Yesterday, Statistics Canada issued a report
on homicides committed in Canada during 2010. According to Stats Can, after years of stability, the homicide rate declined in 2010 from the rate recorded during 2009.
Based upon information provided by the nation's police forces, there were 554 murders committed in Canada during 2010. This translates to 1.62 homicides per 100,000 population. The 1.62 rate is the lowest recorded in the past 44 years.
Part of the drop was due to a decrease in homicides in western provinces. In 2010, there were 35 fewer murders in British Columbia, 18 fewer in Alberta and 12 fewer in Manitoba than were recorded in the previous year.
The Prairie Provinces recorded the highest number of homicides per 100,000 population. The rate was found to be 3.6 in Manitoba and 3.3 in Saskatchewan, well above the national average of 1.6.
The province of Prince Edward Island recorded no murders during the years 2009 and 2010. The next lowest homicide rate of .08 was found in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Homicide statistics were also compiled for what Stats Can classifies as major metropolitan areas. Although the number of murders recorded in Thunder Bay, Ontario, dropped to five in 2010 from six the year before, that city had the highest rate (4.2) of all major centres. Thunder Bay was followed by Saskatoon and Regina that both recorded rates of 3.7.
Four of these metropolitan areas recorded no homicides during 2010. They are Saguenay, Quebec, Windsor, Ontario, Trois-Rivieres, Quebec and Guelph, Ontario. During 2009, five murders were recorded both in Saguenay and Windsor while three murders took place in Trois-Rivieres. Guelph had a lone homicide that year.
Statistics Canada also reported that the number of homicides committed by firearms throughout the country dropped from 180 in 2009 to 170 in 2010. The agency attributes this decrease to the drop in murders committed by shotguns and rifles. Homicides committed by use of long guns have been decreasing since the 1980s.
Firearms were used in one half of the murders committed in Toronto during 2010. Gun related homicides accounted for 44% of the murders committed in Vancouver and 33% in Montreal.
Homicides classified by police as being gang-related dropped from 124 in 2009 to 94 in 2010. This is down from the record number of gang-related murders (138) that occurred in 2008.
Statistics Canada also reported the number of spousal or intimate partner homicides have remained stable during the past few years. In 2010, 89 of these killings were committed, an increase of one over the previous year.
The statistics clearly show the homicide rate throughout Canada is lower than anytime during the past 44 years. What is difficult to understand is not the decrease in the rate, but why homicides are declining.
According to Rosemary Gartner of the University of Toronto, experts have difficulties in accounting for the decrease. Gartner was quoted in the Globe and Mail
The aging baby boom generation, and the fact that older people commit less crime, only accounts for a small part of the decline.
Much of the decline resulted from fewer homicides committed with rifles and shotguns since the 1980s. According to Ron Melchers, a criminology professor at the University of Ottawa, this decline cannot be attributed to Canada's gun registry.
The gun registry, created during the mid-1990s, required all owners of long guns to register their weapons. Earlier this week, the Conservative government introduced a bill abolishing the registry. Melchers was quoted in the Toronto Star
The decline in firearm use has been going on far longer than the gun registry.
Melchers credits the decline to the shift of people from rural to urban settings. He also says laws that became effective in 1977 requiring owners to obtain firearms acquisition certificates before owning a firearm, helped reduce the number of deaths. The 1977 laws also provided penalties for unsafe storage of firearms.
Melchers also points out that violent crime is on the decrease in all Western societies as solving disputes by violence has given way to more peaceful means.