NORTH BAY – Police in Canada reported more than 740 homicides in 2020 – the most in three decades – in a year that also saw the country experience the worst mass murder in history.
A total of 743 homicides were reported last year, the highest number since 1991 and an increase of 56 homicides from 2019.
The numbers, detailed in a new report released Thursday by Statistics Canada, used data from the 2020 Homicide Survey, which collects police-reported information on homicides, victims and accused persons in Canada.
The country’s homicide rate edged up 7% to 1.95 per 100,000 population, making it the highest national homicide rate in Canada since 2005.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had profound impacts on Canadian society since March 2020,” states the StatCan report. “These marked societal and economic changes have contributed to a shift in crime trends across Canada. “
Homicides remain relatively rare in Canada, noted StatCan, accounting for less than 0.2% of all violent crimes in 2020.
Although the homicide rate in the country has increased steadily since 2014, it remains below some of the highs recorded in the early 1990s and mid-1970s.
However, last year’s increase comes as the country saw an 8% drop in its Crime Severity Index, which measures the volume and severity of police-reported crime in Canada.
StatCan noted that many victim service providers and advocates have expressed concerns about the impact of lockdown restrictions and stay-at-home orders linked to the pandemic, with social isolation, reduced income and losses. . jobs that can lead to an escalation of violence in the home.
While the number of spousal homicides declined by nine in 2020, StatCan reports that 11 other reported homicides were committed by family members and seven by intimate partners.
Of the 474 solved homicides in Canada where an accused-victim relationship was reported, 82% were reported by someone the victim knew personally.
Thirty-eight percent of these homicides were committed by an acquaintance, 10% by a spouse, 20% by another family member, 5% by someone with whom the victim had a current or previous intimate non-marital relationship and eight percent by someone with whom the victim had a criminal relationship.
Only 18% of homicides were committed by a stranger.
The increase in homicides is largely attributable to increases in Alberta and Nova Scotia.
Alberta recorded 39 more homicides in 2020, while Nova Scotia saw an increase of 29, according to StatCan.
This includes the 22 victims of the April 2020 mass shooting that began in Portapique, Nova Scotia, and spread overnight to other parts of the province before the gunman was shot by the RCMP.
Calgary and Edmonton saw the biggest increases in homicides in Alberta last year, with each city reporting 15 more victims.
Toronto, being the largest city in Canada, recorded the highest number of homicides in the country with 105, although it was 25 less than in 2019, making it the largest year-on-year decline in the country. ‘other. other among census metropolitan areas (CMAs).
Homicides, overall, have increased in 20 of Canada’s 36 CMAs, according to StatCan.
Ontario and Manitoba recorded the largest declines in the number of homicides, with 19 and 10 fewer victims, respectively.
FIREARMS AND GANGS
About one in three homicides in Canada last year involved a firearm, nearly half of which were committed with a handgun.
In 2020, police reported a total of 277 firearm homicides, up 6% from 2019 and for the second year in a row the rate increased in Canada.
Handguns have been used in the majority of gun-related homicides dating back to the early 1990s, overtaking rifles and shotguns, although their share of all gun-related homicides has steadily declined by compared to 2013 when it stood at 67%.
With the exception of Alberta and Nova Scotia, most provinces have seen the number of homicides committed with firearms decline, with no change reported in the territories.
However, Canada’s gun homicide rate last year equaled 2017, the highest on record in more than two decades, at 0.73 per 100,000 people. Regina (1.89) and Saskatoon (1.76) had the highest rates of gun homicide, according to StatCan.
Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo (0.17), Halifax (0.22) and Montreal (0.27) had the lowest rates, excluding CMAs, with zero gun homicides.
Despite the increase in gun-related homicides, gang-related homicides experienced their largest year-over-year decline since 2013, dropping 9% in 2020 to 148 victims.
The largest declines were recorded in Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba, each reporting eight, six and six fewer gang-related homicides, respectively.
According to the data, Toronto recorded 11 fewer gang-related homicides, Montreal 12 fewer and Winnipeg four fewer.
StatCan reported that shootings were by far the most common method used in gang-related homicides at over 78 percent.
OVERREPRESENTATION OF INDIGENOUS VICTIMS AND VISIBLE MINORITIES
Although they make up about five percent of the Canadian population, the homicide rate among Indigenous victims was seven times that of non-Indigenous people, at a rate of 10.05 per 100,000 population, compared to 1.05. 41.
Indigenous peoples accounted for 28% of all homicide victims (201) in Canada last year, according to the data.
Of those homicides, 163 were males, which StatCan says represents an increase of 24% and the highest since 2014, when Indigenous identity first became available through the Homicide Survey. There were nine fewer homicide victims involving Indigenous women, the first drop in four years.
However, homicide rates for Aboriginal men and women were much higher than those for non-Aboriginal men and women, nearly eight and 5.5 times higher, respectively.
“A history of colonization, including residential schools, labor camps and forced relocation, has deeply affected indigenous communities and families,” according to the StatCan report.
“Indigenous peoples are often victims of social and institutional marginalization, discrimination and various forms of trauma and violence, including intergenerational trauma and gender-based violence. As a result, many indigenous peoples experience difficult social and economic situations. These factors play a significant role in the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in the criminal justice system and as victims of crime.
A total of 179 homicide victims in 2020 were identified as belonging to visible minorities, half of whom were identified as black. Eighty-nine percent were male and almost half of these homicides were reported in Ontario, primarily Toronto.
Although 51 percent of Toronto residents identify as visible minorities, they remain over-represented in homicides accounting for more than two-thirds of victims, according to StatCan.