Homicide in northern Canada: it’s who you know, StatCan says

Nunavut’s eight homicides in 2018 the worst since 1999

This graph, from a Statistics Canada report released last week, shows that in 2018 homicide rates in northern Canadian regions were much higher than in southern Canada. (Statistics Canada)

By Jim Bell

If you live in northern Canada, the greatest threat to your life is posed by people you know, such as family members and friends, and the most dangerous place for you to be is inside a home, Statistics Canada found in a report released last week.

And if you’re a northerner, you’re three times more likely to die by homicide than people who live in the southern parts of the provinces.

These and other findings are contained in a new StatCan report on the prevalence of homicide across Canada in 2018.

They show that in 2018, Nunavut saw the highest number of homicides recorded since the territory’s creation in 1999: eight, up from six in 2017.

And except for the eight homicides that Yukon recorded in 2017, Nunavut’s 2018 figure represents the highest number of homicides that police have reported in any of the three territories since 1999.

That’s consistent with crime rate and crime severity statistics for Nunavut released this past July, revealing a big increase in sexual assaults and other categories of violent crime compared with 2017.

The July 2019 report also showed that in addition to the eight homicides, eight attempted murders also occurred in Nunavut in 2018.

It’s who you know

The most recent numbers show 93 per cent of northern homicide victims are killed by someone they know and that three in every four such victims die inside a residence.

Those numbers, StatCan said, reveal some of the biggest differences between southern Canada, where homicide rates are falling, and northern Canada, where homicide rates continue to rise.

“The most significant [difference] being that victims in the North were less likely to be killed by a stranger (seven per cent) than in the South (19 per cent,)” the report said.

For the purposes of the report, StatCan defines the “North” as the three territories plus the northern regions of provinces.

Using that method, StatCan found that in 2018, homicide rates were three times higher in the northern regions of Canada than in the southern regions.

Homicide a barometer for violence

And because homicide is defined the same way across many parts of the world, it’s a useful indicator for overall levels of violent crime, StatCan said.

“Thus, homicide is important to examine, not only because of its severity, but also because it is considered as a comparable and reliable barometer of violence in society,” StatCan said.

In an earlier article published in 2017, StatCan said factors associated with higher violent crime rates are far more common in the northern territories than in southern Canada.

“The territories also have higher proportions of persons identifying as Indigenous, lone-parent families, persons with less than a high school diploma and crowded dwellings—again mainly in Nunavut and, to a lesser extent, in the Northwest Territories,” the 2017 article said.

Across Canada, however, police reported 651 homicides in 2018, 15 fewer than in 2017, which is a four per cent decrease.

Indigenous homicides fell

Among Indigenous peoples living across Canada, the police recorded 140 homicides, down from 157 in 2017.

But although the homicide rate among Indigenous people fell, it was still about five times higher than for non-Indigenous people in 2018, StatCan said.

That means that although Indigenous people make up only about five per cent of Canada’s population, they accounted for 22 per cent of all homicide victims in 2018.

And the highest proportion of deaths by homicide was among Indigenous males, followed by Indigenous females and non-Indigenous males. The lowest rate of deaths by homicide was among non-Indigenous females.

The homicide rate among Indigenous females rose slightly in 2018 from 2017.

“Solve rates” higher for Indigenous victims

“The solved rate for Indigenous and non-Indigenous females was almost the same (86% and 88% respectively),” the report said.

But for Indigenous male victims, the solve rate was higher: 76 per cent, compared with 56 per cent for homicides involving non-Indigenous male victims.

“The relatively low solve rate for non-Indigenous male victims may be related to the fact that 60 per cent of these unsolved homicides were gang-related, a type of homicide that tends to be more difficult to solve,” the report said.

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(14) Comments:

  1. Posted by Why? on

    Im betting most homicides are fuelled by alcohol and drugs, directly or indirectly. Jealousy plays in that band too. And we go from dry communities to wet communities without any insight, thats its all about the abuse whether we are dry or wet, it doesn’t matter. This is not really news. This is reminders of the facts.

  2. Posted by Colin on

    Another prime cause of brutal violence and death for Indigenous people is the provocative environment in Canada’s hell-hole jails.

    Prisons in Norway and Holland treat inmates as human beings, and they facilitate return to the mainstream society? Costs for those prisons are lower than Canada’s hundreds of dollars per-inmate day, and the return rate is lower. Also, employees find it pleasant and rewarding to work in those prisons.

    By contrast with Canada’s prisons, the renowned Irish writer Brendan Behan was in Borstal (reform school) in England between the ages of sixteen and nineteen. His time there helped to enable his eventual success.

    • Posted by Dave on

      Brendan Behan died over 50 years ago. When he was in an Eng prison, I bet guards still carried clubs and beat the Irish prisoners for sport.

      Michael Moorer showed us Norway’s model prison, it’s the only one like it. It doesn’t reflect Norway’s prison system accurately at all. Also, Norway’s much lower crime rate is another reason inmates don’t re-offend.

      Canadian jails are just that Canadian. Every race attends the same jails, it’s really weak to place that blame on jails.

    • Posted by Observer on

      Which might be a useful argument…except a significant number, if not most, of the people responsible for homicides in Nunavut had never served time in prison before they killed someone else.

      • Posted by Behave on

        Just behave well, dont worry about someone taking you to a cage. That for huskies. I got no opinion about someone in a cage as a human, other than, its a the lowest of a human if that human has hurt another human. I dont care about jails in norway either.

  3. Posted by on

    Kind of difficult to get an accurate picture based on this bar graph. Nunavut population is around 40,000. The graph is based on per 100,000. It needs to be recalculated to reflect actual population numbers. Still, it is too much death.

    • Posted by Tulugak on

      The normal rate in Canada and I believe internationally, is per 100,000 and figures in smaller jurisdictions are averaged by 100,000 – they aren’t absolute figures. Yet, there is a distortion because of the small population and a few homicides may appear very much amplified when they are counted as per 100,000. For example if you have 1 homicide in a jurisdiction with 50,000 people, the rate of homicides will be 2 per 100,000.

    • Posted by It’s Math on

      They do adjust the graph for the real numbers. Stay in school and learn some more math. Every time they post a crime statistics article on this site, someone writes in to say it doesn’t apply because Nunavut doesn’t have 100,000 people. The graph is accurate, and Nunavut is the region you are most likely to get murdered in, by a long shot.

  4. Posted by Tulugak on

    For me, it’s a shocking illustration of the failure of the mainstream, colonial court system in the North, particularly in Indigenous communities. While the court system has seen a significant increase in staffing, judges, prosecutors etc at a very high cost, violent crime rates continue to escalate. So, the more money the colonial government puts in the system, the worse are violent crime rates!

    It shows that a court system is profoundly cultural and trying to deal with conflict and crimes with a mostly foreign approach to a different culture is never going to work. We have known that for many decades, in particular with the criminal justice report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People in 1996, at a multimillion dollars cost to Canadian taxpayers but yet, the federal government ignored this report and many others and continued with its colonial business as usual.

    Legal pluralism, (i.e. Inuit and other Indigenous people’s could use their own legal systems), works in Canada for Quebec that has its own civil laws but the governments deny it for Indigenous peoples. That’s a very colonial approach and is part of the problem of violence in many Indigenous communities.

    • Posted by So Colonial on

      So do you really want to deal with murderers the old way, where the only way to eliminate the threat they pose is for you to kill them back? Do you think that might be dangerous for you, and also a big burden on you to make the correct decision on whether a dangerous criminal must die or not? There were no prisons in the good old days before those “colonials” showed up. Courts aren’t “colonial”, they are used all around the world as an improved way to figure out if someone committed a crime (because if they didn’t, they shouldn’t be punished for it), and then remove them from society through imprisonment.

    • Posted by Israel MacArthur on

      Or, perhaps, just stop killing and committing crime, hmmm? /s

      Seriously though, many would say that tinkering with the waiting times in courts is like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

      In Nunavut we need to ask the same question as they do in the GTA when talking about Jamaican-Canadian crime rates. What is going in the culture? What is happening with the men? How can it be remedied? How can recidivism be reduced? Court waiting time is important, but very far from the most important concern. I’ve heard it plausibly argued that Inuit culture is traditionally quite violent and that today’s crime rates are really not unusual. I don’t know, maybe this is so, we wouldn’t know until the research is in.

      Traditional Inuit law? Yup, could do that for some things, with the consent of all parties, much as we do with Jewish or Muslim laws for some civil (and only civil) issues, but every party would need to have have the right of refusal, and it can’t clash with the Charter’ such as in the religious ‘law’ system.

      Some problems are…what is traditional Inuit law? Hell, people can’t even agree on IQ principles, spelling, or how many languages there are, so good luck with law. Who gets to determine it? A group of elders, or all members of society? How will such a system work in Iqaluit and places that are becoming more city-like and where traditional kinship bonds are rapidly breaking down? Many in the larger population centres of Nunavut are very very cynical about traditional law and punishment, and would be frankly be much harder on offenders if they could be. What if some of the criminals are Inuit and others aren’t? What if an ethnically Inuit criminal refuses Inuit law and prefers mainstream law? And, naturally, it would be a huge can of worms for anything that disagrees with the Charter, which is the highest law of the land for all, regardless of background or ethnicity.

      So, lots of work to be done. Good luck to anyone tackling that can of worms.

      PS. The Canadian court system can’t be considered to be foreign on Canadian soil.

  5. Posted by Tulugak on

    I would also like to refer to Mr. Justice Bychok’s comments about the Jordan decision of the Supreme Court of Canada. This is another unfortunate colonial comment from a judge who should show some restraint. The way it sounds, is that Nunavummiut should have to wait for their day in court because the court is unable to meet the Jordan timelines. This flies in the face of the way Inuit deal with conflicts, which is as soon as possible. Can you imagine coming back in a community over 18 months (the time limit for a minor offence) and reopen the whole incident and conflict for the community with witnesses that have started forgetting about it long ago? Well, this is exactly what is suggested.

    Insteand of blaming the SCC on behalf of Nunavummiut, it would make more sense to acknowledge that the actual, mainstream court system is not working and to find ways of supporting Inuit in restoring their own legal traditions and conflict resolution mechanisms. Many research studies have shown that a more restorative, Indigenous approach to crime and justice work better and lower the risks of recidivism… and crime rates. At least, let the Inuit do it their own way and if that doesn’t work, another way of doing things might be considered – nonetheless, it is very unlikely to be worse than the actual colonial court system.

    • Posted by Red Herring on

      The court system isn’t the problem at all. Do you really believe that if the court system were changed, or “decolonized” (whatever that means i’m not sure, perhaps you could define your terms, which I am almost certain you neither will nor can) that these statistics would change somehow?
      If so, how?
      I suspect that when unfavourable articles like this, that reflect on the negative and dysfunctional realities about Nunavut (and of course, let’s face it, Inuit) your defense mechanism necessitates turning into a quick sound off over grievances about the “colonial” this, or the “colonial” that. I suspect that this kind of limited and facile analysis actually contributes to the problem via a red herring which distracts from the real issues. But this is common gruel in Nunavut, and will be for decades to come.

  6. Posted by David on

    Northern Saskatchewan, Northern Manitoba, NWT and Nunavut all have extremely high rates of FASD. Studies have shown the majority of FASD kids are in trouble with the law before they turn 18.

    I suspect this is the #1 cause of these high homicide rates.

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