Crime in Canada

From Academic Kids

Canada has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. It has been declining for decades. In 2002, Canada showed the lowest crime rate in twenty-five years with 7,590 reported incidents per 100,000 people.

The province with the lowest crime rate is Newfoundland. The other Atlantic provinces are close behind. The province with the highest crime rates is Saskatchewan and Regina is the city with the highest violent crime rate of major cities. The three northern territories have higher crime rates per capita than any province.

In Canada, criminal law is a federal jurisdiction, with the provinces being consitutionally responsible for enforcement and prosecution. Punishment and the laws themselves are uniform throughout the country, but some provinces push for different levels of enforcement.


Comparison with the United States

Compared to the United States Canada has far lower rates of violent crime such as murder, assault, and rape. Through the 1990s, the homicide rate in the United States was three times higher than it was in Canada, while the American rate for aggravated assault was double the Canadian rate. The rate for robberies was 65% higher in the United States.

Rates of property crime are more comparable with higher rates of motor vehicle and bicycle theft in Canada and similar rates of shoplifting. Canada also has a much higher rate of arson. Some of this may be connected to Canadians being more likely to report property crimes to police than Americans. A 1995 survey by the International Crime Victim Survey found the gap between the countries shrank when the population was directly surveyed about their experiences.

The United States has about triple the per capita number of arrests for drug related crimes. Actual rates of drug use are quite similar however, but in the United States far more law enforcement resources are dedicated to the War on Drugs.

Other comparisons

Canada's crime rate is close to the average of Western Europe. Canada has a fair bit more crime than Japan. Canada has a lower crime rate than almost every country in the developing world.


One of the most common explanations of the higher violent crime rate in the United States are guns. Gun crimes are far more common in the United States. Only one third of Canadian murders involve firearms compared to two thirds in the States. Guns are far more likely to be used in robberies in the United States. Gun ownership rates are much higher in the United States, especially handguns. Most Canadian weapons are rifles or shot guns owned by farmers and target shooters, and are less likely to be used in crimes. More assault weapons are banned in Canada than the United States. Canada also has a national gun registry. Even before the creation of the national gun registry, the two biggest provinces, Ontario and Quebec had a long history of strict gun controls. Paradoxically, however, after declining since the late 1970s, Canada's homicide rate has actually increased slightly since the national gun registry was enacted.

Canada has more guns and fewer controls on them than Western Europe or Japan.


Canada has 182 police officers per 100,000 people. That is a substantially lower rate than most developed countries with only Japan and Sweden having so few police officers. The United States has 243 per 100,000 and Germany 290. Canada's national police force is the RCMP which is the main police force in Canada's north and rural areas outside of Quebec, Ontario, and Newfoundland. Those three provinces have their own provincial police forces. Major cities also have their own police forces.

Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island have the fewest police per capita with 1.4 officers per 1000 people in Newfoundland and 1.5 in PEI. The other eight provinces fall between 1.7 and 2.0 per thousand with Ontario having the most at 2.0.


There is controversy among criminologists over whether American harsh sentences are a cause or a reflection of higher crime rates. American sentences have been higher throughout the twentieth century, even during periods when the two country's crime rates were comparable.

Canada has comparatively low sentences for many crimes and most convicts receive parole after serving one third of their sentence. Those who commit multiple crimes will get conjunctive sentences rather than consecutive ones. Canada also has not had the death penalty since the 1970s. Sentences, especially for drug related crimes are vastly lower than sentences in the United States. There is nowhere in Canada a law such as California's three strikes policy. Canadian criminals are more likely to be given alternative sentences than jail times and more money is put into rehabilitation. Canada thus has a far lower percentage of its population in jail than the United States.

In 2001, Canada had about 32,000 people in prison or about 0.13% of the population. In the United States about 0.7% of the population is incarcerated and the European average is 0.2% with France and Germany having lower rates than Canada, but the United Kingdom, Spain and most of Eastern Europe having higher ones.

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