Criminal Gun and Gang Violence in Canada

Backgrounder

Increasing number of gun crimes

While overall crime rates in Canada are much lower today than decades ago, for the third consecutive year the total number of firearm-related homicides in Canada increased, reaching 223 in 2016, 44 more than the previous year.Footnote1 Shooting has now become the most common form of homicide, surpassing homicide by stabbing and beating.Footnote2

Gang-related murders involving guns is no exception. In 2016 alone, police reported 141 gang-related homicides, 45 more than in 2015. The largest increases in the number of gang-related homicides committed with a firearm were reported in Ontario (+22) and British Columbia (+12), with the majority of these occurring in Toronto and Vancouver.Footnote3 Since 2013, firearms murders in Canada’s largest cities have almost doubled from 134 to 223.Footnote4

Gun violence is also increasing in rural areas. In Canada, three out of 10 violent gun crimes happen outside of a major city. Overall, the Territories and Saskatchewan have the highest rates of firearm-related violent crime.Footnote5

Victims and offenders

In Canada most victims of crime know the person who committed the crime. But this isn’t the case for gun crimes, which are typically committed by strangers. A gun was used in six per cent of crimes committed by a stranger, compared with only 1.5 per cent of crimes in which the victim knew the offender.Footnote6

Gun crime often involves young offenders and young adults. Across Canada, youth and young adults are charged with firearm-related violent crime at a higher rate than adults.Footnote7

Recent Government of Canada initiatives to combat criminal gun and gang violence

To help combat criminal gun and gang violence the Government of Canada announced major new federal funding in 2017, committing up to $327.6 million over five years, and $100 million annually thereafter, to help support a variety of initiatives to reduce criminal gun and gang crime.

Close to $43 million is committed to projects in 2017-2018 to support the National Crime Prevention Strategy. Through these investments, the government is supporting the development of cost-effective ways to prevent and reduce crime among at-risk populations and vulnerable communities by intervening to mitigate the underlying factors that put individuals at risk of offending.

The Strategy provides support to programs that reach out to youth through the schools, community centres and neighbourhood organizations to help them steer away from drugs and gangs. Under this Strategy, the Youth Gang Prevention Fund provides time-limited grant and contribution funding for initiatives in communities where youth gangs are an existing or emerging threat, and supports initiatives that clearly target youth in gangs or at greatest risk of joining gangs. Additional funding programs under the Strategy support community-based crime prevention programs as well as specific programs to support crime prevention in Northern and Aboriginal communities.

Public Safety Canada’s Aboriginal Community Safety Planning Initiative (ACSPI) supports Indigenous communities in the development of customized Community Safety Plans. These plans address issues identified by the community as specific to their unique vulnerabilities and circumstances. They identify community strengths, assets, safety and wellness goals that help all community members see themselves on a path toward a healthier and safer home and community.

The Government of Canada is committed to reducing criminal gun crime and gang activities and will continue to seek new opportunities to engage and effectively work with other organizations to help members leave the brutal gang lifestyle.


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