The Northwest Territories had the highest crime rate in the country last year, dwarfing the national average, according to a recent report from Statistics Canada.

The Northwest Territories had the highest crime rate and crime severity index rating in 2017. Both dwarfed national averages.
Brendan Burke/NNSL photo.

The report, based on criminal incidents reported to or by police in 2017, also names the territory as having the highest crime severity index (CSI) – a method of gauging the seriousness and volume of police-reported crime – in Canada for that year.

The territory’s crime severity index was 303.8 in 2017, far greater than the 72.9 national average. The figure represents a two per cent jump from 2016, and places NWT in a club of eight other provinces and territories whose CSI rose in 2017.

NWT’s crime rate saw a spike, too. It swelled by one per cent from the year before. In 2017, the territory recorded a crime rate of 40,914 criminal incidents per a population of 100,000 – in stark contrast of the national average, which sat at 5,334 per 100,000.

Complaints of mischief and motor vehicle theft were down in 2017 but sexual assaults, sexual violations against children and assaults increased, the report states.

Bree Denning, executive director of the Yellowknife Women’s Society – and a former statistician – says it’s important to consider the territory’s small population when looking at the statistics.

“I know small (populations) do contribute to those high rates because having one serious crime like a murder really increases your rates based on the population size,” said Denning.

Two homicides were recorded in the territory in 2017.

But she also pointed to embedded historical factors as drivers of the high crime rate.

“We do have a recent legacy of residential schools which contributes to multi-generational trauma and violence,” she said.

“We have a lot of challenges in the North that likely contribute to the (statistics) as well.”

While the spike in reported sexual assaults, on the surface, looks negative, Denning said there’s more to the numbers than meets the eye.

“I hope what we’re seeing is an increase in reporting and not an increase in sexual assaults. No way of knowing but I’m certain that increase still represents a very small minority of assaults that are actually occurring, unfortunately – likely just the tip of the iceberg.

The documented disparity between sexual assaults and reports of sexual assaults is noted by the publishers of the report.

“It is important to note that the number of sexual assaults reported by police is likely an underestimation of the true extent of sexual assault in Canada, as these types of offences often go unreported to police,” states the report.

It goes on to say that “considerable public discussion,” about sexual violence in 2017 could have had an impact on more people coming forwards with reports of sexual assault.

Denning agreed.

“We have had a lot of education in the community and pretty much everywhere, on social media about what consent is and the importance of consent, as well as the whole Me Too movement, where women were coming forward with all the sexual assaults and harassment …,” she said.

“I think that likely contributes as well to some of the increased awareness and perhaps increased likelihood that those sexual assaults will get reported.” added Denning.

The territory’s lofty ranking in the StatsCan report is followed by Nunavut and the Yukon. Nunavut had the second highest crime rate and crime severity last year. Yukon, fueled by eight homicides, ranked third.

Nationally in 2017, the country’s CSI rose one per cent from the year before – buoyed by spikes in the national homicide rate and attempted murder rate, which jumped by seven and four per cent, respectively. The national crime rate also jumped but by one per cent.

Brendan Burke

As the Yellowknifer’s crime reporter, it’s my job to keep readers up to speed on all-things “cops and courts” related. From house fires and homicides to courtroom clashes, it’s my responsibility...

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.