The Daily. Thursday, October 7, 1999

Homicide statistics


The national homicide rate declined to its lowest point in 30 years in 1998 as 555 individuals were killed, 31 fewer than in 1997.

The 1998 rate was 1.83 homicides for every 100,000 population, a 6.2% decrease from the previous year and the lowest level since 1968. After peaking in 1975 at 3.03 homicides for every 100,000 population, the rate has generally been declining.

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In 1998, firearms were involved in just over one-quarter (27%) of all homicides, the lowest proportion since data were first collected in 1961.

However, among the victims of homicide, there were 23 infants under the age of one. This was almost double the level of 13 in 1997, as well as double the annual average of 12 during the past decade.

As in previous years, 9 out of every 10 individuals accused of homicide were male, as were two-thirds of homicide victims.

Canada's 1998 homicide rate was less than one-third that of the United States, which recorded 6.30 homicides for every 100,000 population, but it was higher than most European nations, such as Germany (1.18), England and Wales (1.30), Italy (1.54) and France (1.64).

Rate of homicides involving firearms at all-time low

Firearms were involved in 151 homicides in 1998, 42 fewer than the previous year. The resulting rate of 0.50 for every 100,000 population was the lowest since data were collected in 1961.


Note to readers

Statistics on homicides for 1998 were first released in The Daily on July 21, 1999 as part of a wide-ranging report on all crimes. This report presents a more detailed analysis of the data on homicides.

In Canada, criminal homicide is classified as first degree murder, second degree murder, manslaughter or infanticide. Deaths caused by criminal negligence, suicide, accidental or justifiable homicides are not included in this definition.


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The majority of firearm-related deaths in Canada are a result of suicide. Each year there are about five times as many suicides involving firearms as homicides.

Homicides involving handguns or rifles and shotguns declined in 1998, while those involving fully automatic weapons increased. A total of 70 people were killed with a handgun in 1998, compared with 94 the year before. Similarly, 51 were killed with a rifle or shotgun, down from 77. However, fully automatic weapons were used in 12 homicides, up from only two the year before.

The number of homicides resulting from a stabbing, beating or strangulation all increased in 1998. Stabbing was the most common method used, accounting for one in every three homicides.

Homicides by cause of death

Homicides by cause of death

  1997 1998
Cause of death Number % Number %
Stabbing 168 28.7 184 33.2
Shooting 193 32.9 151 27.2
Beating 115 19.6 126 22.7
Strangulation 53 9.0 60 10.8
Fire (burns/suffocation) 30 5.1 12 2.2
Poisoning 8 1.4 6 1.1
Shaken Baby Syndrome 6 1.0 6 1.1
Other 8 1.4 4 0.7
Unknown 5 0.9 6 1.1
Total 586 100 555 100

Most infant murders committed by a parent

Parents were involved in most infant homicides. Eighteen of the 23 victims under the age of one last year were killed by a parent, compared with only 8 out of 13 the year before. Eleven of these infants were killed by the father, six by the mother and in one case, both parents were involved.

Among the five remaining cases, one child was killed by a babysitter and one by a stranger. The assailants were not known in the three other cases.

In recent years, most provinces have legislated mandatory coroner inquests into the deaths of young children. Some of the increase in infant homicides reported by police could be due to more accurate reporting as a result of these inquests.

Spousal homicides down for the seventh straight year

Spousal homicides, including both husbands and wives, have gradually declined from more than 100 each year during the early 1990s to 70 in 1998. Four out of every five victims of spousal homicide in 1998 were female. (For the purpose of this report, spouses included individuals who were married or in a common-law relationship, as well as those who were separated or divorced.)

In 1998, 57 women were killed by a current spouse or an ex-spouse. A further 10 women were killed by a boyfriend or an ex-boyfriend. In all, slightly more than half of all female homicide victims were killed by someone with whom they had an intimate relationship.

Of the 13 men killed by a spouse last year, 12 were killed by a current spouse and one individual was separated. Six in 10 incidents of spousal homicides involved a history of domestic violence between the accused and the victim, of which police were aware.

Overall, homicides are committed primarily by someone known to the victim. In 1998, of the 431 homicides solved by the police, 45% of victims were killed by an acquaintance, 40% by a family member and 15% by a stranger. The proportion of homicides committed by a stranger has remained relatively stable during the past 10 years. Of the 65 victims killed by a stranger in 1998, over half (35) occurred as the result of a crime in progress, most often robbery and assault.

Most multiple-victim homicides family related

In 1998, there were 24 cases of homicides involving multiple victims, down from 36 the year before. Twenty of these incidents involved two victims, while the remaining four incidents each involved three victims.

In Canada, most multiple-victim homicides are family related and many culminate in the suicide of the accused. Of the 18 incidents solved by police involving multiple victims in 1998, 12 were family related. Among these, the accused committed suicide in five.

One in seven homicides drug related

Police reported that one in seven homicides was drug related in 1998, the largest proportion since data were first collected in 1991. Of the 77 victims of drug-related homicides, police reported that 34 were drug dealers.

In addition, seven known prostitutes were killed while plying their trade, up from four in 1997. In all likelihood, these numbers could be higher, as police report only those incidents in which they were certain that the victim was killed while engaging in prostitution-related activities.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Information and Client Services (613-951-9023 or 1 800 387-2231), Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.