Crime Rate in Canada

Crime Rate in Canada

If you read the headlines, you may have been alarmed to discover that Canada’s murder rate hit a 15-year high in 2020, following the most recent mass shooting in the country, when 22 people were gunned down in Nova Scotia. The highest crime rate in Canada in decades followed the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns. 

Murder rates surged to 743 in 2020, up from the 687 the previous year. According to police, that number increased dramatically to 1.95 per 100,000 people from 1.83 the year before, driven by an increase specifically in Alberta and Nova Scotia

It should, however, be noted, that crime has been on a gradual decline since it peaked in 1991 with 2.69 homicides per 100,000 people. And homicides, as well as most other violent crimes, are considered rare in Canada, especially when compared to our southern neighbor. 

For example, in the U.S., the murder rate hit 6.5 homicides per 100,000 people. And by the end of June 2022, the U.S. has already seen more than 250 mass shootings. That’s after experiencing 692 mass shootings the previous year.

In addition, some areas in Canada have seen dramatic drops in crime in recent years. For instance, Toronto enjoyed a 22% decrease in firearm-related homicides in 2020. Gang-related murders have also gone down by 10%.

The Highest Crime Rate in Canada by the Numbers

According to, the perception of overall crime in Canada is considered moderate (with a crime index of 43.65), though concerns for crime have increased over the past three years.  

Most of the concerns around crime involve the problem of people using and dealing drugs. In addition, there are moderate concerns over homes being broken into, stolen property, vandalism, and theft of property, as well as assault or armed robbery. 

Canadians tend to enjoy fewer worries about being mugged or robbed, and safety during the day is considered high. Even when looking at walking alone at night, the concern is only moderate. In addition, worries about being attacked due to skin color, ethnic origin, gender, or religion remain low in this fairly safe country. 

That said, Indigenous people are significantly more likely to experience assault, including sexual assault, and have disproportionately high rates of violence and victimization. A jaw-dropping 6 in 10 Indigenous women experience violence during their lifespans, and two-thirds have faced physical or sexual assault.

Firearm-Related Violent Crime

Fortunately, the violent crimes involving firearms are only a small proportion of reported crimes in Canada, representing a mere 2.8% of violent crimes reported. Firearm-related crime is more likely to be reported in Southern rural British Columbia, northern rural parts of Ontario, rural Alberta, and the Northwest Territories and Nova Scotia, yet even then, the numbers are small.

Unfortunately, after seeing violent crimes decline over a 6-year period, numbers have been creeping up again since 2014. Handguns tend to be the most used weapons in firearm-related violent crimes. 

Police-Reported Hate Crimes

One area where crime is rising at concerning levels is hate crimes, which have gone up by 37% in 2020. In most of the incidents, 62%, people were targeted based on race or ethnicity, while 20% were motivated by religion. Fortunately, the majority of hate crimes reported were non-violent.

Overall Police-Reported Crime Statistics

There are some positive numbers to report for overall Canadian Crime Statistics. In 2020, 195,000 fewer incidents (or 10%) were reported than the previous year. Property crimes dropped by 13%, which has been the largest change since 1998. 

On the Crime Severity Index, crime decreased by 8% and was 11% lower than in the previous decade. This Index measures both volume and severity.

Finally, breaking and entering dropped by 16%, theft of property over $5,000 in value was down by 20%, robbery dropped 18%, shoplifting decreased by 36%, and sexual assaults reported decreased by 9%. After increasing the previous five years, all crime was shown to decrease in 2020.

It isn’t all positive, though, as opioid-related offenses in Canada were 34% higher than the previous year. That was the only specific drug type to increase, however. In contrast, heroin use dropped by 15%, ecstasy by 7%, methamphetamine by 5%, and cocaine by 2%. 

Because it was the first year of the pandemic, however, it will be interesting to see how crime statistics adjust as people return to more “normal” behavior as case numbers and deaths from COVID decline. 

Highest Crime Rate in Canada Compared to Other Countries

Canada continues to enjoy a lower crime rate than many other countries, including our neighbors to the south. For example, when comparing the U.S. to Canada, crime levels are 43% higher in the U.S. than in Canada, with 42% more opiate use, 16 times higher rape rate per million people, 23 times the murder rate, and 5 times more total crime.

When looking at property crimes, the U.S. has 5% more burglaries than Canada, 55% more robberies, and 8 times more car thefts. Fear of crime is also 53% higher in the U.S. than in Canada. And 41% more people in Canada feel safe walking alone at night than in the U.S. This is despite the focus in the U.S. of arresting and jailing citizens, with 57 times more prisoners and 27% more police officers than in Canada. 

Crime Rate in Canada Takeaway

No matter which country you choose to live in, crime exists. However, it does vary dramatically country by country and even providence to providence. For example, the countries with the lowest crime rates include Switzerland (21.62 crime index), Denmark (26.22 crime index), Norway (33.72), and Japan (22.19). In contrast, those with the highest crime rates include Venezuela (83.76), Papua New Guinea (80.79), South Africa (76.86), and Afghanistan (76.31). 

Canada ranks 82 with a crime index of 41.89 and a population of 38,388,419. The United States has a higher crime index of 47.81 with a population of 334,805,269, for its rank at 56. Mexico ranks at 39 with an even higher crime index of 54.19 for 131,562,772 people. 

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