Toronto Star

Sep. 26, 01:00 EDT

Homicides by spouses on the rise

But StatsCan report cites drop in youth slayings

Toronto Star

OTTAWA (CP) Spousal homicides increased in 2001 for the first time in six years, Statistics Canada reported Wednesday.

Eighty-six such homicides were reported last year, up from 68 in 2000, the first increase since 1995.

"The number of men accused of killing their current wife or ex-wife rose to 69 in 2001 from 52 in 2000, with virtually all of this increase occurring in Ontario," the agency said. Sixteen women, the same number as in 2000, were accused of killing their husbands. One homicide was committed by a same-sex spouse.

The overall national homicide rate remained stable for the third consecutive year: 1.78 homicides per 100,000 population. That's similar to levels during the later 1960s, Statistics Canada said.

But the rate of youth slayings dropped to a 30-year low. Just 30 young people were charged with homicide offences, 13 fewer than in 2000.

In all, there were 554 homicides in 2001, eight more than in 2000. Police classified 183 as family-related, 52 more than in 2000.

Two-thirds of the 485 people accused of homicide had a criminal record, consistent with previous years.

"Police reported 62 victims of gang-related slayings, down from 72 in 2000. However, they accounted for one out of every nine homicides in 2001."

Gang-related homicides have almost tripled since the early 1990s, with two-thirds involving drug trafficking or the settling of accounts.

And Ontario has replaced Quebec as a battleground.

From 1991 to 2000, Quebec accounted for the majority of gang-related incidents, the agency said. But its share dropped to 37 per cent last year because of an increase in incidents in Ontario.

"Firearms were involved in 31 per cent of all homicides in 2001, a proportion consistent with previous years," the report says. Of those, 65 per cent involved handguns, up from 46 per cent in 1998.

Statistics Canada uses the Criminal Code classification of homicide as first- or second-degree murder, manslaughter or infanticide. Deaths caused by criminal negligence, suicide, and accidental or justifiable homicide are not included.

The agency said homicide rates were higher in the West than in the East in 2001, which has generally been the case.

Manitoba recorded the highest provincial rate of 2.96 homicides per 100,000 people for the second year in a row, followed by Saskatchewan at 2.66.

"Newfoundland and Labrador, with one homicide, reported the lowest rate (0.19) for the third consecutive year, followed by Nova Scotia (0.95) and New Brunswick (1.06). Nova Scotia's rate was its lowest since 1963, and the rate in British Columbia (2.08) was the lowest since 1964." The Prince Edward Island rate was 1.44; Quebec, 1.89; Ontario, 1.43; and Alberta, 2.28.

Among nine cities with populations of 500,000 or more, Winnipeg had the highest rate at 2.77 victims per 100,000; Ottawa had the lowest at 0.36.

Among metropolitan areas with populations between 100,000 and 500,000, Regina had the highest rate at 3.53, and Sherbrooke, Que., with no homicides, was the lowest.

As usual, most homicide victims knew their killer.

"In 2001, about 44 per cent of all solved homicides were committed by an acquaintance, and 43 per cent by a family member." The other 13 per cent were killed by a stranger, about the same proportion reported for the past decade.

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