Murder rate in Canada hits 15-year high in 2020, StatsCan reports

Two provinces boost total, while the number of gang-related murders fall 10 per cent

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The murder rate in Canada last year rose to its highest level since 2005, pushed up in part by the country’s worst-ever mass shooting, in which 22 people died, Statistics Canada said on Thursday.


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StatsCan noted that overall police-reported crime decreased in 2020, but said societal stresses caused by lockdowns linked to the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a rise in certain categories.

Canadian police forces reported a total of 743 murders in 2020, up from 687 in 2019. The murder rate increased to 1.95 per 100,000 people, the highest in 15 years, from 1.83 per 100,000 people in 2019.

The rate has gradually declined since its last recent peak in 1991 of 2.69 homicides per 100,000 population.

“While homicide continues to be a relatively rare occurrence, representing less than 0.2 per cent of all violent crimes in Canada in 2020, homicide rates are considered benchmarks for levels of violence,” StatsCan said in a commentary.


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By comparison, the overall U.S. murder rate in 2020 was around 6.5 homicides per 100,000 people, according to FBI data.

The Canadian increase was driven by an increase in the number of murders in Alberta and Nova Scotia.

For the fifth consecutive year, Thunder Bay reported the highest homicide rate in Canada, with 6.35 homicide victims per 100,000 population. Nationally, there were nine fewer Indigenous women victims of homicide than in 2019, marking the first decrease in four years.

Gabriel Wortman killed 13 people in Nova Scotia on the night of April 18, 2020, and another nine the next day before police shot him dead.


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This contributed to an “uncharacteristically high homicide count and rate for the province,” StatsCan said.

Calgary and Edmonton, the two most populous cities in Alberta, recorded large increases, and each contributed 15 more murders to the national tally than in 2019.

Toronto saw a 22 per cent decrease in the rate of firearm-related homicides, to 0.80 from 1.03 per 100,000 population.

There were 15 more firearm-related killings in Canada last year, compared with 2019.

Gang-related murders decreased 10 per cent in the same period, to 0.39 victims per 100,000 population, the lowest rate since 2016.

— with additional reporting by National Post



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