Canada is generally seen as a safe country and has a low rate of crime compared to many other countries around the globe. Canada consistently ranks among the ten most peaceful countries, while Toronto, Vancouver, and Calgary are among the safest cities in the world. However, Canada is not crime-free and there are significant differences between areas.
In this article, we explore the crime statistics in Canada. You will find information on various aspects of crime in Canada, including the number of reported crimes, crime rates, and types of crime.
Crime Statistics for Canadians
- Over two million crimes were reported to the police in 2021 in Canada.
- Canada’s Crime Severity Index was 73.7 in 2021.
- Breaking and entering, theft up to $5,000, and fraud account for around 35% of crimes in Canada.
- Drug offenses fell by 3% in 2021.
- In Canada, hate crime incidents reported to the police have increased by 72% since 2019.
- Over 90% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police.
- There were 29 more homicides in 2021 compared to 2020.
- Outside the pandemic, July and August are peak months for crime in Canada.
- Ontario, Quebec, and Prince Edward Island have the lowest CSIs in Canada.
- Durham Region has the lowest CSI among Canadian cities.
Crime in Canada
In 2021, there were over two million police-reported crimes in Canada. This was around 25,500 more than in 2020, and this number does not include traffic-related incidents reported to the police. There were 5,375 incidents per 100,000 residents, which represented a 1% increase from 2020 when the number of incidents decreased by 9% compared to 2019.
Canada’s Crime Severity Index
The Crime Severity Index (CSI), which is used in Canada to measure the severity and volume of crime reported to the police, changed only fractionally from 73.9 in 2020 to 73.7 in 2021. In 2020, the CSI fell by 7%, which was the first decrease in five years.
The CSI fell slightly from 2020 to 2021, as while the number of violent crimes went up, the number of non-violent crimes decreased. In 2021, the CSI for violent crimes increased by 5% and it was higher than before the pandemic in 2019. Much of the increase behind the reported violent crimes was driven by a large rise in level 1 sexual assaults.
Non-Violent Crime in Canada
Crimes included under non-violent CSI range from drug offenses to property offenses. There were 10% fewer cases of breaking and entering in Canada in 2021, with just over 125,500 incidents reported to the police. This is 38% fewer than a decade ago. However, it still makes the largest contribution to the overall CSI in Canada at 16% of all crimes reported.
The number of thefts below $5,000 reported to the police also fell in 2021, although not as significantly, by 4%. After falling considerably in 2020 because of the pandemic, reported shoplifting incidents of up to $5,000 increased by 3% in 2021. Even with the increase, the shoplifting rate in 2021 was still 33% lower compared to 2019.
The rate of robberies reported to the police fell by 5% in 2021, following an 8% decrease in 2020. Before the pandemic, the rates had remained fairly stable for five years. Overall, the CSI for property crime fell by 12%.
Despite the decrease, these crimes, together with fraud, still account for approximately 35% of all reported crimes across Canada. In Northwest Territories and Nunavut, mischief accounts for almost a third of police-reported offenses.
Overall, drug offenses fell by 3% in 2021. This was the second time in a row after falling by 9% in 2020. While this looks positive, the number of opioid-related offenses, including possession, trafficking, importation, exportation, and production, has increased at an alarming rate.
The number of opioid-related offenses was 5,996 in 2021, which represents a rate of 16 per 100,000 residents. This is an increase of 13% since 2020 and follows a 37% increase between 2019 and 2020.
British Columbia had the highest rate of opioid offenses among the provinces at 57 per 100,000 residents. Among Canadian cities, the situation was the worst in Lethbridge and Kelowna, with 124 and 116 incidents per 100,000 people.
However, the rates of crimes related to heroin decreased by 32%, ecstasy by 25%, methamphetamine by 20%, and cocaine by 15%. The rates of incidents were highest for cannabis, cocaine, and methamphetamine, with 35, 35, and 30 per 100,000 population, respectively.
While the total fraud rate reported to the police has remained stable before, during, and after the pandemic (443 incidents in 2019 and 2020, and 441 in 2021), the number of cyber-related fraud cases has risen fast.
The number of cyber-fraud incidents increased by 41% between 2019 and 2020 and then again by 13% in 2021. There were close to 40,000 cyber-related fraud cases reported to the police in 2021. However, there are likely to be thousands more because only around 11% of cyber fraud victims report the case to the police.
There was an increase of 27% in hate crimes reported to the police, with 3,360 reported incidents in 2021. This rate was 72% higher than it was in 2019, showing an alarming rise in hate crime.
Hate crime incidents where people were targeted for religious reasons increased by 67% with most victims belonging to Jewish, Muslim, and Catholic religions. Hate crimes related to sexual orientation increased by 64%. There was also a 6% rise in hate crime based on race or ethnicity.
Sexual Assault in Canada
In 2021, the number of level 1 sexual assaults reported to the police increased by 18%, which accounted for 40% of the rise in violent CSI in Canada. Between 2020 and 2021, level 2 sexual assaults fell by 5% and level 3 by 13%.
There were 34,242 sexual assaults reported to the police in 2021, which is 90 incidents per 100,000 residents. Equalling the rate from 1997, it was the highest since 1996. 98% of police-reported sexual assaults were level 1 sexual assaults. The rate of police-reported sexual assaults has increased in every province but decreased in every territory.
However, the number of sexual assaults on all levels is a lot higher in reality. Despite the increase in people reporting sexual assaults to the police and discussions about sexual violence in public, most sexual assaults still go unreported in Canada. Surveys show that around 94% of sexual assault cases are not reported in Canada.
Homicides in Canada
In 2021, there were 788 homicides in Canada, which was 29 more than in 2020. The rate of homicides increased from 2.0 homicides to 2.06 homicides per 100,000 residents, representing a 3% rise in a year.
The rate of homicides among Indigenous People in Canada is almost five times higher than the national rate. In 2021, there were 190 homicides where the victim was an Indigenous person reported to the police. This was 18 fewer than in the previous year, but still represented a rate of 9.17 per 100,000 people. Among non-Indigenous people, the rate was 1.55 per 100,000 people.
Alarmingly, the rate of homicides among racial minorities increased by 34% to 2.51 homicides per 100,000 people.
41% of homicides in Canada were firearm-related in 2021, which means 297 firearm homicides. The police considered 46% of these homicides to be related to gang activity.
Crime in Canada is Seasonal
Not including the pandemic years, where changes to normal life changed the pattern of crime, there is a seasonal pattern to crimes reported to the police in Canada. Crime is typically lower between October and March and peaks in July and August.
This is likely because people socialise more during the warmer months, which leads to more opportunities for thefts, assaults, and other types of crimes. It is also likely that crime is more visible during these months.
Crime Across Canada
There were contrasting changes to the CSI across the country between 2020 and 2021. The CSI increased in six out of ten provinces and in Nunavut, out of the three territories. The remaining four provinces and two territories reported decreases in CSI.
Among the provinces, the Prairie provinces have the highest CSIs. All three territories have higher CSIs than any of the provinces. Northwest Territories have the highest overall and non-violent crime CSIs. Nunavut has the highest rate of violent crimes.
While Ontario (+1%) and Quebec (+5%) both reported rising CSIs, both provinces, together with Prince Edward Island, still have the lowest CSIs in Canada. This rise in Ontario and Quebec was largely because of increases in fraud in Quebec, homicide in Ontario, and level 1 sexual assaults in both provinces.
The biggest decreases in CSI were seen in Alberta and British Columbia, where the CSIs fell by 7% and 5%, respectively. There were significantly fewer reported breaking and entering incidents, fraud, and thefts of $5,000 or less in both provinces. However, in these provinces too, the number of reported level 1 sexual assaults increased.
Crime in Urban and Rural Areas in Canada
The rate of crime in Canada’s urban areas decreased by 11% between 2019 and 2020 and remained stable from 2020 to 2021. In rural areas, reported incidents fell by 1% in 2020 but increased by 2% in 2021.
In rural areas, the rate of violent crime was 3% higher in 2021 than it was in 2020 and 7% higher than in 2019. Property crime fell by 1% during the two-year period. In contrast, the rate of property crime fell by 14% in urban areas between 2019 and 2020 and by a further 2% in 2021. While the rate of violent crimes in urban Canada fell during the pandemic, it was higher than pre-pandemic in 2021.
Cities With Most and Least Crime in Canada
There are big differences among cities in Canada when comparing their CSIs. The places with the highest CSIs are Kelowna BC, Nanaimo BC, Saskatoon SK, Winnipeg MB, and Regina SK. CSIs in these cities range from 141.9 in Kelowna to 116.8 in Regina.
The lowest rates are in the Durham Region at 42.5, Quebec QC at 48.6, Ottawa ON at 50.2, Trois-Rivières OQ at 52.3, and Sherbrooke QC at 52.6,
Unreported Crime in Canada
There is still a lot of crime in Canada that is never reported to the police. A 2019 survey on victims of crime in Canada indicated that only around 29% of crimes measured in the survey were reported to the police.
The rate is the lowest for sexual assault with only 6% reported to the police and highest for motor vehicle, or parts of the vehicle, thefts at 52%. Furthermore, surveys asking retrospective questions have found that 93% of child abuse cases are not reported to child protective services or the police.
Canada is one of the safest countries in the world and consistently ranks among the ten safest countries in the world. Large Canadian cities such as Toronto, Vancouver, and Calgary are very safe when compared to cities of similar size.
However, the crime rates vary across Canada and some places have crime rates which are notably above the national average. In addition, a significant number of crimes go unreported in Canada every year.
Frequently Asked Questions
Canada is a safe country, consistently ranking in the top ten of the safest countries in the world.
Based on the Crime Severity Index, Kelowna, Nanaimo, and Saskatoon are the most dangerous cities in Canada.
Despite a decrease in reported breaking and entering cases, it is still the most common type of crime in Canada with over 125,000 reported incidents in 2021.