be notably affected by a police service’s enforcement practices, with some police services devoting more resources to these specific types of crime. Some police services may also make greater or lesser use of municipal bylaws or provincial statutes to respond to minor offences such as mischief and disturbing the peace.

Third, and more broadly, social and economic factors can influence the volume of crime at a national, regional, municipal or neighbourhood level. In particular, crime rates can be affected by changes in age demographics (Stevens et al. 2013; Carrington 2001), economic conditions (Andresen 2012; Phillips and Land 2012; Pottie-Bunge et al. 2005), neighbourhood characteristics (Livingston et al. 2014; Charron 2011; Savoie 2008), the emergence of new technologies (Wall 2010; Nuth 2008) and Canadians’ attitudes toward crime and risky behaviour (Ouimet 2004).

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Violent crime

In 2017, violent crimes continued to account for about one-fifth (21%) of all police-reported Criminal Code offences (excluding traffic). There were over 403,000 police-reported violent incidents in 2017, almost 15,000 more than the previous year. In 2017, the violent crime rate in Canada was 1,098 violent incidents per 100,000 population, 3% higher than in 2016, but 19% lower than a decade earlier (Table 1b). Rates for most police-reported violent violations increased between 2016 and 2017.

In this article, violent crime refers to those violations in the Criminal Code identified as crimes against the person, as opposed to property crimes and other Criminal Code violations such as offences against the administration of justice.Note

National violent Crime Severity Index increased 5% in 2017

In 2017, the overall volume and severity of violent crime—as measured by the violent Crime Severity Index (or VCSI)—was 80.3, a 5% increase over 2016, but 18% lower than in 2007. The VCSI fell every year between 2007 and 2014 before increasing in the three following years. More than half of the increase in the VCSI in 2017 was the result of the increases in police-reported sexual assault (level 1), homicide, and robbery.

The volume and severity of violent crime increased in most provinces and territories in 2017, with the exception of Saskatchewan (-5%) and Newfoundland and Labrador (-5%) (Table 2a). In Saskatchewan, the decline was primarily driven by fewer homicides, and offset somewhat by an increase in violent firearms offences such as discharging a firearm with intent. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the lower VCSI was the result of decreases in homicide and robbery, partly offset by an increase in sexual assault (level 1).

The largest increases in VCSI were in Nova Scotia (+11%), Nunavut (+10%), and Yukon (+9%). In Nova Scotia, the increase was due to higher rates of homicide, sexual assault (level 1) and robbery, partially offset by a drop in offenses related to the commodification of sexual activity. In Nunavut and Yukon, the higher VCSIs were primarily attributable to increases in homicide. Homicides also contributed to increased VCSIs in Alberta and Quebec. Increases in rates of sexual assault (level 1) also contributed to increases in VCSI in New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and the Northwest Territories. Various other offences also contributed to the increases in these jurisdictions. In British Columbia, the VCSI remained stable as increases in homicide and sexual assault (level 1) were offset by a decline in robbery (see Text box 4).

Increases in VCSIs were reported in 24 out of 33 census metropolitan areas (CMAs) (Table 3). Notably large increases were reported in Kingston (+53%), Québec (+24%), Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo (+23%), Trois-Rivières (+22%), Greater Sudbury (+20%), and St. Catharines-Niagara (+20%). These large increases were driven by various offences, most often increases in homicide, attempted murder, or sexual offences.

The largest decrease in VCSI among the CMAs was in Regina (-18%) driven by a 34% decrease in robbery as well as a 40% drop in attempted murders. Among the other CMAs which reported decreases in VCSI, the main drivers were declines in homicide (Saint John, Saguenay, Peterborough, and Saskatoon) or robbery (St. John’s, Moncton, Kelowna, and Vancouver).

In 2017, the CMAs with the highest VCSIs were Winnipeg (153.5), Thunder Bay (140.7), Saskatoon (107.9), and Edmonton (107.0). In spite of increases in violent crime, the lowest VCSIs were reported in St. Catharines-Niagara (46.2), Barrie (54.0), and Trois-Rivières (56.8). St. Catharines-Niagara also reported the lowest violent crime rate in 2017 (Table 4; Chart 8).

Chart 8

Data table for Chart 8

Data table for Chart 8
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 8. The information is grouped by Census metropolitan area (appearing as row headers), Violent Crime Severity Index (appearing as column headers).
Census metropolitan areaData table Note 1 Data table Note 2 Data table Note 3 Violent Crime Severity Index
St. John’s 84.1
Halifax 86.7
Moncton 72.8
Saint John 71.9
Saguenay 59.2
Québec 63.9
Sherbrooke 59.5
Trois-Rivières 56.8
Montréal 73.7
GatineauData table Note 4 68.3
OttawaData table Note 5 64.4
Kingston 61.6
Peterborough 69.3
Toronto 71.6
Hamilton 74.7
St. Catharines–Niagara 46.2
Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo 73.7
Brantford 94.0
Guelph 58.5
London 60.4
Windsor 64.9
Barrie 54.0
Greater Sudbury 75.7
Thunder Bay 140.7
Winnipeg 153.5
Regina 104.5
Saskatoon 107.9
Calgary 73.5
Edmonton 107.0
Kelowna 61.4
Abbotsford–Mission 86.7
Vancouver 70.4
Victoria 64.8
Canada 80.3

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Text box 4
Violations contributing to the change in the violent Crime Severity Index (VCSI) between 2016 and 2017, by province and territory


Text box 4
Violations contributing to the change in the violent Crime Severity Index (VCSI), by province and territory, Canada, 2016 and 2017
Table summary
This table displays the results of Violations contributing to the change in the violent Crime Severity Index (VCSI). The information is grouped by Province or territory (appearing as row headers), Percent change in VCSI from 2016 to 2017 and Violations driving the change in VCSI (appearing as column headers).
Province or territory Percent change in VCSI from 2016 to 2017 Violations driving the change in VCSI
Canada 5 Sexual assault (level 1), homicide, robbery
Newfoundland and Labrador -5 Homicide, robbery; offset by increase in sexual assault (level 1)
Prince Edward Island 7 Attempted murder, assault (levels 1 and 2), uttering threats; offset by decrease in sexual violations against children
Nova Scotia 11 Homicide, sexual assault (level 1), robbery; offset by decrease in commodification of sexual activity
New Brunswick 5 Sexual assault (level 1), violent firearm offences
Quebec 7 Sexual assault (level 1), sexual violations against children, homicide
Ontario 7 Robbery, sexual assault (level 1)
Manitoba 5 Robbery; offset by decrease in violent firearm offences
Saskatchewan -5 Homicide; offset by increase in violent firearm offences
Alberta 5 Homicide , assault (level 2), robbery, sexual assault (level 1)
British Columbia 0sNote: value rounded to 0 (zero) where there is a meaningful distinction between true zero and the value that was rounded Increase in homicide and sexual assault (level 1), offset by decrease in robbery
Yukon 9 Homicide; partially offset by decrease in robbery
Northwest Territories 7 Sexual assault (level 1), sexual violations against children, assault (levels 1 and 3); offset by decrease in violent firearm offences
Nunavut 10 Homicide; partially offset by decrease in attempted murder

End of text box

National homicide and attempted murder rates both increased in 2017, but varied across the provinces and territories

After little change in 2016, the rate of homicide increased 7% in 2017, moving from 1.69 homicides per 100,000 population to 1.80. Police reported 660 homicides in Canada in 2017, 48 more than the previous year (Table 6). The 2017 homicide rate was higher than the average for the previous decade (1.67 per 100,000 population for 2007 to 2016) (Chart 9).

Chart 9

Data table for Chart 9

Data table for Chart 9
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 9. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), Attempted murder and Homicide, calculated using rate per 100,000 population units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Year Attempted murder Homicide
rate per 100,000 population
1986 3.37 2.18
1987 3.46 2.43
1988 3.12 2.15
1989 3.04 2.41
1990 3.27 2.38
1991 3.72 2.69
1992 3.72 2.58
1993 3.43 2.19
1994 3.18 2.06
1995 3.20 2.01
1996 2.97 2.14
1997 2.89 1.96
1998 2.47 1.85
1999 2.26 1.77
2000 2.50 1.78
2001 2.34 1.78
2002 2.16 1.86
2003 2.23 1.74
2004 2.10 1.95
2005 2.55 2.06
2006 2.57 1.86
2007 2.41 1.81
2008 2.17 1.84
2009 2.38 1.81
2010 1.96 1.63
2011 1.94 1.74
2012 1.91 1.56
2013 1.81 1.46
2014 1.77 1.47
2015 2.17 1.70
2016 2.17 1.69
2017 2.25 1.80

The increase in the national number of homicides was a result of notable increases in homicides in British Columbia (+30 homicides) and Quebec (+26), partly offset by large decreases reported in Saskatchewan (-17) and Ontario (-10).

As has historically been the case, homicide rates were highest in the Western provinces and the Territories (Table 7; Chart 10). In 2017, Manitoba (3.51 homicides per 100,000 population) recorded the highest homicide rate among the provinces, followed by Saskatchewan (3.18 per 100,000 population) and Alberta (2.75 per 100,000 population).

Chart 10

Data table for Chart 10

Data table for Chart 10
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 10. The information is grouped by Province and territory (appearing as row headers), Rate per 100,000 population (appearing as column headers).
Province and territory Rate per 100,000 population
N.L. 0.76
P.E.I. 0.00
N.S. 2.20
N.B. 1.32
Que. 1.11
Ont. 1.38
Man. 3.51
Sask. 3.18
Alta. 2.75
B.C. 2.45
Y.T. 20.80
N.W.T. 4.49
Nvt. 15.79
Canada 1.80

Because of their small populations, the rate of homicides per 100,000 population tends also to be high in the Territories. This was the case in 2017, when the number of homicides in Yukon increased from 4 homicides in 2016 to 8 in 2017 and resulted in the highest homicide rate (20.80 per 100,000 population) reported in that territory since 2004. In 2017, Nunavut reported 6 homicides (15.79 per 100,000 population), and the Northwest Territories reported 2 (4.49 per 100,000 population).

Prince Edward Island was the only province to report no homicides in 2017. Following Prince Edward Island, the lowest homicide rates in 2017 were reported in Newfoundland and Labrador (0.76 per 100,000 population), Quebec (1.11 per 100,000 population), New Brunswick (1.32 per 100,000 population), and Ontario (1.38 per 100,000 population).

With a total of 7 homicides in 2017, Thunder Bay continued to record the highest homicide rate among the CMAs (5.80 homicides per 100,000 population) (Table 8). Abbotsford-Mission (with 9 homicides), and Edmonton (with 49 homicides) had the next highest homicide rates (4.72 and 3.49 per 100,000 population, respectively). In 2017, Saguenay was the only CMA reporting no homicides.

The attempted murder rate in Canada increased 4% between 2016 and 2017 to 2.25 per 100,000 population. A 25% increase in the province of Quebec was the main contributor of the overall increase in attempted murder in Canada (+49 attempted murders). This increase was due to an additional 38 attempted murders in Québec (the city) which are largely attributable to the shooting at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Québec in January 2017 that resulted in 6 victims of homicide and 40 victims of attempted murder (Perreaux 2018; Mathieu 2017). In contrast, there were 24 fewer attempted murders in Saskatchewan in 2017.

In total, there were 827 attempted murders reported by police in Canada in 2017, 41 more than the previous year. The rate of attempted murder has remained consistently higher than the homicide rate since the 1980s, and these offences have often shown similar trends over time (Chart 9). However, variations were reported across the country. In contrast to the 25% increase in Quebec, notable decreases in attempted murders were reported by Saskatchewan (-38%) and Newfoundland and Labrador (-37%).

More detailed information on the characteristics of homicides is available in “Homicide in Canada, 2016” (David 2017). An update to this article is planned for release in November 2018.

Rate of police-reported sexual assaults notably higher in 2017

Sexual assaults are classified by the Criminal Code into three separate categories depending on the nature and severity of the incident. More specifically, level 1 sexual assault criminalizes assault of a sexual nature that violates the sexual integrity of a person. Sexual assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm (level 2) criminalizes sexual assault that involves a weapon, bodily harm or threats to cause bodily harm to a person. Lastly, aggravated sexual assault (level 3) criminalizes sexual assault which wounds, maims, disfigures or endangers the life of another person.

A recent Juristat article on the characteristics of police-reported sexual assaults examined incidents reported by police between 2009 and 2014. It found that the large majority (87%) of sexual assault victims were females, and 60% of sexual assault victims were females under age 25. Males accounted for 13% of victims of police-reported sexual assaults and, among them, half were aged 13 or younger. The median age of female victims was 18 years, while the median age of male victims was 13 years (Rotenberg 2017).

It is important to note that the number of sexual assaults reported by police is likely an underestimation of the true extent of sexual assault in Canada, as these types of offences often go unreported to police. For instance, self-reported data from the General Social Survey on Canadians’ Safety (Victimization) showed that only 5%E of sexual assaults experienced by Canadians aged 15 years and older in 2014 were brought to the attention of police. The most common reasons for not reporting a sexual assault to the police were that the victim perceived the crime as minor and not worth taking the time to report (71%), that the incident was a private or personal matter and handled informally (67%), and that no one was harmed during the incident (63%) (Conroy and Cotter 2017) (see Text box 5). In addition, more than 4 in 10 (45%) sexual assault victims stated they did not report the incident to the police because they did not want the hassle of dealing with the police. Similar proportions did not turn to the police because the victims thought the police would not have considered the incident important enough (43%), because of a lack of evidence (43%) and because they believed the offender would not have been adequately punished (40%).

In 2017, there were almost 25,000 police-reported sexual assaults, or 67 incidents per 100,000 population, marking an increase of 13% from 2016 (Chart 11). These incidents represented 6% of violent crimes in 2017. Considerable public discussion of issues around sexual violence took place in 2017, and this may have had an impact on the willingness of victims to report sexual assault incidents to police. Since these incidents typically go unreported according to the General Social Survey on Canadians’ Safety (Victimization), even small increases in the rate of reporting these incidents to police is likely to have a measureable impact on the number of police-reported incidents. In addition, 2017 saw renewed commitment from police to review their response to accusations of sexual assault, including a review of files previously classified as “unfounded” (meaning police had determined that no incident had taken place) (Doolittle et al. 2017; Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics 2018; Greenland and Cotter 2018). Altogether, these shifts in public awareness and police practices may partly explain the increase in the number of police-reported sexual assaults in 2017.

Chart 11

Data table for Chart 11

Data table for Chart 11
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 11. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), Rate per 100,000 population (appearing as column headers).
Year Rate per 100,000 population
1986 79
1987 85
1988 93
1989 98
1990 101
1991 108
1992 121
1993 121
1994 109
1995 96
1996 91
1997 90
1998 85
1999 78
2000 78
2001 78
2002 78
2003 74
2004 72
2005 73
2006 68
2007 65
2008 65
2009 62
2010 66
2011 64
2012 63
2013 60
2014 58
2015 58
2016 60
2017 67

As in previous years, the majority (98%) of police-reported sexual assaults were classified as level 1 sexual assault, which increased 13% in 2017. The rate of sexual assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm (level 2) increased 4% with a total of 417 incidents reported in 2017, or a rate of 1 per 100,000 population. There were 49 more incidents of aggravated sexual assault (level 3) reported to the police in 2017 than in 2016, translating into a rate that was less than 1 per 100,000 population (Table 6).

Between 2016 and 2017, the rate of police-reported sexual assaults (all levels combined) increased in all provinces and territories, with the exception of Yukon (-17%), Nunavut (-6%), Saskatchewan (-5%), and Manitoba (no change). Increases above the national rise were reported in the Northwest Territories (+22%), Quebec (+20%), New Brunswick (+19%), Nova Scotia (+18%), British Columbia (+16%) and Ontario (+15%). In all of these jurisdictions, the increase in sexual assault was an important contributor to an increase in the violent CSI (VCSI).

Police-reported sexual violations against children increased in 2017

While children or youth can be victims of sexual assaults (levels 1, 2 and 3), there are also a number of sexual violations within the Criminal Code that, by definition, apply only to victims under the age of 18. These sexual violations include: sexual interference; invitation to sexual touching; sexual exploitation; making sexually explicit material available to children; luring a child via telecommunications; and agreement or arrangement in order to commit a sexual offence against a child. These are grouped within the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Survey as “sexual violations against children.”Note

In 2017, there were 8,046 incidents of sexual violations against children reported by police: the majority of these (69% or 5,550 incidents) were sexual interference, followed by luring a child via telecommunications (16% or 1,310 incidents). Between 2016 and 2017, the rate of police-reported sexual violations against children increased 8% from 20 to 22 incidents per 100,000 population.Note

It is important to note that for the violations included in “sexual violations against children”, differences in police-reported statistics between geographic areas or across time may be influenced by levels of reporting to police, as well as by single incidents that include several victims. In addition, some police services dedicate special units to investigate these types of crime, which can also impact differences by geographic areas or changes over time. Similar to sexual assaults in general, the number of sexual violations against children is also expected to be an underestimate due to compounding factors that are likely to impact reporting, such as reliance on an adult to bring the incident to the attention of police (Kuoppamäki et al. 2011; United Nations 2006). In addition, sexual offences against children (including sexual assault) can be delayed in coming to the attention of the police and those reported may have occurred in previous years (Cotter and Beaupré 2012).

In addition to sexual violations against children, the UCR Survey also collects data on accessing or possessing and making or distributing child pornography.Note Note The growth of the Internet has had a considerable impact on the nature of child pornography, particularly on the volume and extent of online distribution and access to images, as well as changes to reporting and investigation. Communities and police have responded with improved tools for identification and reporting of child pornography (Allen 2017). While the number of police-reported child pornography incidents increased slightly from 6,360 incidents in 2016 to 6,521 incidents in 2017, the rate remained at 18 incidents per 100,000 population in 2017.

Third year of reporting new offences related to the commodification of sexual activity shows increases

In 2017, there were 1,106 police-reported incidents of violations related to the commodification of sexual activity, which is categorized as a violent crime or crime against the person. Since being introduced under Bill C-36 in 2015, rates of these offences have been increasing. During this time, police services have adapted their enforcement practices to respond to the new laws which approach prostitution as a form of sexual exploitation (MacIvor 2017).

The number of police-reported commodification of sexual activity offences increased from 759 incidents in 2016 to 1,106 incidents in 2017, marking a 44% increase in the rate (Table 6). This increase was due to more incidents of obtaining sexual services for consideration, which accounted for two-thirds (67%) of all incidents of commodification of sexual activity in 2017.

In contrast, the rate of other prostitution-related offences (categorized as non-violent crime) decreased 32% between 2016 and 2017. The decline was the result of fewer incidents of stopping or impeding traffic for the purpose of offering, providing or obtaining sexual services for consideration as well as communicating to provide sexual services for consideration. In all, 134 incidents of prostitution were reported in 2017.

Non-consensual distribution of intimate images a relatively new crime and reporting continues to increase

In 2017, the rate for the relatively new violation of non-consensual distribution of intimate images, enacted in March 2015 with Bill C-13, continued to increase. In 2017, police reported 1,469 such incidents, compared to 833 in 2016, marking a 74% increase in rate. As with many new criminal offences, these continuing increases may be related to the growing recognition and application by police. The new offence criminalizes publishing, distributing, selling, making available or advertising intimate images without the consent of the person depicted in the image. Reported violations increased from 2016 to 2017 in almost all provinces, with a large increase in Ontario accounting over half of the change seen at the national level. In Ontario, the number of incidents increased from 298 to 664. More incidents in Quebec (183 to 277) also contributed to the increase.

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Text box 5
Measuring crime in Canada: Police-reported versus self-reported data

In Canada, two main national surveys collect crime-related data: the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Survey and the General Social Survey (GSS) on Canadians’ Safety (Victimization). The UCR Survey collects police-reported data, while the GSS on Victimization collects information from a sample of Canadians aged 15 years and older on their experiences with crime. The GSS on Victimization is conducted every five years, with the most recent survey conducted in 2014. Unlike the UCR Survey, the GSS on Victimization captures information both on crimes that have been reported to police and those that have not. The GSS on Victimization, however, collects information for a subset of offences—sexual assault, robbery, physical assault, breaking and entering, theft of motor vehicles or their parts, theft of personal property, theft of household property, and vandalism—and does not include crimes committed against businesses or institutions.

While both surveys are used to measure crime, significant methodological and conceptual differences exist between them and affect direct comparisons of data findings (for further information, see Wallace et al. 2009). It is possible, however, to compare trends from the two surveys to better understand changes in the pattern of crimes reported to police. For instance, data from both the UCR Survey and the GSS on Victimization show declines in overall violent and property crime between 2004 and 2014.

In contrast, while UCR data show a decline in the rate of sexual assaults over that same period, GSS data show it remained relatively stable. This likely reflects the fact that few sexual assaults are reported to police, making any comparison between both surveys quite difficult. According to the GSS on Victimization, 31% of the eight crime types measured in the 2014 survey were reported to the police. Reporting rates ranged from 5%E of sexual assaults to 50% of break-ins. Moreover, retrospective questions on child abuse also show that, for the vast majority (93%) of those who were victimized by an adult before age 15, the abuse was never reported to the police or child protection services.

According to the GSS on Victimization, the most common reason for not reporting a criminal incident to police was that victims considered it minor and not worth taking the time to report (78%). Other reasons for not reporting the criminal incident to police included victims feeling that the police would not have considered the incident important enough (58%), that there was a lack of evidence (52%), that police would not have found the offender or stolen property (51%), and that the incident was a private or personal matter and was handled informally (43%).Note

For more information about the results of the 2014 GSS on Victimization, see “Criminal victimization in Canada, 2014” (Perreault 2015), “Criminal victimization in the Territories, 2014” (Perreault and Simpson 2016) and “Victimization of Aboriginal people in Canada, 2014” (Boyce 2016).

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Increase in overall rate of major physical assault in 2017

Physical assaults, like sexual assaults, are classified by the Criminal Code and the majority fall into one of three separate categories depending on the nature and severity of the incident. Level 1 assault, also referred to as common assault, includes pushing, slapping, punching and face-to-face verbal threats. Assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm (level 2) involves carrying, using or threatening to use a weapon against someone or causing someone bodily harm. Aggravated assault (level 3) involves wounding, maiming, disfiguring or endangering the life of someone. In addition to assault levels 1, 2 and 3, physical assault also includes assault against a peace officer as well as the less frequent “other assaults” of hoax terrorism causing bodily harm (Criminal Code s. 83), bodily harm resulting from failure to safeguard an opening in ice or on land (s. 263), or otherwise unlawfully causing bodily harm (s. 269).

Physical assault continued to be the most prevalent form of police-reported violent crime in Canada in 2017, accounting for close to 6 in 10 (57%) violent offences reported by police. Police reported over 231,000 assaults in 2017, most (71%) of which were classified as common assault (level 1).Note There were over 3,400 more common assaults in Canada in 2017 than in 2016 representing a 1% increase in rate.

After decreasing steadily between 2007 and 2014, the national rate of major assault (levels 2 and 3 combined) increased in 2017 for the third consecutive year due to higher rates reported in Ontario (+4%) and Alberta (+7%) (Chart 12; Table 7). Specifically, the rate of assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm (level 2) increased by 3%, along with a 1% increase in aggravated assault (level 3). Increases were also recorded in other categories of assault: assault against a peace officer (+3%) and other forms of assault (such as unlawfully causing bodily harm) (+4%) (Table 6).

Chart 12

Data table for Chart 12

Data table for Chart 12
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 12. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), Major assault and Robbery, calculated using rate per 100,000 population units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Year Major assault Robbery
rate per 100,000 population
1986 122 89
1987 123 85
1988 126 90
1989 129 94
1990 140 101
1991 149 119
1992 145 117
1993 146 104
1994 140 100
1995 132 104
1996 130 107
1997 131 99
1998 132 109
1999 132 107
2000 141 100
2001 148 99
2002 148 96
2003 152 101
2004 155 97
2005 166 101
2006 174 106
2007 177 104
2008 176 97
2009 170 97
2010 163 90
2011 157 87
2012 153 80
2013 140 66
2014 136 59
2015 142 62
2016 147 61
2017 151 62

Recent information from 2016 on police-reported victimization shows that while rates of physical assault are higher among males, females were almost twice as likely to be related to their attacker: 38% of female assault victims in 2016 were victims of family violence compared to 20% of males (Allen and McCarthy 2018; Burczycka and Conroy 2018).

Police-reported robbery rate up in 2017

Robbery is any theft or attempted theft involving violence or the threat of violence. It is a predominantly urban crime and one of the few police-reported offences with higher rates in southern than in northern Canada (Allen and Perreault 2015). There was a general downward trend in robbery starting in 2006 which ended with an increase in 2015. The rate of robbery increased again (+2%) between 2016 and 2017, returning to its 2015 level (62 per 100,000 population) (Chart 12; Table 6). Police reported approximately 22,700 robberies in 2017, about 780 more than the year before.

Changes in the rate of robbery in 2017 varied by province. In Nova Scotia (+14%), Manitoba (+12%), Ontario (+10%), and Alberta (+3%), robbery was a key contributor to increases in the violent CSI (VCSI). Meanwhile, some provinces and territories saw notable decreases in the rate of robbery: Yukon (-50%), British Columbia (-18%), Newfoundland and Labrador (-17%), New Brunswick (-8%), Prince Edward Island (-7%), and the Northwest Territories (-6%).

Changes in rates of robbery also varied considerably by CMA (Table 8). The largest increases in robbery rates were reported in Trois-Rivières (+54%), Guelph (+42%), and Saguenay (+34%). The largest decreases in rates of robbery were reported in Moncton (-37%), Regina (-34%) and Abbotsford-Mission (-30%).

Violent offences specific to firearms increased for third year in a row

The Criminal Code specifies a number of violent offences involving the use of a firearm, including the following: discharge of a firearm with intent; pointing a firearm; and use of a firearm in the commission of an indictable offence.Note In 2017, 42% of these offences were discharging a firearm with intent. Another 40% were pointing a firearm, and the remaining 18% were the use of a firearm in the commission of an indictable offence.

In 2017, the rate of these violent firearm offences continued to increase for the third year in a row, starting with a notable 26% increase in 2015. The number of these offences increased from 2,534 in 2016 to 2,734 in 2017, marking a 7% increase in rate (Table 6). A 10% increase in the rate of incidents of pointing a firearm (+110 incidents) was the main contributor to the overall increase in the number of incidents nationally, while an 11% increase in the use of a firearm in the commission of an indictable offence (+56) also played a role. There was also a 2% increase in the rate of discharging a firearm with intent (+34 incidents).

Canada’s 2017 increase in the number of these violent firearm offences (+200 incidents) was primarily the result of increases in rates reported in Saskatchewan (+47%, +116 incidents) and Ontario (+10%, +92 incidents). Increases were also reported in New Brunswick (+56%), Nunavut (+29%), and Alberta (+4%). All other provinces and territories reported declines. Most of the increase in the number of incidents of violent firearms offences in Canada occurred outside of CMAs.

Another way to measure violent firearm-related crime using the UCR Survey is to use information on the characteristics of police-reported violent incidents to examine the most serious weapon present. This approach was taken by Cotter (2018). In 2016, the most recent year for which data on the characteristics of incidents is available, there were approximately 7,000 victims of violent crime where a firearm was present during the commission of a violent offence. As is the case for the specific firearms offences mentioned above, the rate of violent crime where a firearm was present has also increased in recent years.

Human trafficking violations increased in 2017

Trafficking in persons is defined by the Criminal Code as the act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, receiving, holding, concealing or harbouring a person, or exercising control, direction or influence over the movements of a person, for the purpose of exploiting them or facilitating their exploitation. In addition to specific Criminal Code offences, human trafficking is also an offence under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) when it is specific to human trafficking that crosses Canada’s international borders. It should be noted that human trafficking is not the same as human smuggling. Although both are offences punishable under the Criminal Code, human smuggling involves the illegal migration of individuals for profit, generally with the individual’s consent (Ibrahim 2018).

In 2017, there were a total of 375 incidents of human trafficking reported by police: this included 271 incidents of trafficking in persons under the Criminal Code and another 104 incidents falling under IRPA (Table 6). Compared to 2016, this represented an 8% increase in the rate of Criminal Code trafficking in persons and a 1% increase in human trafficking under IRPA.

According to research, increases in reporting of human trafficking incidents may be an indication of efforts and resources being put into the investigation of these offences (United Nations 2008). Therefore, it is not clear whether an increase in the number of incidents reported is a true increase in the crime or more a reflection of police services becoming better equipped to detect, report and investigate human trafficking.

Non-violent crime

In 2017, most crime reported by police continued to be non-violent in nature, with property offences and other Criminal Code offences accounting for four out of five (79%) police-reported Criminal Code incidents (excluding traffic). In total, there were over 1.5 million police-reported non-violent Criminal Code incidents in 2017 (excluding traffic), of which almost 1.2 million were property crimes (Table 1b). After notable increases in property offences in 2015, the rate of property crime rose 1% between 2016 and 2017, increasing from 3,225 to 3,245 incidents per 100,000 population.

Non-violent CSI was stable in 2017

Between 2016 and 2017, there was no noticeable change in Canada’s non-violent Crime Severity Index (or NVCSI), which also includes federal statutes and traffic offences (Table 1a). However, this stability in the NVCSI was the combined result of a 15% increase in the rate of possession of stolen property and a 6% increase in the rate of motor vehicle theft offset by a 2% decline in rate of the more serious offence of breaking and entering.

Between 2016 and 2017, provincial and territorial changes to NVCSI varied (Table 2a). The largest increase in the NVCSI was reported in New Brunswick (+14%), the result of a 59% increase in the rate of fraud and an 11% increase in the rate of breaking and entering. Large decreases in the NVCSI were reported in Prince Edward Island (-11%), Newfoundland and Labrador (-11%), British Columbia (-7%), and Saskatchewan (-6%). Decreases in the NVCSI were also reported in Yukon (-4%) and Nunavut (-4%). A drop in rates of breaking and entering played a role in the decline in NVCSI in all of these jurisdictions (Text box 6).

As with the violent CSI, changes in the NVCSI varied considerably among Canada’s census metropolitan areas (CMAs) in 2016 (Table 3). The largest increases in the NVCSI occurred in Greater Sudbury (+26%), Moncton (+22%), Guelph (+15%), Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo (+11%) and St. Catharines-Niagara (+10%). Breaking and entering was a contributor in the increased NVCSIs in all of these cities, along with various other offences. Breaking and entering was also a driver in the CMAs which reported the largest declines in NVCSI: St. John’s (-19%), Regina (-9%), Vancouver (-8%) and Victoria (-7%).

Start of text box

Text box 6
Violations contributing to the change in the non-violent Crime Severity Index (NVCSI) between 2016 and 2017, by province and territory


Text box 6
Violations contributing to the change in the non-violent Crime Severity Index (NVCSI), by province and territory, Canada, 2016 and 2017
Table summary
This table displays the results of Violations contributing to the change in the non-violent Crime Severity Index (NVCSI). The information is grouped by Province and territory (appearing as row headers), Percent change in NVCSI from 2016 to 2017 and Violations driving the change in the NVCSI (appearing as column headers).
Province and territory Percent change in NVCSI from 2016 to 2017 Violations driving the change in the NVCSI
Canada 0sNote: value rounded to 0 (zero) where there is a meaningful distinction between true zero and the value that was rounded Increase in possession of stolen property, motor vehicle theft, offset by decrease in breaking and entering
Newfoundland and Labrador -11 Breaking and entering
Prince Edward Island -11 Fraud, theft of $5,000 or under, breaking and entering
Nova Scotia 4 Fraud , partially offset by decrease in breaking and entering
New Brunswick 14 Fraud, breaking and entering
Quebec 0sNote: value rounded to 0 (zero) where there is a meaningful distinction between true zero and the value that was rounded Decrease in breaking and entering, offset by small increases in numerous other offences
Ontario 4 Theft of $5,000 or under, breaking and entering
Manitoba 2 Theft of $5,000 or under, non-violent weapons violations
SaskatchewanText box Note 1 -6 Fraud, breaking and entering
Alberta 5 Breaking and entering, possession of stolen property
British Columbia -7 Breaking and entering, child pornography, theft of $5,000 or under
Yukon -4 Breaking and entering; offset by increase in trafficking, production or importation/exportation of cocaine, and mischief
Northwest Territories 0sNote: value rounded to 0 (zero) where there is a meaningful distinction between true zero and the value that was rounded Decrease in mischief, motor vehicle theft, offset by increase in administration of justice violations and impaired driving
Nunavut -4 Breaking and entering

End of text box

Total fraud continued to increase in 2017, growing for the sixth year in a row

The rate of fraud continued to increase for the sixth year in a row with a 2% increase between 2016 and 2017, and marked a 14% increase over the rate reported a decade previously (Table 6). There were over 112,000 incidents of fraud reported by police in 2017, resulting in a rate of 307 per 100,000 population. Incidents of identity fraud and identity theft increased from 17,169 in 2016 to 17,542 in 2017, for a combined rate of 48 per 100,000 population in 2017.

Changes in the combined rates of all police-reported fraud (including identity theft and fraud) varied by province and territory. New Brunswick and Nova Scotia reported notably high increases in rates of fraud in 2017 (+53% and +31%, respectively). In contrast, there were large declines in the rates of fraud in Nunavut (-34%), Prince Edward Island (-20%), Saskatchewan (-14%), Newfoundland and Labrador (-10%), and the Northwest Territories (-8%) (Table 7).

Increases in total fraud were reported by 19 of 33 CMAs. Large rate increases were reported in Moncton (+75%), Greater Sudbury (+58%), Saint John (+24%), Guelph (+24%), and Kingston (+22%). The largest decreases were reported in Barrie (-18%), Regina (-15%), and St. John’s (-10%).

Decrease in rate of breaking and entering

Breaking and entering continued to be one of the most common forms of property crime in 2017, following the less serious violations of theft of $5,000 or under and mischief. In 2017, over 159,000 incidents of breaking and entering were reported to police, accounting for 13% of property crime. Since peaking in 1991, the police-reported rate of breaking and entering has been generally declining in Canada, with three increases reported in 1996, 2003 and 2015 (Chart 13). In 2017, the rate declined 2% nationally to 434 per 100,000 population. Since 2007, the rate of breaking and entering has fallen 38%; in that year it accounted for 16% of all police-reported property crime.

Chart 13

Data table for Chart 13

Data table for Chart 13
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 13. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), Breaking and entering and Motor vehicle theft, calculated using rate per 100,000 population units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Year Breaking and entering Motor vehicle theft
rate per 100,000 population
1986 1,399 328
1987 1,377 329
1988 1,341 334
1989 1,277 367
1990 1,370 412
1991 1,550 497
1992 1,506 518
1993 1,417 546
1994 1,338 550
1995 1,334 552
1996 1,341 608
1997 1,248 592
1998 1,163 550
1999 1,046 531
2000 956 522
2001 901 544
2002 879 516
2003 901 551
2004 864 532
2005 811 496
2006 772 487
2007 704 443
2008 635 378
2009 613 321
2010 579 272
2011 528 240
2012 507 225
2013 445 206
2014 428 208
2015 445 220
2016 442 218
2017 434 232

Most provinces and territories reported declines in rates of breaking and entering in 2017. Yukon (-30%), Newfoundland and Labrador (-21%), Nunavut (-13%), Prince Edward Island (-13%) and British Columbia (-12%) reported the largest declines (Table 7). The provinces or territories that reported increases were New Brunswick (+11%), Alberta (+7%), Ontario (+4%), and the Northwest Territories (+1%). Changes in rates of breaking and entering, whether rising or falling, had a measurable impact on CSIs in most jurisdictions (Text box 2).

Increases in motor vehicle theft vary considerably by census metropolitan area

There were almost 85,000 incidents of motor vehicle theft reported by police in 2017, over 5,900 more than the previous year, resulting in a rate of 232 per 100,000 population. Between 2016 and 2017, the rate of motor vehicle theft in Canada increased 6%. In spite of increases in recent years, the rate of motor vehicle theft in Canada was 48% lower in 2017 than a decade earlier (Chart 13).

Six provinces reported increases in rates of motor vehicle theft in 2017. Large increases were reported in New Brunswick (+28%) and Ontario (+15%), while smaller increases were reported in Quebec (+7%), Alberta (+6%), British Columbia (+2%), and Newfoundland and Labrador (+1%). All other provinces and the Territories reported either no change or a decrease in rate, with the biggest declines reported in the Northwest Territories (-28%), Yukon (-22%) and Prince Edward Island (-20%).

As with other police-reported crimes, changes in rates of motor vehicle theft varied considerably by CMA (Table 8). Notably large increases in rates of motor vehicle theft were reported in Moncton (+50%), London (+47%), Peterborough (+40%), Trois-Rivières (+37%), Greater Sudbury (+36%), and Saguenay (+31%). Regina (-15%) and Saskatoon (-14%) reported the largest decreases, followed by Halifax (-13%) and Gatineau (-10%).

Police-reported impaired driving rate down for sixth consecutive year

Police reported just over 69,000 alcohol- or drug-impaired driving incidents in 2017, about 2,200 fewer than the year before. The rate of impaired driving (both types combined) decreased by 4% in 2017 to 188 impaired driving incidents per 100,000 population, representing the sixth consecutive decline (Chart 14). It is worth noting that Criminal Code traffic offences such as impaired driving are not included in the official crime rate but are included in the CSI and non-violent CSI.

Chart 14

Data table for Chart 14

Data table for Chart 14
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 14. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), Rate per 100,000 population (appearing as column headers).
Year Rate per 100,000 population
1986 577
1987 561
1988 538
1989 529
1990 502
1991 502
1992 467
1993 410
1994 372
1995 349
1996 325
1997 301
1998 291
1999 283
2000 258
2001 267
2002 255
2003 245
2004 252
2005 243
2006 234
2007 241
2008 255
2009 263
2010 257
2011 261
2012 242
2013 221
2014 210
2015 201
2016 197
2017 188

Despite the national decline in police-reported impaired driving rates, notable increases were reported in the Northwest Territories (+53%), Nunavut (+53%) and Yukon (+47%), along with smaller increases in New Brunswick (+6%), Manitoba (+5%), Newfoundland and Labrador (+3%), and Nova Scotia (+1%). The national decline in police-reported impaired driving was primarily the result of decreases in Quebec (-11%), Alberta (-6%), British Columbia (-5%), and Ontario (-4%). Decreases in Prince Edward Island (-14%) and Saskatchewan (-5%) had a smaller impact at the national level.

Almost all police-reported impaired driving incidents continued to involve alcohol in 2017 (95%), while a small proportion (5%) involved drugs. Unlike the overall decline in impaired driving between 2016 and 2017, however, the number and rate for almost all drug-impaired driving violations increased (Chart 15). In total, there were 3,489 drug-impaired driving violations in 2017, 353 more than the previous year. Overall, the rate of drug-impaired driving increased by 10%. The national increase in the rate of drug-impaired driving was largely driven by the increased rates in Alberta (+18%), Quebec (+8%), Saskatchewan (+43%), and New Brunswick (+48%). Alberta and Quebec together explain almost half of the increase in incidents, accounting for 95 and 76 of the total 353 additional incidents reported. There were also large increases in Yukon (+54%), the Northwest Territories (+53%), and Nunavut (+42%), but their impact on the national increase was small. The only decline in drug-impaired driving was reported in Nova Scotia (-11%).

Chart 15

Data table for Chart 15

Data table for Chart 15
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 15. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), Rate per 100,000 population (appearing as column headers).
Year Rate per 100,000 population
2008 1
2009 4
2010 5
2011 5
2012 6
2013 6
2014 7
2015 8
2016 9
2017 10

Despite a 10% increase, the rate of drug-impaired driving (10 per 100,000 population) remained low compared with the rate of alcohol-impaired driving (179 per 100,000 population). The low rate for drug-impaired driving may be partly explained by the fact that determining and measuring the level of drug impairment can be more difficult and less reliable than the measures used to detect alcohol-impaired driving (Owusu-Bempah 2014). In incidents where the driver may be impaired by both alcohol and drugs, it is generally easier for police to lay charges for alcohol-impaired driving and the majority of cases are reported as such (Perreault 2016).

According to Statistics Canada’s National Cannabis Survey (2018), 14% of Canadians 15 years and older had used some form of cannabis in the three months preceding the survey; among users with a valid driver’s license, 14% said they had driven within two hours of use (Statistics Canada 2018). This represents about 2% of all drivers.

It is important to note that the number of impaired driving offences reported by police can be influenced by a number of factors, including changes in legislation, varying law enforcement practices across jurisdictions (e.g., roadside check programs such as Ontario’s RIDE (Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere program), as well as changing societal attitudes (Perreault 2016). In some jurisdictions, including British Columbia, impaired driving incidents that meet the elements of the Criminal Code may be handled using a provincial statute. In addition, the availability of training and drug testing technology may differ by police service and province.

In 2017, the government introduced Bill C-46 which proposed certain amendments to the Criminal Code sections related to impaired driving, including giving police new powers to conduct alcohol and drug screening. In addition, other amendments were proposed concerning the legalization of marijuana use under the Cannabis Act (Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code, and other Acts). Both of these Bills were passed in June 2018. These changes in legislation may have an impact on the number of police reported incidents of drug-impaired driving in future years.

Rates of cannabis offences decline for sixth year in a row

In Canada, drug offences such as possession, trafficking, importation and exportation, and production fall under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA). These are not included in the calculation of the official crime rate but are included in the CSI and non-violent CSI. In 2017, there were over 90,000 CDSA offences reported by police, representing a rate of 247 per 100,000 population (Table 6). Of these, more than half (53%) were cannabis-related offences.

In 2017, possession, trafficking, importation and exportation, and production of cannabis for non-medical purposes fell under the CDSA and were therefore prohibited by law in Canada. Bill C-45, also known as the Cannabis Act, was formally introduced in the House of Commons in April, 2017, was passed in June 2018 and will come into force in October of that year. The Act provides a legal framework for the legalization and regulation of the production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis in Canada (Parliament of Canada 2018).

Since 2011, police-reported rates of cannabis-related drug offences have been declining in Canada (Chart 16). In 2017, this trend continued with almost 48,000 cannabis-related drug offences reported to police, almost 8,000 fewer than reported in 2016. The majority of these offences (80%) were possession offences which represented a rate of 105 per 100,000 population, 15% lower than in 2016.

Chart 16

Data table for Chart 16

Data table for Chart 16
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 16. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), Cannabis, Cocaine and Other drugs , calculated using rate per 100,000 population units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Year CannabisData table Note 1 CocaineData table Note 1 Other drugsData table Note 1 Data table Note 2
rate per 100,000 population
1986 159 26 31
1987 163 31 39
1988 149 41 31
1989 148 59 39
1990 140 46 33
1991 119 57 28
1992 123 50 34
1993 125 44 29
1994 140 43 25
1995 150 39 22
1996 160 39 24
1997 160 38 24
1998 169 40 26
1999 197 39 27
2000 216 42 29
2001 219 39 30
2002 222 41 33
2003 193 45 36
2004 213 53 40
2005 188 60 43
2006 183 69 44
2007 191 70 47
2008 197 66 45
2009 195 52 44
2010 221 51 49
2011 228 51 51
2012 212 53 52
2013 209 49 52
2014 193 46 56
2015 170 43 66
2016 153 40 73
2017 131 38 78

Nationally, the combined rate of cannabis possession, trafficking, production and importation or exportation fell 15% with all provinces and territories reporting declines in 2017. The largest declines in cannabis-related offences were reported in the Nunavut (-32%), Prince Edward Island (-29%), Yukon (-28%), the Northwest Territories (-20%), and Saskatchewan (-20%). Rates of police-reported cannabis offences varied considerably among the provinces and territories, with the highest rates reported in the Northwest Territories (447 per 100,000 population), Nunavut (342 per 100,000 population), British Columbia (210 per 100,000 population), and Yukon (200 per 100,000 population). The lowest police-reported rates of cannabis offences were recorded in Manitoba (84 per 100,000 population), Ontario (89 per 100,000 population) and Prince Edward Island (93 per 100,000 population) (Table 7).

Along with the decline in cannabis offences, the number of persons charged has also been declining. In 2017, the rate of persons charged with a cannabis-related offence declined 21% from 2016. Of the 18,637 people charged with cannabis-related offences in 2017, 13,768 (74%) were charged with possession of cannabis, 3,952 fewer than in 2016. Declines in rates of persons charged with possession of cannabis were reported by almost all provinces and territories in 2017. New Brunswick (+7%) reported the only increase. The lowest rates of persons charged with possession of cannabis among the provinces and territories were in Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island (11 and 14 persons charged, respectively, per 100,000 population). In contrast, the highest rates of persons charged with possession of cannabis were reported in Saskatchewan (63 per 100,000 population) and Quebec (62 per 100,000 population).

While the rate of cannabis- and cocaine-related drug offences has declined in recent years, other drug crime has increased steadily

Similar to the trend in cannabis-related offences, cocaine drug offences continued to decline in 2017 for the fifth consecutive year, dropping 5% from 2016 to a rate of 38 incidents per 100,000 population (Table 7; Chart 16). In contrast, the combined rate of possession, trafficking, production and importation or exportation of drugs other than cannabis and cocaine has been increasing since 2010. Between 2016 and 2017, the most notable increases were reported for possession (+13%) and trafficking, production or importation/exportation (+11%) of methamphetamines or ecstasy. There was no noticeable change in heroin possession, but a 9% increase in its trafficking, production or importation/exportation. In addition, there was a 3% increase in possession of “other drugs” such as prescription drugs, LSD, “date rape” drugs, and opioids including fentanyl, and a 5% increase in the trafficking, production or importation/exportation of these “other drugs.”

Trends in police-reported drug offences in Canada may be related to varying policies, practices and resources available across different police services and over time. For instance, a police service’s decision to target particular offences or offenders may result in the identification of more incidents of drug-related crime, rather than representing an increase in the number of incidents that are actually occurring (Dauvergne 2009). Similarly, when other types of crime are declining, police may be able to focus more resources and efforts on crime involving drugs. Comparisons between police services or, more broadly, between geographical areas, should therefore be made with caution.

Police-reported youth crime

While overall crime statistics are based on the number of criminal incidents reported by police (regardless of whether or not an accused is identified), measures of police-reported youth crime are based on the number of youth, aged 12 to 17 years, accused in a criminal incident by police.Note The number of youth accused includes youth who were either charged, or recommended for charging, as well as those who were cleared by other means, including those diverted from the formal criminal justice system through the use of warnings, cautions, referrals to community programs, and other diversion programs.

Youth are much more likely to be accused of a police-reported crime than people aged 25 years and older. Recent analysis for 2014 showed that rates of youth accused of crime were more than twice as high as rates for individuals 25 years or older. However, rates of individuals accused of crime in 2014 were highest among young adults aged 18 to 24. That being said, the police-reported youth crime rate has long been on a downward trend, declining for over two decades after peaking in 1991 (Allen 2015).

For the most part, police-reported youth crime involves relatively minor offences. As is typical each year, the most frequent criminal offences committed by youth in 2017 were theft of $5,000 or under (776 accused per 100,000 youth), common assault (level 1) (536 per 100,000 youth) and mischief (433 per 100,000 youth) (Table 9). All of these offences were also among the most frequent violations committed by adults. The rate of cannabis possession among youth was also relatively high, at 342 accused per 100,000 youth, as were the combined rates of youth accused of offences related to the administration of justice and violations under the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) (490 and 131 per 100,000 youth, respectively). Previous research, however, shows that rates of cannabis possession are generally highest among young adult offenders. This was also the case for administration of justice offences (Allen 2016).

Increase in the youth Crime Severity Index in 2017, but slight decrease in rate of youth accused of crime

In total, there were about 88,700 youth accused of a criminal offence in 2017, about 450 fewer than in the previous year, marking a 1% decrease in the youth crime rate. At the same time, however, the youth Crime Severity Index (YCSI), which measures both the volume and severity of crime involving youth accused (both charged and not charged), increased 3% in 2017 (Table 10a; Table 10b).

Since 2008, the YCSI has generally been on a downward trend. The increase in 2017 is the first notable increase in the youth CSI since 2007 (Chart 17).Note Despite this, the YCSI in 2017 was still 38% lower than 10 years previously. This ten-year decline in youth crime has been greater than for crime overall; the overall CSI (which includes crime committed by youth) fell 24% over the same period.

Chart 17

Data table for Chart 17

Data table for Chart 17
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 17. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), Youth Crime Severity Index, Youth Violent Crime Severity Index and Youth Non-violent Crime Severity Index, calculated using index units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Year Youth Crime Severity Index Youth Violent Crime Severity Index Youth Non-violent Crime Severity Index
index
1998 110 87 128
1999 99 84 111
2000 104 89 114
2001 106 91 117
2002 101 87 112
2003 106 93 116
2004 101 88 111
2005 97 94 100
2006 100 100 100
2007 101 102 101
2008 96 96 96
2009 96 97 95
2010 90 93 88
2011 82 87 77
2012 77 82 74
2013 66 71 62
2014 61 65 58
2015 61 67 57
2016 61 72 53
2017 63 81 51

The increase in the YCSI in 2017 was primarily the result of increases in the rate of youth accused of violent offences, particularly robbery (+13%), as well as homicide, which more than doubled, increasing from 24 to 50 youth accused per 100,000 youth between 2016 and 2017. The increase in the YCSI was partly offset by declines in breaking and entering (-7%) and attempted murder (-53%).

The increase in youth accused of homicide was primarily in Manitoba and Ontario. Increases in the rate of youth accused of sexual assault (level 1) (+19%) and sexual violations against children (+25%) also contributed to the increase (Table 9). As a result of the increases in robbery, homicide, and sexual offences, the youth violent CSI increased 12% between 2016 and 2017. In contrast, the youth non-violent CSI decreased 4% as a result of decreases in the rate of youth accused of breaking and entering (-7%) and theft of $5,000 or under (-4%).

The YCSI did not increase everywhere. Between 2016 and 2017, increases were reported in five provinces and territories: Manitoba (+14%), Ontario (+11%), the Northwest Territories (+4%), Newfoundland and Labrador (+2%), and British Columbia (+2%) (Table 11). Large declines in youth CSI were reported in Nova Scotia (-15%) and New Brunswick (-10%). Declines were also reported in Nunavut (-9%), Yukon (-9%), Saskatchewan (-8%), Prince Edward Island (-7%) and Alberta (-2%). There was no noticeable change reported in Quebec (Table 12a; Table 12b).

Most youth accused of crime are not charged, especially for minor offences

In keeping with the principles and objectives of the YCJA—namely to divert youth away from the formal justice system especially when they are accused of relatively minor offences—43% of youth accused of crime in 2017 were charged by police.Note

Among youth accused, the percentage of accused who were charged was higher for violent offences (50%). The percentage charged tended to be much higher for the most serious violent offences. For property offences, 29% of youth accused were charged. For youth accused of theft of $5,000 or under or mischief, one in five youth accused were charged (20% and 19%, respectively). In contrast, for breaking and entering, the most serious property offence, 49% of youth accused were charged.

The YCJA outlines a variety of extrajudicial measures that can be used by police in lieu of charging a youth with an offence such as warnings and cautions, or referrals to community programs or other extrajudicial sanctions programs under the YCJA. From 2002 to 2003, with the introduction of the YCJA, the proportion of youth accused who were charged by police dropped substantially as more youth were dealt with by extrajudicial measures, especially for less serious offences. The percentage of youth who are charged has remained relatively level since then (Chart 18).

Chart 18

Data table for Chart 18

Data table for Chart 18
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 18. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), Youth charged and Youth not charged, calculated using rate per 100,000 youth
units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Year Youth charged Youth not chargedData table Note 1
rate per 100,000 youth
1998 4,365 2,592
1999 4,025 2,414
2000 4,073 2,842
2001 4,117 3,042
2002 3,904 3,041
2003 3,250 4,030
2004 3,004 3,955
2005 2,860 3,736
2006 2,812 3,996
2007 2,886 3,884
2008 2,769 3,768
2009 2,728 3,787
2010 2,564 3,514
2011 2,344 3,138
2012 2,234 2,925
2013 1,970 2,425
2014 1,788 2,255
2015 1,759 2,244
2016 1,686 2,164
2017 1,653 2,169

Summary

In 2017, the police-reported Crime Severity Index (CSI) increased 2%, while the crime rate increased 1%. Most of Canada’s provinces and territories reported increases in their CSI with the exception of Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. This was the third consecutive increase in the CSI after 11 years of declines between 2003 and 2014.

The 2% increase in the national CSI between 2016 and 2017 was the result of increases in numerous offences, most notably, an increase in the rate of police-reported incidents of sexual assault (level 1) (+13%), as well as increases in possession of stolen property (+15%), motor vehicle theft (+6%) and homicide (+7%). These increases were offset by fewer police-reported incidents of breaking and entering (-2%).

Although there was a 1% decrease in the rate of youth accused of crime in 2017, the youth CSI, which measures both the volume and severity of crime involving youth accused (both charged and not charged), increased 3% (Table 10a) as a result of an increase in youth accused of violent crime, primarily robbery and homicide. The increases in these offences also resulted in a 12% increase in the youth violent CSI. In contrast, the youth non-violent CSI decreased 4% in 2017, primarily as a result of a decrease in the rate of youth accused of breaking and entering as well as theft of $5,000 or under.

Detailed data tables

Table 1a Police-reported Crime Severity Indexes, Canada, 2007 to 2017

Table 1b Police-reported crime rate, Canada, 2007 to 2017

Table 2a Police-reported Crime Severity Indexes, by province and territory, 2017

Table 2b Police-reported crime rate, by province and territory, 2017

Table 3 Police-reported Crime Severity Indexes, by census metropolitan area, 2017

Table 4 Police-reported crime rate, by census metropolitan area, 2017

Table 5 Violations contributing to the change in the Crime Severity Index between 2016 and 2017, by census metropolitan area

Table 6 Police-reported crime for selected offences, Canada, 2016 and 2017

Table 7 Police-reported crime for selected offences, by province and territory, 2017

Table 8 Police-reported crime for selected offences, by census metropolitan area, 2017

Table 9 Youth accused of police-reported crime for selected offences, Canada, 2016 and 2017

Table 10a Police-reported youth Crime Severity Indexes, Canada, 2007 to 2017

Table 10b Youth accused of police-reported crime, Canada, 2007 to 2017

Table 11 Police-reported youth Crime Severity Indexes, by province and territory, 2017

Table 12a Police-reported youth crime for selected violent offences, by province and territory, 2017

Table 12b Police-reported youth crime for selected non-violent offences, by province and territory, 2017

Key terminology and definitions

Most serious violation: Individuals accused of crime are categorized by the most serious violation occurring in the police-reported incident in which they are accused. In incidents with multiple accused involving multiple violations, each individual in the incident will be coded with the most serious violation even if this was not the violation(s) that the person was accused of. It is therefore possible that the most serious violation is not the offence for which an individual was accused, but one committed by another accused in the incident. Moreover, in this type of incident, any charges against the accused may be for less serious offences in the incident.

Violent offences: Involve the use or threatened use of violence against a person, including homicide, attempted murder, assault, sexual assault, and robbery. Robbery is considered a violent offence because, unlike other theft offences, it involves the use or threat of violence. See Table 6 for a list of selected offences in this category.

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

Assault (physical): Refers to the Criminal Code categories of physical assault.

Common assault: Includes the Criminal Code category assault (level 1) which includes pushing, slapping, punching and face-to-face verbal threats.

Major assault: Includes Criminal Code assaults levels 2 and 3:

Level 2–assault with a weapon: Involves carrying, using or threatening to use a weapon against someone or causing someone bodily harm, i.e., assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm.

Level 3–aggravated assault: Involves wounding, maiming, disfiguring or endangering the life of someone.

Other assaults: Includes other forms of physical assault including: unlawfully causing bodily harm, discharge firearm with intent, using firearm/imitation of firearm in commission of offence, pointing a firearm, criminal negligence causing bodily harm, trap likely to or causing bodily harm, and other assaults.

Sexual assault: Is classified into one of three levels: level 1, assault of a sexual nature that violates the sexual integrity of the victim; level 2, sexual assault with a weapon, threats to use a weapon, or causing bodily harm; and level 3, sexual assault that wounds, maims, disfigures or endangers the life of the victim.

Sexual violations against children: Include Criminal Code violations that specifically concern offences involving child and youth victims. These include sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching, sexual exploitation, making sexually explicit material available to children for the purpose of facilitating sexual offences against children/youth, luring a child via telecommunications or the agreement/arrangement by means of telecommunication to commit a sexual offence against a child, and, as of December 2014, the offences of parent or guardian procuring sexual activity (Criminal Code, s. 170), and householder permitting prohibited sexual activity (Criminal Code, s. 171). A “householder” is any “owner, occupier or manager of premises, or any other person who has control of premises or assists in the management or control of premises” (Criminal Code, s. 171). Incidents of child pornography are not included in the category of sexual violations against children. Excludes incidents of sexual assault levels 1, 2 and 3 against children and youth which are counted within those three violation categories.

Other sexual offences not involving assault or sexual violations against children are included with “other violent offences.”

Commodification of sexual activity: In December 2013, new legislation came into effect governing prostitution-related activities. The new legislation is listed under “crimes against the person” in the Criminal Code and targets “the exploitation that is inherent in sex work and the risks of violence posed to those who engage in it” (Criminal Code, Chapter 25, preamble). New violations classified as “violent crime” under “commodification of sexual activity” include: the purchasing of sexual services or communicating for that purpose, receiving a material benefit deriving from the purchase of sexual services, procuring of persons for the purpose of prostitution, and advertising sexual services offered for sale. In addition, a number of other offences related to prostitution continue to be considered non-violent offences and are classified under “other Criminal Code offences.” These include communicating to provide sexual services for consideration, and stopping or impeding traffic for the purpose of offering, providing or obtaining sexual services for consideration.

Nonviolent offences: Include property offences and other Criminal Code offences, as well as Criminal Code traffic offences, drug-related offences, and violations of other federal statutes.

Property offences: Involve unlawful acts to gain property, but do not involve the use or threat of violence against the person. They include offences such as break and enter, theft, and mischief. See Table 6 for a list of selected offences in this category.

“Other” Criminal Code offences: Include crimes such as disturbing the peace and offences against the administration of justice such as failure to comply with an order, failure to appear, and breach of probation.

Drug-related offences: Include offences under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act such as importation, exportation, trafficking, production and possession of drugs or narcotics. Examples include cannabis/marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and other drugs such as crystal meth, PCP, LSD and ecstasy.

Other federal statute violations: Include violations of federal statutes other than the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. These include violations of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Survey description

Uniform Crime Reporting Survey

The Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Survey was established in 1962 with the co-operation and assistance of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. The UCR Survey was designed to measure criminal incidents that have been reported to federal, provincial and municipal police services in Canada.

One incident can involve multiple offences. In order to ensure comparability, counts presented in this article are based upon the most serious offence in the incident as determined by a standard classification rule used by all police services. Counts based upon all violations are available upon request.

Each year, the UCR database is “frozen” at the end of May for the production of crime statistics for the preceding calendar year. However, police services continue to send updated data to Statistics Canada after this date for incidents that occurred in previous years. Generally, these revisions constitute new accused records, as incidents are solved and accused persons are identified by police. However, some new incidents may be added and previously reported incidents may be deleted as new information becomes known.

Revisions are accepted for a one-year period after the data are initially released. For example, when the 2017 crime statistics are released, the 2016 data are updated with any revisions that have been made between May 2017 and May 2018. The data are revised only once and are then permanently frozen. Over the past 13 years (2004 to 2016), data corresponding to previous years have been revised upward 10 times and revised downward 3 times, with an average annual revision of 0.17%. The 2016 revision to counts of persons charged and youth not charged resulted in a 1.2% increase to 2016 counts.

Measuring incidents of crime

Data from the UCR are used to calculate both the traditional crime rate and the Crime Severity Index (CSI). Both the traditional crime rate and the CSI are based on the aggregate count of criminal incidents. A criminal incident involves one or more related offences that are committed during a single criminal event and have been reported to police. Where there are multiple victims within a single criminal event, a separate aggregate incident is counted for each victim. For example, a single incident involving an assault on three victims at the same time and location is counted in the aggregate statistics as three incidents of assault.

Police services can report up to four violations for each incident; however, this has typically only been the practice since the late 1980s and not for all police services. Therefore, both the traditional crime rate and the CSI are based on the most serious violation in the criminal incident. By basing the measures on the most serious offence in an incident, it allows for historical comparisons, as well as better comparisons among police services.

It is possible, however, that by counting only the most serious violation, some offences may be underrepresented. This has little or no effect on serious violent offences such as homicide, sexual assault and aggravated assault. However, some, but not all, minor offences are less likely to be the most serious when occurring at the same time as other more serious violations. These secondary offences, therefore, are not included in the calculation of aggregate statistics, the crime rate or the CSI.

For more information on counting crime in Canada, see Measuring Crime in Canada: Introducing the Crime Severity Index and Improvements to the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey (Wallace et al. 2009) and “The Methodology of the Police-Reported Crime Severity Index (Babyak et al. 2009).

In 2008, the UCR was modified to create new violation codes for drug-impaired operation of a vehicle, drug-impaired operation of a vehicle causing death or bodily harm, failure or refusal to comply with testing for the presence of drugs and failure or refusal to provide a breath or blood sample. Prior to 2008, those offences would have been coded together with alcohol-impaired driving violations. Therefore, the percentage change from 2007 to 2017 is not shown.

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