The annual number of recorded assaults per 100,000 population.

Please note:
The data on this page are current as of September 2009.

Key Messages

  • Canada scores a “C” and ranks 14th out of 17 peer countries.
  • Canada’s assault rate was 18 times the assault rate of the best-ranked country.
  • Canada has experienced a recent drop in assaults.

Putting assaults in context

A sense of personal and community safety is essential to a high quality of life. Physical, psychological, and financial effects of crime reduce levels of trust within a society and therefore have an impact on social cohesion. Breakdown in social cohesion is thus measured most directly by assessing levels of crime.

The Conference Board ranking analyzes statistics on crime against people (homicide and assault rates), and against property (burglary rates). Both forms of crime can have a major impact on the well-being of victims and on the wider society.

Other costs include the provision of law enforcement and correctional services. According to Statistics Canada, federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments in Canada, for example, spent more than $12 billion on policing, courts, legal aid, prosecutions, and adult corrections in 2002–2003.1 Reducing crime would free up funds for other areas that could enhance prosperity and competitiveness, such as education and skills training, the environment, or advancements in innovation and technology.

How does Canada’s assault rate compare to those of peer countries?

In 2006, the most recent year of data available, Canada had an assault rate of 739 per 100,000 people. This was 18 times the rate of assaults as the best-ranked country, Japan. Discouragingly, Canada ranks 4th from the bottom of the list of 17 peer countries. Australia, the U.S., and the U.K. are the only peer countries with worse assault records than Canada. Canada earns a “C” grade on this indicator.

Has Canada’s assault rate increased?

Canada’s assault rate increased steadily from 1980 to 1993, after which it more or less stabilized. Recently, however, Canada’s assault rate dropped—from 788 assaults per 100,000 population in 2004 to 739 in 2006. Statistics Canada reports that assaults are the most common form of violent crime.2

Still, perceptions of crime levels in Canadian communities are better today than they were in 1994. A 2007 poll by Ipsos-Reid found that fewer Canadians now “perceive an increase in the level of crime in the last five years.” Less than half of the respondents perceived “great” or “moderate” increases in crime in their communities in the last five years, compared to seven in ten Canadians in 1994.3

Use the pull-down menu to compare the change in Canada’s assault rate with that of its peers.

How have the relative grades changed over time?


Five peer countries have been consistent “A” performers over the past three decades: Denmark, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. France also earned “A”s in the 1990s and 2000s. (Comparable data were not available for France for the 1980s.)

Canada improved its relative grade from a “D” in the 1980s and 1990s to a “C” in the 2000s.

The U.K. was a “D” performer in both the 1990s and 2000s. “Violence against the person and sexual offences” accounted for one-fifth of all recorded crime in England and Wales in 2007.4 Critics charge that low conviction rates (for those charged with violent crimes) and increased public drunkenness (with the extension of bar hours in the early 2000s) have contributed to the U.K.’s relatively high rate of assault.

What can Canada do to reduce crime?

Although many still believe that “cracking down on crime” is the best way to protect communities, a recent Conference Board report found that other forms of crime prevention produce better results. In particular, approaches that address the root causes of crime are proving to be the most successful. An analysis of successful programs in Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. yielded the following recommendations:

  • Begin with an understanding of the community and its problems.
  • Develop programs and policies to deal with these problems in their community context, and focus on crime reduction.
  • Learn from and build on successful prevention programs developed elsewhere.
  • Stay focused—prevention programs will not succeed without a great deal of effort.
  • Secure commitment from senior government officials.
  • Provide adequate resources.
  • Ensure cooperation and coordination among organizations targeting crime reduction.
  • Take a comprehensive approach to prevention and develop multi-faceted strategies.

Learn more about crime reduction programs:

Making Communities Safer: Lessons Learned Combatting Auto Theft in Winnipeg, Ottawa: The Conference Board of Canada, 2008.


1 Statistics Canada, “Crime and Justice,” Canada Year Book 2007. Website content. (cited September 12, 2009).

2 Mia Dauvergne, Crime Statistics in Canada, 2007, Catalogue no. 85-002-X, Vol. 28, No. 7 (Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 2008), [online, cited August 31, 2009].

3 Ipsos News Center, “Canadians Perceive Crime Increases to Be Less Acute in Their Communities,” June 11, 2007, [online, cited August 31, 2009].

4 Chris Kershaw, Sian Nicholas, and Alison Walker, Crime in England and Wales, 2007/08, (London, The Home Office, July 2008), p. 22, [online, cited August 31, 2009].

Society Indicators