Safety in numbers? -

Safety in numbers?

Why do Canada’s most populous provinces—Quebec and Ontario—boast so many of its safest cities?


From Canada’s most dangerous cities: 2010:

Of the largest 100 cities or regions in Canada, the 10 safest are in Quebec and Ontario, Canada’s two most populous provinces. The Ontario city with the highest crime score is Belleville, population 51,000 and ranked 15th worst (cities in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba flesh out all the positions above it). The first Quebec city to show up is Montreal, ranked 24th, despite the fact it’s the third biggest city in Canada. Toronto is a sleepy 57th, while Peel, York and Halton regions—Toronto’s populous, sprawling suburban ring—have among the lowest crime scores in the country. So what gives?

Criminologists are divided on the question of why Central Canada sees the least amount of crime—and in particular violent crime—and why police-reported crime rates climb as you head west. One popular theory focuses on where crimes are more likely to be reported—for example, that western Canadians “have a tendency to be more law-and-order, and so therefore report more crimes,” as Mount Royal University criminologist Doug King puts it.

King, based in Calgary, doesn’t actually buy into that theory—he thinks the West’s demographics and tightly packed but isolated cities can tell the whole story. But Irvin Waller, a criminologist at the University of Ottawa, points out that reporting levels in Ontario and Quebec have been dropping for years. According to the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics figures for 2004, the most recent published data available, just 30 per cent of all victimization incidents get reported to police in Ontario, the lowest in Canada (Waller says victims of sexual assault are the least likely to contact police). And most victims who report crimes do so not because they think police can help, but as part of an insurance claim.

So maybe Ontario isn’t all that safe after all. Quebec, however, has the highest reporting in Canada, at 40 per cent. Waller speculates the difference has much to do with the victim services programs available in Quebec and largely absent in Ontario, where, he says, compensation amounts are smaller, there are fewer applicants, and “we have a bill of rights for victims that is worth absolutely nothing.” For example, Ontario’s Victims’ Bill of Rights stipulates that female sexual assault victims can choose to see female officers, but the province does little to ensure this happens, and the proportion of female officers remains low compared to Quebec—where, for example, 30 per cent of Montreal’s force is female (only 17 per cent of Toronto police officers are women). In 2007, Ontario ombudsman André Marin blasted the compensation system, saying that it hurt the very people it was designed to help. “So basically victims in Ontario in my view are rightly not going to the police,” Waller says.

Ontario’s low reporting rate also has much to do with the large numbers of new Canadians who have arrived from countries, like Jamaica, where police carry a reputation for corruption and abuse. That may be why York, Peel and Halton suburbs, part of the 905 donut surrounding Toronto and with a reputation for youth crime, come in so low on the crime-score totem pole—indeed, York and Halton land in the bottom 10.

Yet even if Ontarians reported more crime, that wouldn’t erase the gap between Central Canada and the West. Why? Tanya Trussler, a sociologist at Mount Royal University, says that Quebec and Ontario are more broadly middle class than the West, where a wider income gap helps fuel crime. Still, if experts believe Ontario only seems safer, its eastern neighbour actually boasts many of the safest communities in Canada. It has an older, more law-abiding citizenry, and receives fewer migrants than, say, Alberta, which contributes to a more commonly held view of what’s socially acceptable.

Trussler also notes Quebec’s focus on social programs. “If you recognize poverty as something that creates criminal behaviour, that would make sense for explaining why Quebec is lower than Alberta,” she says. “Alberta is very much oriented around punishment rather than prevention.” Margaret Shaw, of the Montreal-based International Centre for the Prevention of Crime, says Quebec has long embraced diversion programs that keep youth out of the criminal justice system and instead “got them into the community, into mediation, into centres where they can stay and work, and work on their issues. Quebec takes more of a social democratic approach to offending.”

METHODOLOGY: Maclean’s obtained annual crime data from Statistics Canada for municipal police services serving the nation’s 100 largest populations, each encompassing a city or town of at least 10,000 people. Using 2009 rates per 100,000 people for six crimes—homicide, sexual assault, aggravated assault, vehicle theft, robbery plus breaking and entering—in each area, Maclean’s calculated the percentage difference from the national rate. The overall crime score ranking for the 100 communities was created in consultation with StatsCan, using its Crime Severity Index (CSI) score and calculating the percentage difference from the national CSI score.


Safety in numbers?

  1. Montreal is the "third biggest city in Canada"? What's #2?

    • I imagine they counted just the city of Montreal (about 1.6 million) rather than the agglomeration (3.7)

      • Even then, what city is bigger than that other than Toronto? If you only count Montreal as the 1.6 million who live in the actual municipality, it's still second, and the next highest city in that type of accounting is actually Calgary at 988,193.

        Whether looking at Canada's largest municipalities, or it's largest urban areas, or it's largest metropolitan areas, despite how some "cities" move around in the rankings, I've never seen a list that had any entity in between Toronto and Montreal.

    • Vancouver

      • By what measure?

        As in the links to my comment above, if you're just looking at the municipality (Vancouver "proper") then Vancouver is actually the EIGHTH largest municipality at 578,041 to Montreal's second place finish with 1,620,693. If you're looking at the "urban area" around the city, Vancouver raises to 3rd, but is still behind Montreal with 1,953,252 people in Vancouver to Montreal's 3,316,615. If you count the "Census Metropolitan Area" (which adds Laval to Montreal, and Surrey and Burnaby to Vancouver) Vancouver is still pretty far behind with 2,116,581 to Montreal's 3,635,571.

        I don't think Montreal2Vancouver3's question has been answered yet. By what measure is Montreal not the second largest city in Canada??? I'm not sure I've ever seen a measure of population that even has any city within 1,000,000 people of overtaking Montreal for second place.

  2. You can finesse the statistics all you want, but the reality is that the murder capital of Canada is not out West, but its good-old Toronto. And if Quebec is so safe why does it keep on having all these mass shootings, plus, a few years ago it had a nasty little gang war between motorcycle gangs that killed dozens?

    • You don't seem to understand this "per capita" thing very well, do you? Toronto fell pretty much in line with the national homicide rate average last year, if I'm reading these right.

      Stats don't lie. Ignorance does.

      • I understand statistics very well. Just look at the newspapers and see how people are getting shot in drive-bys in Toronto as compared say Saskatoon or Regina. In Saskatchewan its very Toronto not os rare.

        • Yes, because anecdotal reports of sensationalist crime in newspapers are what we should rely on rather than actual numbers.

          Hey, my cousin's friend's brother's bosses' neighbour totally saw someone get shot when he visited Toronto five years ago. It's OBVIOUSLY crime-filled.

        • Actually drive by shootings are extremely rare, i can't recall the last time there was one in Toronto, and if you think Toronto is the crime capital you obviously have never visited or lived here and clearly don't understand how per capita works or what it means, it measures the rate of crime not the total number of crimes. Yes there are many murders in Toronto but per capita murder in Toronto is very rare since there are about 2.6 million people here. I've always felt very safe living in Toronto, safer than I've felt in some smaller cities. It really makes a difference too that Toronto has many more "eyes on the street" than most cities and that greatly reduces crime. As well immigrants are much less likely to be involved in crime than those born here and with Toronto having the highest number of immigrants of any Canadian city it definitely helps lower our crime rate. I admit before I moved to Toronto i was scared of the city because on the news I only ever heard about the crime mostly but when you actually live here the difference that per capita makes is really noticeable, yes there is crime in the city but it never affects you or anyone you know usually for most people anyways. Plus the people in Toronto tend to be very helpful of those in need of help, they might not say hi to you when you walk down the street but if you fall and get injured or whatever many total strangers will be there to help you out. Toronto is a very good and safe city in reality.

          • I agree to your comment about people in not saying hi on the street but I just wanted to comment that not all people will help out if you get hurt.

            I have been in a couple of accidents around Toronto in which a number of people had seen, i.e got hit by a car and involved in a car accident and no one asked if I was okay or helped me.

            Sometimes i've seen other people get hurt and I've been the only person to help them. Everyone else walked away.

            Some people will help you but these are just my experiences growing up in the GTA.
            Just saying.

        • Actually drive by shootings are very rare in Toronto! I live about 45 minutes outside Toronto, and I think the city is almost too safe, to the point where there's way to many people, and traffic is horrible. I'd rather take public transit downtown because of the mass amounts of people and cars.

          I'd rather go to American cities with the higher crime rates for sporting events and concerts over Toronto because they're easier to drive in.

    • The Hell's were all arrested in ….2001. In Québec we take care of them. Same with corruption.
      In Montreal this year, just 28 murders, half of them are related to street's gang (blacks and latinos)

    • I've lived in Quebec city for many years and my wife can still take a walk at any hour of the night.or day in any area of this city. Try that in Vancouver I guarantee you will be assaulted.

    • Toronto has more than 2 million people! Of course there will me more. It's the rate PER CAPITA.

    • Toronto has nearly 3 million people with 90 murders in a year, i think we're doing pretty good. Conservatives breed crime, its their love for booze and guns.

      • Don't forget the 3 million more living in the suburbs!

    • "The murder capital of Canada is not out West, but its good-old Toronto".

      By that logic you could argue that it's way safer to live in Lebanon than in the United States, because way more people die violent deaths in the U.S. every year than do in Lebanon.

      • Maybe it IS way safer for Canadian passport holders to live in Lebanon. As soon as something untoward starts up, your *cough* country *cough* sends some chartered ships to pick you up.

    • I grow up in oakville, on, (number 98 for overall crime rate)one of torontos suburbans. It is very safe. I found people to be helpful when needed. I moved to vancouver island a couple years back and saw many more murders on the news than in the gta and when I got into an accident here, no one stopped to help me. I did get help when I was stuck in the snow though. It just depends on whos driving by i guess.

  3. While this article seems to be an attempt to mollify the "Toronto is obviously the most dangerous city in Canada, I hear ten people get shot at the Eaton Centre every year!" crowd, the fact is that as much as you try and rely on reporting statistics, those are far more unreliable than the numbers which actually formed the core of the report.

    (Also, if you can find me a large portion of Jamacian immigrants living in York Region, I'll mail you a cookie. That's just not the right demographic matchup to make that point.)

    • Also, I note that Calgary is virtually tied with Toronto, which seems to wipe out a lot of the argument in the article itself.

      Could it just be that we do a better job of policing our major cities than smaller communities? Naaaaah….

    • It was York, Peel, and Halton mentioned and Peel does have a large portion of Jamaican immigrants…

    • Yeah, McLeans just wants to make the east look good.

  4. My closest city is Windsor. No comment about it but it's certainly safer than our neighbour across the Detroit River. I feel sorry for the cities labelled this way. Doesn't it say more about the need for meeting social needs in the North, for instance?

  5. am from winnipeg and it my be a bite ruff it dose not comper to ont or qube

    • ass hole

  6. Please learn to write :(

    • Winnipeg for you…..boring and useless people.

  7. my name is ali samra from montreal.i think its best in the world.gud and bad r every where.if u r gud ur thinking is positive. every thing is gud.

    • What are you, some 9 year old kid? Seriously, if you think everything is “Gud”, you should go look in the paper sometime, or even flip on the TV. You’ll see how “Gud” everything is :p

  8. As a crime analyst, this report is nothing more than the number of crimes divided by the population, based on per 100,000 residents. It does not take into account, seasonal variations, culture diversity of the region or economic factors. This rating should not include cities with a population under 100,000. It is not a fair comparison at all. How about rating property crimes (thefts, break & enters, vehicle thefts, etc)? You will probably find that the smaller cities/towns have a much higher rate than large cities. As for Toronto (where I live); 56 homicides in city of 2.7 million is pretty good with a rate of 2 murders per 100,000. And besides, in most murder cases; the victim and the accused had a previous relationship. So you are more likely to be killed by your husband/wife/son/father/mother than a complete stranger. In 2009, Barrie had 4 murders, which means it homicide rate is double that of Toronto's. Nuff said?

    • This rating should not include cities with a population under 100,000.

      Why is that? The math has no trouble getting to a rate per hundred thousand population, whether the actual denominator is 1.5 million, or 80 thousand.

  9. There are lots of comment about "my city is better than your city" when the problem is national. The crime lords are organized and international in scope. Gangs tend to be local and are merely the tools of international crime. Education and community programs for kids are the only way to fight poverty and poverty is where crime feeds. We need to pay more attention to our own neighbourhoods and less to the third world if we are to defeat the epidemic of yourth crime.

  10. Fascinating how this article manages to scapegoat Jamaicans without referencing any other ethno-cultural community in the GTA. The editorial content of MaClean's has this obsession with painting a negative picture of Jamaicans without citing substantive and relevant facts.
    If on the one hand you assert that the GTA is safer than other regions in Canada (such as the predominantly white northern cities) then it is rather gratuitous to then turn around and simply throw in an irresponsible hypothesis about reporting rates among Jamaicans. This is rather suspicious since you don't know what these rates are in the first place. Essentially you are trying to indirectly report that the GTA is safe except for a certain group of people.
    Jamaican Canadians are as diverse and complex as any other community in Canada. There is a broad spectrum of attitudes to take into account when you reference any community. If you seek to include conjecture in an article that is based on empirical research then you should refrain from citing just one specific community otherwise you run the risk of betraying your bias.

  11. And thats the TRUTH!!!

  12. Actually immigrants are much less likely to be involved in any criminal activity than those who were born here, the stats from from both Canada and the US support that fact. The belief that immigrants are more involved in crime is juts plain wrong and likely has much more to do with mistrust of people different from yourself. The fact that Toronto has both the highest number of immigrants and a very low crime rate is almost certainly connected. Plus in big cities there are more "eyes on the street" so the opportunity for crime is much lower than in more sparsely populated and isolated places. I don't know much of anything about the crime rate for native Canadians but I would imagine a good portion of it can be explained by poverty and other social disadvantages many natives face, its not an excuse but the notion that one group of people is so inherently different from other groups of people as to be more criminal by nature is ridiculous, culture and other social issues are the issue, not someone's ethnicity as such.

  13. It is unfortunate that the reference made to Jamaicans is so isolated and seemed more to reflect streotype and bias,get your act together, it is poor writing.One last suggestion, never write what you think to be fact. What do you know about Jamaica?

    • So they should have taken the time to substantiate claims about Jamaica having unsound policing? With statistics, anecdotes and studies, right? I would have skipped through that whole part. There's nothing unreasonable about assuming some facts are near-universally known. Jamaica = 3rd world, that's it that's all.

      So you think the Jamaica claim was stereotypical and isolated? The author decided he would mention an immigrant population with a significant community in a eastern big city's suburbs. He chose Jamaicans. Could have been Punjabi, Latino, Russian, but he chose Jamaican. So what? I find the example was perfectly well-suited to the point he was trying to make. Perhaps your interpretation of the article's structure reveals your own personal biases.

      It's laughable that you give writing advice to a professional journalist; all I can disseminate from your comment is that you feel we need more censors on everything. If you need more censors just focus on the fact that __________ didn't report crimes because in their country of origin, ____________ , policeman were distrusted. I am Jamaican and I'm thankful someone has recognized the dilemma situation mentioned in the article.

    • It was saying that Jamaican people living in Canada are less likely to call police , I don't think they are saying the Jamaicans are the criminals. In Jamaica everyone knows how the police work there right hand you pay cash. Left hand out they are going to bust you! Been there done that!

  14. Surprise, surprise! I thought all along our city, Toronto, has one of the highest crime rate in Canada – statistics wise. If you listen and watch the evening news, there's always a crime happening in Toronto – every day, both big and small. I was thinking of moving to Edmonton but with this new study, I think we're better off staying.

    • I would think the winters alone would be enough reason to stay away from Edmonton! Nothing beats a Southern Ontario winter!

  15. I'm not surprised the East has a lower crime rate than the West and North. The West and North have a larger gap between the rich and the poor. Some people's basic needs there aren't covered, so they need to do certain things against the law to survive, and drug use there is higher. The East is overall is wealthier so basic and entertainment need in life are covered and drug use is lower. I would think people out East are probably happier and more content with their lives then the rest of the country, plus there's more things to occupy your time with, especially in Southern Ontario.

    However overall, it doesn't matter where you are in Canada, it's a safe and great country to live in.

  16. Its all based on correct stats…..Quebec has always been the overall safest place to live in Canada…..Old folk city Victoria…who would have guessed?…..every small town scammer and drugger and thief in Canada, mostly from Ontario, heads out west and we get stuck with their stats here in the west…..Ontario doesnt want them back!!!…wont even pay wanted criminals way back unless these dickheads commited murder back 'home"
    Bikers make the news but overall their stats dont….

  17. Unreported??? My then teenage daughter was sexually molested at a party several years ago…she was "convinced" by the FEMALE poice officer to drop the complaint as "these cases rarely go anywhere"….

  18. Quebec is afraid to look at it's own dark side and needs first to get it's own house in order. The Quebec governments, politicians, police, administrators certainly are still too soft on dealing with crimes, inadequacies so is the federal government. Imagine this thousands of people do now die in Hospitals per year because of the Hospitals inadequacies and it still basically is allowed to happen.. even cause not too much is being done about it still too. People even die waiting in the emergency wards for years now too. Arrest the Premier, Health Minister, Hospital director, the Quebec Ombudsman, and the main Doctor at the Hospital, emergency room for criminal neglect of a sick person, after all they know about the problems for a long time and they did nothing good about it.….

    • Your blog sucks, your penmanship sucks. It's no wonder your ideas suck too. Stick to your day job bud.

  19. Forget Jamaicans

    The 800lb elephant is the tragic state of aborignals, who make up a greater proportion of the population of western cities than they due in Central & Eastern Canada.

    That's one of the reasons that downtown Winnipeg is about the only city I've ever visited in Canada that suffers from white flight.

    Also, police can only clean up after a crime, they really can do little to stop someone who wants to commit a crime except in extraordinary situations where they might have advanced knowledge..

    As for Quebec, I grew up there and crime and corruption were endemic, but we never had our house robbed while my aunts in Winnipeg averaged one every 3-5 years.

    I won't even mention the near-race war that almost started in northern saskatchewan when a local farmer killed an aborignal in a bar fight. The poor local RCMP made the railroad gang I was part of pick up stakes and move 25km, to get us out of an unstable dynamic.

    • Not only tragic state of aboriginals, but the governments that do not want to tackle the problems. This social issue is what the crime numbers are all about, except Vancouver area. There it is drug issues & racial tensions.

  20. I'd just like to reiterate Montreal2Vancouver3's first question above: By what measure is Montreal the "third biggest city in Canada"? Montreal is the second biggest city in Canad still, I believe, and I've never seen a way of measuring urban populations that has it less than 1,000,000 people ahead of the next biggest city on the list (usually Vancouver by most, though not all, measures).

    I could be relying on old data (though the numbers I just looked at were from the 2006 Census, and at best for Vancouver they had Vancouver 1,363,363 people behind Montreal, hardly a deficit that I'd think any city could make up in just four years!) or maybe Macleans is measuring city data differently somehow, but I'd like to know how one ranks Canada's cities by population such that Montreal does not come in second.

  21. The stats have most to do with demographics, and therefore social issues. Just take a look at census data for demographics on prairies and BC. Wake up Ontario & get your heads out of the sand.! Some day when the demographic mix reaches your cities, you will see.

  22. @LdKitchenersOwn… to the comment: but I'd like to know how one ranks Canada's cities by population such that Montreal does not come in second.

    It depends if you take the population of the Grand Montreal which is Montreal, the island and every city around… or if you take just the population of the island…

    @thenonconformer: ok, hospital is a long wait… but doctors are goods. My father retreive his view, my mother passed her cancer without problems, my sister is still living after a very bad cerebral tumor… and no one of us is in debt. The problem is not really the system but more that people are so babies that they will wait weeks and months to see a doctor because they are scared to wait 3 hours… and they finally go to urgency once they are near death…

    It's not that the system is sick, but more because there are so many old people here that we just can't pay and care for all of them… But at least, the old ones dont go in the streets to kill others.

  23. Wrong the artical although ,great spelling and puntation,total garbage, .I have lived in ,ont, que, albt, and, bc communities,quebec ontario and alberta ,you have a problem you call police ,they are there.with great concern and helpful .In  Vancouver  the police are the last one you would call . for break and enter ,When i first started work in vancouver ,the office where i worked got broken into ,i ask what the police said they laugh all shook there heads at the new guy ,Turns out my office building in gastown,gets broken in regulary ,We have had people try to break in through the air conditioner on the third floor .security doors kicked in ,all the time.Made the mistake once called the police after my friend ,was attacked and had a knife pulled on him.The knife was dropped in the struggle picked up and taken away by the attackers accomplice ,the attacker was held for police. Like good citizens we phone police When they arrived we were treated like dirt ,our lives and rights were worth nothing although none of us had criminal records in our mid fourtys five wittneses ,in our place of buisness.they, (the police), played dumb to the fact that an assult had taken place,after listening to them whine (the police) let the attacker go scott free.Amagine that adrieniline pumpin glad to be alive ,at the very least not sliced open,and have an arguement with the police over there total lack of professionlism.they left and we were the bad guys.the street in vancouver are far more violent than anywhere i have lived .toronto montreal calgary edmonton, police forces are far more iline with the community saftey .the notion statistics only in larger eastern citys,that crimes are not reported sound good , but in practice , lack all the correct information for that statistic to be anywhere near true.