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Montréal in context

The analytical series "Trends and conditions in census metropolitan areas" uses census data to show that the 27 census metropolitan areas (CMA) differ greatly from each other with respect to a number of indicators (Heisz 2005). Montréal, the second largest CMA in Canada, stands out for its economic and social diversity. The strategies and policies adopted for its cities must take this into account.

In 2001, the Montréal CMA was the second largest CMA in Canada; it had a population of 3,426,350. The population of the Montréal CMA had grown 3% (99,903 inhabitants) since 1996, an increase similar to the average change (4%) of the other 26 CMAs during the same period. In 2001, some 47% of the Quebec population was living in the Montréal CMA, which extended over an area of 4,047 km2.

The Island of Montréal, which is the focus of this study, falls within the larger CMA boundary and covers approximately 500 km2, with a perimeter of 231.9 kilometres encompassing 521 neighbourhoods or census tracts (CT) (see definition in the census tract and natural neighbourhoods text box). The residential population of the study area was 1,812,723. The area is served entirely by the Montréal police department, which in 2001 employed a force of 4,082 officers operating out of 49 neighbourhood police stations.

In Montréal, land use breaks down approximately as follows: 31% public areas (including streets, railways, port areas, airport, parking lots); 19% other public areas (parks, golf courses, vacant areas, etc.); 17% single-family housing; 12% multiple-family housing and other types of residential areas; 10% industrial buildings; 6% institutional buildings; and 5% commercial buildings.

Since the early 1990s, the aggregated crime rates reported by the Montréal CMA have followed a general downward trend, dropping 18% between 1991 and 2004. Figure 1 shows crime rates for Montréal and for Canada as a whole from 1991 to 2004. The rates for the CMA were slightly lower than the Canadian average, except in 2004, when the CMA ranked slightly above, with 8,173 Criminal Code offences per 100 000 population, excluding traffic offences. During the same period, the Toronto CMA reported lower crime rates while the Vancouver CMA recorded crime rates that were significantly higher than those of the Montréal CMA.

Figure 1. Crime rates in major census metropolitan areas, Canada, 1991 to 2004. Opens a new browser window.

Figure 1. Crime rates in major census metropolitan areas, Canada, 1991 to 2004

In the 2004 General Social Survey (GSS), the victimization rates reported by residents of the Montréal CMA were among the lowest of any CMA (Gannon and Mihorean 2005), at 64 violent incidents per 1,000 inhabitants aged 15 and older; 175 household victimization incidents per 1,000 households; and 72 thefts of personal property per 1,000 inhabitants aged 15 and older. Residents of the cities of Toronto (107, 222 and 107, respectively) and Vancouver (107, 462 and 136, respectively) reported much higher rates of all types of victimization.

Offence categories included in this study are: violent, property, drug, prostitution, offensive weapons, and gaming and betting offences. In 2001, the Montréal police department reported 136,000 of these offences, the vast majority of which were property crimes (78%), followed by violent offences (19%) and other offences (3%) including prostitution, drug-related offences, offensive weapons-related crimes, and gaming and betting offences. This distribution is similar to the one noted at the national level (79%, 17% and 4%, respectively). The Toronto and Vancouver police services present a slightly different crime composition; the Toronto Police Service has a slightly higher proportion of violent offences (72%, 24% and 4%), while the Vancouver Police Department has a lower proportion of these violent offences (84%, 11% and 5%).

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