Tuesday, October 27, 1998
For release at 8:30 a.m.



Homicide statistics


The national homicide rate declined 9% in 1997 to its lowest point since 1969. The homicide rate has generally been decreasing since the mid-1970s, following rapid growth during the late 1960s and early 1970s. There were 581 homicides in 1997, 54 fewer than in 1996.

Compared with other industrialized countries, Canada's 1997 homicide rate of 1.92 per 100,000 population was less than one-third that of the United States (6.70), but higher than most European countries, such as England and Wales (1.00) and France (1.66).

Spousal homicides declining

Spousal homicides include people in registered marriages and common-law relationships, as well as those who were separated or divorced. Including both husbands and wives, the number of spousal homicides has gradually declined from more than 100 each year in the early 1990s to 75 in 1997. Four out of every five victims of spousal homicide in 1997 were women.

Women are far more likely to be killed by their spouse than by a stranger. In 1997, 61 women were killed by a current spouse or an ex-spouse, compared with 12 who were killed by a stranger.

Another 12 women were killed by a boyfriend or ex-boyfriend. In all, 128 women were victims of homicide, and slightly more than half of them were killed by a spouse, ex-spouse, boyfriend or ex-boyfriend.

Table: Spousal homicides
Year                        Male victims           Female            Total    

1988                                  21               72               93    
1989                                  22               76               98    
1990                                  26               74              100    
1991                                  25               87              112    
1992                                  18               87              105    
1993                                  24               63               87    
1994                                  20               66               86    
1995                                  21               69               90    
1996                                  19               62               81    
1997                                  14               61               75    


Year                             Spousal    
                            victims as %    
                                  of all    

1988                                16.1    
1989                                14.9    
1990                                15.2    
1991                                14.9    
1992                                14.3    
1993                                13.9    
1994                                14.4    
1995                                15.3    
1996                                12.8    
1997                                12.9    


Other homicides involving families in 1997 included 62 children who were killed by a parent, which was slightly higher than the annual average of 51 children during the past 10 years. Almost one in three of these homicides committed by a parent was a murder-suicide, most of which were committed by the father.

Note to readers

Statistics on homicides in Canada for 1997 were originally released in The Daily on July 22, 1998, as part of a wide-ranging report on all crimes. This report presents a more detailed analysis of homicide data.

In addition to these children, 18 individuals were killed by a son or daughter, nine by a sibling and 22 by another relative.

Homicides continue to be committed primarily by someone known to the victim. In 1997, only 13% of all victims, or 58 people, were killed by a stranger, 10 fewer than in 1996. The proportion of homicides committed by strangers has remained relatively stable in recent years at around 14%.

Fewer homicides involved firearms

In 1997, there were 193 homicides committed with firearms, a 9% decline from the previous year. These represented one-third of all homicides, consistent with previous years. The majority of firearm-related deaths in Canada are a result of suicide. Each year there are about five times as many suicides as homicides involving firearms.

Handguns were used in 99 homicides in 1997, just over half of all firearm homicides, a 7% decline from 1996. Since 1991, handguns have accounted for about one in six homicides. In contrast, between 1974 and 1990, handguns were used in only 1 in 10 homicides.

Shootings represented one-third (33%) of all homicides in 1997, while stabbings accounted for 29%, beatings 20%, strangulation and suffocation 9%, and arson 5%.

Elderly at low risk of being a homicide victim

Surveys have shown that the elderly have the highest levels of fear of being a crime victim. However, in terms of homicides, individuals aged 60 and older are actually at low risk.

In 1997, 72 people aged 60 and older were victims of homicide, a rate of 1.46 for every 100,000 population. This is somewhat lower than the rate of 1.92 for all age groups. People aged 18 to 29 had the highest homicide rate, 3.39 for every 100,000 individuals in that age group, while the lowest rate, 1.16, was for children and young people aged 18 and under.

One police officer murdered

In 1997, one police officer was a victim of homicide in Canada, compared with 64 in the United States, which has a population 10 times greater than Canada's.

Nine other persons were murdered on the job in Canada in 1997: three gas bar attendants, three store clerks or managers, two hotel managers or owners, and one bar manager or owner. In addition, 14 known drug dealers and six known prostitutes were reported murdered.