- Ontario and P.E.I. have the lowest burglary rates in Canada and score “A” grades, ranking among the top five regions overall.
- Saskatchewan has the highest burglary rate among the provinces, but still manages to get a “B” with a much lower rate than bottom-ranked Netherlands.
- Canada’s burglary rate has dropped significantly over the past 15 years.
Putting the burglary rate in context
A sense of personal and community safety is essential to a high quality of life. Financial, physical, and psychological effects of crime reduce levels of trust in a society and therefore affect social cohesion. The Conference Board ranking analyzes statistics on crime against people (homicide rates) and against property (burglary rates). Crime can have a major impact on the well-being of victims and on the wider society.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime defines burglary as “gaining unauthorized access to a part of a building/dwelling or other premises; including by use of force; with the intent to steal goods (breaking and entering).”
How do the burglary rates in the provinces compare to those of Canada’s peers?
With average rates of 296 and 375 burglaries per 100,000 population between 2013 and 2015, respectively, Ontario and P.E.I. are the top-ranked provinces and score “A” grades, placing in the top five along with peer countries Japan (83), Norway (315), and Finland (327). Nova Scotia (388), New Brunswick (408), and Quebec (435) also get “A” grades with three-year average burglary rates ranging from 380 to 440 burglaries per 100,000 population.
Overall, Canada (438) does well, scoring an “A” grade and ranking 4th among the 16 peer countries. The remaining five provinces get “B” grades. Newfoundland and Labrador (491) and Alberta (539) place just ahead of Germany (544). Manitoba (628), B.C. (635), and Saskatchewan (754) have average burglary rates that are higher than the United States’ three-year average rate of 607 burglaries per 100,000 population.
The peer country with the highest burglary rate is the Netherlands—between 2012 and 2014, the country had an average of 1,677 burglaries per 100,000 population.
How do the provinces perform relative to one another?
Ontario is top-ranked with fewer than 300 burglaries per 100,000 population on average between 2013 and 2015. P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Quebec also do well with average burglary rates below the national average of 438 burglaries per 100,000 population. Saskatchewan and British Columbia have the highest average burglary rates among the provinces. Saskatchewan’s three-year average burglary rate of 754 burglaries per 100,000 population is well over one-and-a-half times the national average.
How do the burglary rates in the territories compare?
Yukon’s burglary rate is higher than the national average but still relatively low compared with the rates in most peer countries—the territory is a “B” performer with an average of 652 burglaries per 100,000 population between 2013 and 2015.
N.W.T. and Nunavut have the highest burglary rates in Canada and get “C” and “D” grades, respectively. Between 2013 and 2015, the average burglary rate in Nunavut was 1,668 per 100,000 population, over three-and-a-half times higher than the national average. N.W.T. does not fare much better, with an average burglary rate of over 1,207 per 100,000 population—almost three times the national average.
The territories are not included in the overall provincial and international benchmarking calculations because data are not available for key indicators included in the overall society report card. The Conference Board is, however, committed to including the territories in our analysis, and so we provide information on territorial performance when data are available.
Is Canada’s burglary rate falling?
Yes. Canada’s burglary rate has dropped significantly over the past 15 years. Although the burglary rate increased from 427 in 2014 to 443 in 2015, the overall trend has been downwards for the past couple of decades. Between 1998 and 2015, the burglary rate fell by more than 60 per cent. Among the provinces, Ontario and Quebec have seen the biggest drops, with rates in both provinces having fallen by about 70 per cent. Among the territories, Yukon has seen the greatest improvement, with a 59 per cent drop in its burglary rate between 1998 and 2015.
The reason behind the ongoing improvement in Canadian crime statistics over the past couple of decades is unclear. There are likely many factors at play, rather than one driving force behind the decrease in crime rates. Canada’s aging population plays a role, as does the change in leisure activities of Canadian youth—males under 30, who make up the largest portion of offenders, are now spending more time with electronics indoors, so they have less time to potentially get into trouble with other activities. Video games, social media, and instant and unlimited video and texting may have all played a role in lowering crime rates.1 There has been a huge decline in burglaries committed by Canada’s youth population, with the rate dropping by almost 80 per cent between 1998 and 2015.
Improvements in technologies—particularly anti-theft technologies—have also contributed to lower crime rates.2 Other factors that may have played a role include changes in policing practices, “shifts in unemployment, variations in alcohol consumption, neighbourhood characteristics, or changing attitudes towards illegal and risky behaviour.”3
The shift toward cybercrime—which is more lucrative and has less direct risk—may also have played a role in the drop in burglary rates. Over 9,000 incidents of cybercrime were reported by police service, in 2012, or 33 cybercrime incidents per 100,000 population. Fraud accounted for more than half of the cybercrimes reported that year.4
What accounts for the high burglary rates in Saskatchewan, N.W.T., and Nunavut?
Crime rates in Northern Saskatchewan are over five times higher than in the southern areas of the province, while the overall crime rate for the territories is close to seven times the national average.
Populations in the provincial North and in the territories are slightly younger than those in the South, which is one reason for the higher crime rates.5
Saskatchewan and the territories also have among the largest shares of Aboriginal populations in the country. In Saskatchewan, over 15 per cent of the populations are Aboriginal. In N.W.T. and Nunavut, the proportions of the populations that are Aboriginal are 52 and 86 per cent, respectively.6 Crime rates among Aboriginal populations are higher, and the incarceration rate for Aboriginal people is about 10 times higher than the non-Aboriginal rate.7 A number of interrelated socio-economic factors help account for the high crime rates among Aboriginal populations—higher unemployment, poverty, and lower educational attainment all play a role, as do substance abuse and trauma, which are all linked to a history of displacement and residential schools. Furthermore, the “high rate of incarceration for Aboriginal peoples has been linked to systemic discrimination and attitudes based on racial or cultural prejudice.”8
What can Canada’s provinces and territories do to further reduce crime?
Approaches to crime prevention that address the root causes of crime are typically the most successful. A Conference Board of Canada analysis of successful programs in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom yielded the following recommendations:9
- 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.
Crime rates among disadvantaged populations, such as those living in certain Aboriginal communities, can be improved only if there is a concerted effort to improve their socio-economic conditions. Tackling long-standing issues such as poverty and substance abuse, as well as improving educational outcomes, is key to reducing crime in these regions.
The Supreme Court of Canada has recognized the socio-economic and historical factors that result in higher crime rates for Aboriginal populations: “To be clear, courts must take judicial notice of such matters as the history of colonialism, displacement, and residential schools and how that history continues to translate into lower educational attainment, lower incomes, higher unemployment, higher rates of substance abuse and suicide, and of course higher levels of incarceration for Aboriginal peoples.” (Justice LeBel for the majority in R. v. Ipeelee, 2012)10
5 Statistics Canada, Police-Reported Crime in Canada’s Provincial North and Territories, 2013, May 5, 2015.
6 Statistics Canada, National Household Survey, Number and Distribution of the Population Reporting an Aboriginal Identity and Percentage of Aboriginal People in the Population, Canada, Provinces, and Territories, 2011 (accessed May 11, 2016).
7 Office of the Correctional Investigator, Backgrounder: Aboriginal Offenders—A Critical Situation.
9 Rick Linden and Trefor Munn-Venn, Making Communities Safer: Lessons Learned Combatting Auto Theft in Winnipeg (Ottawa: The Conference Board of Canada, 2008).
10 Office of the Correctional Investigator, Backgrounder: Aboriginal Offenders—A Critical Situation.