OTTAWA: Canada’s homicide rate was up 3% from 2.00 homicides per 100,000 population in 2020 to 2.06 per 100,000 population in 2021. This marks the highest national homicide rate since 2005.
In 2021, police services reported 788 homicides in Canada. This represented 29 additional homicides compared with the previous year and a third consecutive increase since 2019. Consequently, the national homicide rate rose by 3% to 2.06 homicides per 100,000 population, compared with 2020. Despite these recent increases, homicides remained relatively rare events, as reported historically. They accounted for less than 0.2% of all police-reported violent crimes in 2021.
Increases in homicides in Ontario (+37; 277 homicides) and British Columbia (+25; 125 homicides) from 2020 contributed the most to the overall rise in 2021. However, these increases were partially offset by sizable decreases in Alberta (-23; 118 homicides) and Nova Scotia (-14; 23 homicides). It should be noted that the observed decline in Nova Scotia follows an unusually high homicide count in 2020 because of a mass shooting in the province. Among the provinces, Saskatchewan had the highest homicide rate (5.93 per 100,000 population) in 2021, up 9% from 2020 and a third consecutive yearly increase.
In 2021, there were 117 homicides in Toronto, the highest homicide count among census metropolitan areas (CMAs). However, as Toronto is the most populous CMA in the country, it ranked 17th in terms of the homicide rate (1.81 homicides per 100,000 population). The highest homicide rates were recorded in the Regina (5.67), Thunder Bay (5.63), and Winnipeg (5.39) CMAs. Trois-Rivières and Guelph were the only CMAs with no homicides reported by police in 2021.
Highest gang-related homicide rate since 2005
Police reported 184 gang-related homicides in 2021, accounting for nearly one-quarter (23%) of all homicides. In 2021, there were 33 additional gang-related homicides compared with 2020, resulting in the highest rate (0.48 per 100,000 population) recorded in Canada since comparable data were first collected in 2005.
Detailed information on homicide in Canada is provided in the Juristat article that has just been released, “Homicide in Canada, 2021,” and the “Infographic: Homicide in Canada, 2021.”
This change was attributable to increases in several provinces, including Ontario (+13; 65 gang-related homicides), British Columbia (+13; 39 gang-related homicides), and Quebec (+6; 21 gang-related homicides).
Gang-related homicides tend to be concentrated in urban areas; as a result, increases at the provincial level largely reflect rises in CMAs. In 2021, Vancouver (+13) and Montréal (+11) had the largest increases among CMAs in the number of homicides involving gangs compared with the previous year.
However, when the size of the population was accounted for, the highest gang-related homicide rate among the provinces was observed in Saskatchewan, at 2.12 per 100,000 population, a 9% increase from the previous year.
Likewise, Regina had the highest gang-related homicide rate among the CMAs, at 3.03 per 100,000 population. This rate was nearly three times higher than in 2020 (1.14) and well above its previous 10-year average (1.10).
In 2021, at the national level, two in five homicides (40%) resulted from victims being shot, while stabbing and beating represented 32% and 17% of homicides, respectively. Among firearm-related homicides, handguns were the primary type of firearm used (57%), followed by rifles and shotguns (26%). The remaining firearm-related homicides were perpetrated with firearm-like weapons and firearms of unknown type (17%). Almost half (46%) of firearm-related homicides were identified as gang-related.
Overall, the national firearm-related homicide rate increased by 6% compared with from 0.73 to 0.78 per 100,000 population. Among the provinces, Saskatchewan (1.86 per 100,000 population), Nova Scotia (1.21), Manitoba (1.01), British Columbia (1.00), and Alberta (0.95) had the highest firearm-related homicide rates in 2021, all above the national rate. Among the CMAs, the highest firearm-related homicide rate was observed in Regina (2.65) for the second year in a row. This latest rate represented a 40% increase from 2020 (1.89).
Approximately one-third of homicide victims were racialized people In 2021, 247 homicide victims were identified by the police as being racialized persons. This represented 32% of the 762 victims for whom information about racialized groups was available. These numbers resulted in a homicide rate of 2.51 per 100,000 racialized people, 38% higher than the rate for the rest of the population (1.81). Among racialized homicide victims, approximately half (49%) were Black, and nearly one in five (19%) were South Asian.