OTTAWA - Police reported 598 homicides in Canada in 2011, 44 more than the year before and the first increase in homicide in three years, Statistics Canada said Tuesday.

The agency said the homicide rate was 1.73 per 100,000 population in 2011, seven per cent higher than in 2010, although the rate of firearms homicides fell to the lowest level in almost 50 years.

The rate of homicides involving handguns has also generally been declining since reaching a peak in 1991, although they account for about two-thirds of all firearm homicides.

Despite annual fluctuations, the overall homicide rate has remained relatively stable over the past decade, after a steady decline from the mid-1970s.

Most of the 2011 increase was accounted for by Alberta, which had 32 additional homicides, and Quebec, which had 21 more.

The homicide rate in Ontario, in contrast, hit its lowest point since 1966, with 28 fewer killings than in 2010.

Among the provinces, Manitoba reported the highest homicide rate for the fifth year in a row, followed by Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Stabbings accounted for virtually the entire increase in homicides in 2011, with 39 more stabbings.

Overall, stabbings accounted for 35 per cent of homicides, firearms for 27 per cent, beatings for 22 per cent and strangulation for seven per cent.

Police considered 95 homicides to be gang-related in 2011, similar to 2010, but well below the peak of 138 reached in 2008. Gang homicides increased steadily from the early 1990s until 2008, before declining in both 2009 and 2010.

The report said the majority of homicide victims and those accused of homicide are male. In 2011, males accounted for 7 in 10 homicide victims and 9 in 10 of those accused of homicide.

Victims typically know their killer. Among solved homicides in 2011, almost half were committed by an acquaintance or friend, one-third by a family member and only 15 per cent by a stranger.

Police reported 89 homicides involving intimate partners in 2011, including 76 female victims and 13 male victims. This resulted in a rate of 0.26 intimate partner homicides per 100,000 population, similar to the rate in recent years.

The rate of intimate partner homicides committed against females increased by 19 per cent in 2011, the third increase in four years. The rate for male victims declined by almost half, hitting the lowest point since data collection began in 1961.

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  • The 9 Key Changes In The Tory Crime Bill

    With files from <em>The Canadian Press</em>. (CP/Alamy)

  • 9. Bringing Prisoners Home

    Provides the government, through the minister of Public Safety, more discretion to decide if a Canadian imprisoned abroad can transfer home to serve his or her sentence. (Getty)

  • 8. Rights For Terror Victims

    Introduces new measures to allow victims of terrorist acts to sue responsible individuals, groups or state sponsors in Canadian courts. (Alamy)

  • 7. Denying Work Permits

    Gives the Immigration minister new powers to deny work permits to foreigners based on the rationale they may be exploited. (Alamy)

  • 6. Victims Get More Say In Parole

    Provides victims of crime more say in parole decisions under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. Increases size of parole board by 25 per cent. (Alamy)

  • 5. Fewer Conditional Sentences

    Reduces sharply the use of conditional sentences, such as house arrest, for a variety of property and other offences. (Jupiter Images)

  • 4. Pardons Harder To Get

    Changes the pardons system and makes certain ex-convicts, such as some sex offenders and repeat offenders, ineligible for life. Essentially doubles the waiting period for pardon eligibility to five years for summary offences and 10 years for indictable offences. Replaces the term "pardon" by "record suspension." (Alamy)

  • 3. Harsher Sentences For Young Offenders

    Sets tougher penalties for young offenders, including mandatory consideration of adult sentences and possible publication ban removal for violent crimes. Expands the definition of violent crime to include reckless acts that don't actually cause harm. (Alamy)

  • 2. Mandatory Minimums For Sex Crimes

    Establishes new mandatory minimum sentences and longer maximums for sex crimes against minors, including the addition of two new offences related to grooming or luring minors. (Alamy)

  • 1. Mandatory Minimums For Drug Crimes

    Provides new mandatory minimum sentences for drug offences related to production and distribution, including mandatory sentences for growing as few as six pot plants. Doubles maximum sentences to 14 years from seven. Offers potential exemptions for those entering drug treatment programs. (Getty)