Homicide in Canada, 2011

Homicides are rare in Canada, making up less than 1% of all crimes. Statistics Canada’s Homicide Survey collects police-reported data on the characteristics of all homicide incidents, victims and accused persons in Canada. In 2011 there were a total of 598 homicides in Canada, up 44 from the previous year. Expressed as a rate per 100,000, in 2011 the homicide rate was 1.73, which was 7% higher than 2010. This rate has remained relatively stable over the past decade.

The weapon most used to commit a homicide in 2011 was a knife or other cutting instrument (35%), followed by firearms (27%), beatings (22%) and strangulation (7%). Stabbings accounted for most of the overall increase in homicides in 2011.

In 2011, homicides committed by firearm declined to the lowest rate in almost 50 years. Handguns accounted for two-thirds of firearm homicides, yet these also declined in 2011. Multiple-victim homicides committed with a firearm also declined in 2011, and have been decreasing over the past 30 years. There were 10 of these crimes in 2011, with 22 victims. About half of these incidents were family-related.

In 2011, as in previous years, the majority of homicide victims knew their killer. Homicides committed by a friend or acquaintance made up 48% of homicides, which represented a substantial increase from the previous year (46 more than in 2010). In contrast, homicides committed by a stranger declined to the second lowest level in 40 years (15%). Family-related homicides (33%) remained relatively stable.

Almost half of homicide victims were between the ages of 18 to 34 (44%). Young adults were particularly over-represented among victims killed by a handgun and in gang-related homicides, accounting for about two-thirds of victims in both instances. While the majority of homicide victims were male (71%), in 2011 the increase in the number of homicides was greater for females than for males. In 2011 there were 16% more female victims than in 2010, and 6% more male victims.

The majority of those accused of homicide are also male (90%), with an average age of 32 years. Many of those accused of homicide (59%) had a criminal record prior to the homicide, usually for another violent crime. For those accused of a family-related homicide, almost half (44%) had a history of family violence with the victim.

Across Canada, homicide rates were highest in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. Among the provinces, Manitoba reported the highest rate for the fifth year in a row, followed by Saskatchewan and Alberta. In contrast, Ontario reported a decrease in homicides, with its lowest rate in 40 years. With 39 homicides in 2011, Winnipeg reported the highest homicide rate among Canada’s 33 census metropolitan areas (CMAs), followed by Halifax and Edmonton.

Sources:

  • Perreault, Samuel. 2012. Homicide in Canada, 2011. Catalogue no. 85‑002‑X. Ottawa: Statistics Canada.
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