When most immigrants and tourists think of Canada, one thing which they don’t usually consider or take into account is the overall crime rate. This isn’t due to a lapse in judgment, on the whole, or a staggering unawareness on their part, but rather because of the happy fact that Canada doesn’t project itself as having a “crime problem.” It’s simply not known for that. “The War on Crime,” “The War on Poverty,” “The War on Drugs”—all those domestic “wars” and nigh warzone-like police confrontations such as were seen in Ferguson, Missouri last year are all part and parcel of life in Canada’s boisterous southern sister, but while that’s a stereotype, nevertheless, it’s “true” in that “crime” just don’t come to mind when the average tourist thinks of Canada (and that’s a good thing!)
That being said, while overall crime across Canada has dropped, that doesn’t mean the Great White North is completely squeaky clean, either, and there are definitely some regions and cities where crime is being combatted in a better and more effective manner than others.
Here, then, are some regions with the best and worst overall crime rates in Canada.
The Worst Cities for Crime in Canada
Edmonton [Public Domain]
The Oilers are stagnating right now, showing little sign of improvement. Unfortunately, the same can be said about Edmonton’s crime rate. At a time when overall crime across Canada is dipping, Edmonton stands out among cities in the Great White North as the exception, and not in a good way. Its crime rate hasn’t seen the significant dips other cities have enjoyed, and as reported in the Edmonton Sun, “Edmonton is the only major city in Canada where crime is on the rise—increasing by about 1.4 per cent.”
There’s no lack of explanations (and finger pointing) to explain this frustrating phenomenon. The downtown area has been the source for many of these cases, shifting the focus there: Combatting crime in any area can be difficult, but it can be especially true of a downtown area given both their potentially-mercurial economic state. In good times, and with sports venues, restaurants, boutiques, and the revenue all that can generate, a downtown area can be an exciting, bustling center of activity for a city on the rise. If things go south, however, or even start to stagnate, then some of the seeds for potential crime may be sewn, as is seen in Edmonton today.
Edmonton’s problem with crime may be seen as spilling over into Calgary as well. With the crime rate barely dipping—at a rate of just around 2%, while the Canadian average is, again, an 8% reduction—Calgary, if not quite a hotbed of crime, can still leave local law enforcement feeling cold when it comes to dealing with the pesky problem of overall crime in Calgary. In that sense, crime may be seen as a more general problem across urban centers in Alberta. It’s one that’s actively being addressed, to be fair, but a problem nonetheless.
Abbotsford [Public Domain]
We continue our look at Western Canada in our look at those regions lagging behind the drop in the overall crime rate in Canada by turning to the greater Abbotsford-Mission electoral district. A little less than a decade ago, Abbotsford and Mission together ranked as having the highest crime rate among Canadian cities with a population between 100 and 500K. During that stretch, it had the second-highest overall violent crime rate, and the highest homicide rate of cities of that size and population.
Where stagnation may be part of the problem in Albertan cities such as Edmonton and Calgary, the exact opposite may be to blame in the case of Abbotsford-Mission. The area has experienced a boom in population over the past couple decades, and the crime rate has risen accordingly, as often happens when cities begin to expand.
The Best Cities for Crime Rates in Canada
What a past few years it’s been for Winnipeg. After a terrible slump in the 1990s and 2000s, the economy has rebounded. After losing their beloved and, in many ways, city-defining Winnipeg Jets to relocation (to Arizona, no less) in 1996, the Jets got their beloved team back in 2011 via relocation from Atlanta, and the reborn Jets are currently flying high and fighting for a playoff spot. Both this economic rebound and the international prestige which comes with a major sports franchise has helped give the city a new luster.
And—oh yes—the overall crime rate in Winnipeg is dropping at a faster rate than any other major city in Canada. What’s more, it’s dropping at a rate double that of the Canadian national average. While Canada as a whole is enjoying an 8% dip in overall crime, that rate is an impressive 16% in the pride and joy of Manitoba.
If you don’t live in the Ontario area, and especially if you’re a reader abroad, there’s a fair chance that you may not have heard of the city of Guelph. It’s situated in Ontario, and like so many of the cities there, it was both founded by the British and has deep Anglophone roots to this day. Also notable about it? It has for years enjoyed incredibly low crime and unemployment rates, two facts which are, in all likelihood, not unrelated. After all, history shows us time and time again that as unemployment, poverty, and other risk factors go up, so too does crime. Guelph, however, has been able to manage all of that admirably, and its citizens have reaped the benefits, with crime dipping by 14%. All in all, Guelph may well be one of Ontario’s best kept secrets.
New Brunswick can sometimes seem like the New Hampshire of Canadian provinces—tiny, historic, and sadly too often overlooked…until election time. Well, rejoice, New Brunswickians—Moncton, like Guelph, boasts an incredible 14% dip in crime as well. Add that to the fact that the area, originally settled by a group of Pennsylvania Dutch from Philadelphia (proof positive that American-Canadian immigration has been a phenomenon for centuries and you have an historic city with clean streets and a handle on crime—the perfect place to plan a Canadian vacation this spring if you’re looking for a city with a small town feel.