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Stats Canada releases report outlining fire-related homicides

December 9, 2022  By The Daily, Statistics Canada


Dec. 9, 2022, Canada – Statistics Canada released a report based off of Canadian police service findings surrounding arson and fire-related homicides.

From 2012 to 2021, Canadian police services reported nearly 95,000 incidents of arson, including 2,243 victims of violent arson. Many of these occurred either in open areas (43 per cent) or in private dwellings (38 per cent). Additionally, over a similar period, from 2011 to 2020, there were 301 victims of a homicide where fire was involved, either as the primary cause of death or as an accessory.

From 2012 to 2021, police services across Canada reported a total of 94,591 incidents of arson, which is the criminal act of intentionally or recklessly causing damage by fire or explosion to property. This was about 9,500 incidents of arson per year. The vast majority (95 per cent) of them were for arson solely related to property (property arson), while the remaining five per cent were for arson with a disregard for human life (violent arson).

Overall, from 2020 to 2021, the rate of arson increased by 12 per cent, from 25 incidents per 100,000 population to 28 incidents per 100,000 population. Compared with 2012, violent arson was up by eight per cent in 2021, while property arson was down by 17 per cent.

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Among the provinces, Saskatchewan (65 incidents per 100,000 population), Manitoba (61 incidents) and New Brunswick (46 incidents) reported 10-year average rates nearly two and a half times higher than the national average of 26 incidents per 100,000 population. Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador reported average rates lower than the national average.

For the 10-year period from 2012 to 2021, the rate of arson was 89.7 incidents per 100,000 population in the rural North, two and a half times higher than the rate in the rural South (36.1 incidents) and four times higher than that in urban areas (22.3 incidents).

More specifically, rates varied among Canada’s major cities or census metropolitan areas (CMAs) in 2021. The highest rates of arson were reported in Regina (124 incidents per 100,000 population), Winnipeg (68 incidents) and Kelowna (66 incidents). The lowest rates of arson were reported in Barrie (5 incidents per 100,000 population), Toronto (7 incidents) and Peterborough (7 incidents).

From 2012 to 2021, Brantford, Winnipeg, Kelowna and Regina typically reported among the highest annual rates of total arson.

According to the National Fire Information Database for the years 2005 to 2014, residential structure fire incidents accounted for approximately 29 per cent of all fire incidents.

From 2012 to 2021, arson incidents were more likely to occur on weekends (32 per cent happened on a Saturday or a Sunday) than on any individual weekday. They were also more likely to occur in the evening or at night, with close to two-thirds (62 per cent) happening between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.

Like with other property crimes, arson incidents were also more likely to occur during the spring or summer months, with 60 per cent happening from April to Sept. In comparison, unintentional residential fire-related deaths are more common in the winter. From 2012 to 2021, the four-month period from December to March saw over twice as many residential fire-related deaths as the four-month period from June to September.

Among victims of violent arson from 2012 to 2021, 53 per cent were men or boys and 47 per cent were women or girls.

Victims’ ages were similar across genders, with rates for women and men highest for those aged 18 to 44 years. More specifically, rates were highest for victims aged 25 to 34 years (0.93 victims per 100,000 population), followed by those aged 18 to 24 years (0.82 victims). The lowest rates were recorded for adults aged 65 years and older (0.28 victims) and for children aged 0 to 11 years (0.34 victims per 100,000 population).

Overall, victims of violent arson were typically not injured (81 per cent) or suffered minor injuries (15 per cent). Major injuries or death were relatively uncommon (four percent). Compared with all victims, victims aged 65 years and older were more likely to sustain minor injuries (38 per cent versus 15 per cent).

According to data from the Canadian Coroner and Medical Examiner Database, older people are more likely to die in unintentional (accidental) residential fires. In general, various factors, such as age and mobility, can affect an individual’s ability to escape from a fire and avoid injury, whether it was set intentionally or accidentally.

From 2011 to 2020, there were 301 fire-related homicides in Canada. These accounted for at least five per cent of all homicides over that period. For 39 per cent of fire-related homicides (111 victims), the primary cause of death was smoke inhalation or burns.

For the other homicide victims, the fire was not the primary cause of death, but was involved in the incident—for example, to destroy a crime vehicle or other evidence. The causes of death for these other homicides included shooting (29 per cent), stabbing (15 per cent), and beating or blows (11 per cent).

Overall, 57 fire-related homicides involving gang activity were identified from 2011 and 2020. Just over two-thirds (67 per cent) of them involved a firearm as the primary cause of death, compared with 18 per cent of non-gang-related homicides involving fire.


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