Last year, the rate of gang-related homicides was the highest in 16 years, according to Statistics Canada

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A Statistics Canada report shows the national homicide rate has risen for a third consecutive year and nearly a quarter of murders in 2021 were gang-related.

There were 788 homicides in the country last year, up 3% from 2020. This is the highest homicide rate in Canada since 2005.

Saskatchewan had both the highest homicide rate and the highest gang-related murder rate. The province’s homicide rate is up 9% from 2020.

Manitoba recorded the second highest rate, while Ontario and British Columbia also recorded large increases.

Alberta and Nova Scotia saw significant declines, with the 2020 mass shooting in Nova Scotia contributing to its decline the following year.

Homicides remain relatively rare in Canada, Statistics Canada said, and in 2021 accounted for less than 0.2% of all violent crimes reported by police.

The cities of Regina, Winnipeg and Thunder Bay in Ontario had the highest homicide rates.

Data released on Monday showed 184 of the homicides were gang-related. The agency said it was the highest rate since data on gang killings was first collected 16 years ago.

In particular, there were 13 additional gang-related homicides in Ontario compared to the previous year. British Columbia, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and the Yukon also saw an increase in gang-related killings.

“We have to do something different if we’re really going to provide real security,” said Kevin Walby, associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Winnipeg.

He said people are facing more difficulties with their social and economic conditions due to the pandemic and inflation. This can push people into riskier lifestyles, Walby added.

In order to reduce violence, he said more social support, employment opportunities, anti-violence training and community support are needed.

Walby said the numbers also show that investing in community supports is especially important for people of color, who are more likely to face the fatal consequences of crime.

The rate of Indigenous victims across the country remained disproportionately high – six times higher than that of non-Indigenous people. Statistics Canada said this was linked to the ongoing legacy of colonization by Indigenous peoples.

Forty-five Indigenous women were victims of homicide in 2021, three more than the previous year.

In Saskatchewan, 77% of those killed were Aboriginal people, who make up only about 18% of the province’s population. Alberta and Manitoba also had a high number of Aboriginal victims.

Blacks and South Asians also had higher rates of being victims of homicide. Ontario recorded 138 homicides where the victims were racialized, up 50 from 2020.

Statistics Canada said firearms were the most common weapon used in homicides. Toronto recorded the highest number of homicides involving a firearm at 61, followed by Vancouver, Montreal and Edmonton.

Stabbings accounted for 32% of homicides.

Walby said record sums have been invested in policing across the country, but that hasn’t reduced the number of homicides in many areas.

“I’m not sure we’ve really developed policies or approaches to mitigate violence or transgressions that work.”

—Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press

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