National Post

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Friday, October 08, 1999

Number of babies killed nearly doubled in 1998
Overall homicide rate lowest in 30 years
Adrian Humphreys
National Post

The number of babies killed in Canada almost doubled last year, with 23 infants slain before their first birthday.

Researchers for the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics who carried out the study cannot explain why the number in 1998 rose so dramatically from the 13 recorded in 1997. In the previous decade the average number of babies in this age group who were killed each year is 12.

"It is such a shocking form of homicide -- they really are the most fragile victims -- this is worth looking closely at. It probably is one of those unfortunate, tragic statistical blips and likely not a long-term shift. But this should draw attention to the fact that there may be a threat," said Dr. Julian Roberts, professor of criminology at the University of Ottawa.

In 1998, 18 of the babies were killed by parents.

One was killed by a babysitter and one by a stranger. The killers in the remaining three cases are unknown.

"The trouble with tracking infanticide is it is the one component of homicide that one strongly suspects is imperfectly detected," said Dr. Martin Daly, a homicide researcher at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont. "There is a long-standing suspicion that some proportion of sudden infant deaths are deliberate. Deaths of babies that might have been called homicides can get missed whereas deaths of others that might have been homicides probably don't get missed very often."

The report also found that the national homicide rate as a whole dipped to its lowest in 30 years.

There were 555 homicides reported to the division of Statistics Canada by the nation's police forces last year, down from 581 in 1997.

In general, homicide rates were higher in the west and north than in the east, with Saskatchewan having the highest provincial rate at 3.12 homicides per 100,000 people. Prince Edward Island had the lowest rate, with no homicides reported.

Yukon and the Northwest Territories had few homicides, but because of their low populations, their rates remain high. Yukon's three homicides produced a rate of 9.48 homicides per 100,000 people, and N.W.T.'s five homicides produces a rate of 7.41.

Six provinces had rates above the national average of 1.83 homicides per 100,000 population. Along with Saskatchewan, they are: Manitoba at 2.9, Nova Scotia at 2.57, British Columbia at 2.24, Alberta at 2.20, and Quebec at 1.87.

The remaining provinces each fell below the national average. Ontario's rate is 1.36, Newfoundland's is 1.29, and New Brunswick's is .66.

Firearms were used in just over one-quarter of the slayings, the lowest proportion since data were first collected in 1961. Stabbing was the most common method, accounting for more than 33% of the homicides.

Spousal homicides were down for the seventh year in a row, accounting for 70 of the 1998 slayings, down from about 100 each year during the early 1990s.

Drug-related homicides accounted for the highest proportion of all slayings -- 77 in total -- since the centre started studying that as a factor in 1991. The report says 34 of the dead were drug dealers.

The study tracks all incidents of first- and second-degree murder, manslaughter and infanticide reported by police forces in Canada. Deaths caused by criminal negligence, suicide, accidental or justifiable homicides are not included.


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  • Homicide Statistics 1998

  • Copyright Southam Inc.