New Statistics Canada report shows gang-related homicides have doubled since 2015

"Gang-related homicides committed with a firearm represented 12 percent of all homicides in 2015. By 2017, this proportion had grown to 21 percent.”

Lucas Holtvluwer Montreal QC

Gang-related homicides have risen for the third straight year, according to a new Statistics Canada report. From 2015 to 2017, they nearly doubled as a share of total homicides. According to the report released by the Ottawa-based statistics agency, "The proportion of gang-related homicides committed with a firearm has been steadily increasing since 2015. Gang-related homicides committed with a firearm represented 12 percent of all homicides in 2015. By 2017, this proportion had grown to 21 percent.”

The RCMP reports that there are currently 430 gangs of varying sizes active across Canada.

Trudeau's policy solution

A year ago, in November of 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised that his government would spend over $300 million dollars to combat gang violence in Canada over the next five years. According to an official document tabled by the Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, Bill Blair, none of that money has been spent as of June of this year.

Possible gun ban forthcoming

Meanwhile, in light of the mass shooting in Toronto this past summer and the 49% jump in homicides by gun over the past two years, Minister Blair's consultations on a possible gun ban continue. However, contrary to popular belief, guns are not the primary weapon used to commit murders in Canada. Since the year 2000, there have been 3,371 killings by stabbing, as opposed to 3,392 from gunshots.

Two types of firearms users

In Canada, firearms users fall into two general groups which have a very limited overlap. The larger of these groups is the responsible gun users who have the authority or are required to use firearms for personal and public safety, competition, hunting and recreation. This group includes the more than 2 million Canadians approved by the RCMP to own firearms, their family members and friends who shoot under their supervision and approximately 180,000 police, military and law-enforcement officers. The smaller group is made up of unauthorized individuals who purchase or obtain their guns in an illegal fashion. They use their firearms for protection from other gangs or for other criminal purposes.

Scheer's policy ideas

Recently, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer announced some of his policy ideas to help deal with gang violence. Key elements of his plan include tougher sentences for repeat criminals with gun-related offences and cracking down on "straw purchases" in where legal buyers purchase guns and sell them illegally to criminals. Scheer however, came out strongly against the idea of a blanket gun ban saying “A handgun ban may sound like a good idea, but it will only make criminals out of responsible gun owners while doing nothing to prevent criminals from getting guns.”

Going forward

As we head into an election year in 2019, this issue of gun and gang violence may well rise in prominence as the leaders of the various party's bandy about possible solutions to this problem. Given that a 2018 survey from the consulting firm Hilton and Knowles showed that running on stricter gun control could be a winning issue for centre-left parties, it is quite possible we see Trudeau add this to his election platform next year. With gun groups across the country already opposed the Liberal government's current firearms legislation, bill C-71, as well as Mr. Scheer's opposition to a handgun ban, it increasingly appears that gun control will be a major policy issue in the next election.


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