New data indicates violent crime involving firearms in the Northwest Territories jumped 23 percent during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A Statistics Canada report released last month analyzes firearm-related violent crimes reported to police across Canada between 2009 and 2020, with a particular focus on 2019 and 2020.
The report found that while the national rate of those crimes remained unchanged in recent years, there were “notable increases” in rural areas of southern BC and northern Ontario, rural Alberta, Nova Scotia and the NWT.
In the territory, the number of police-reported violent crimes involving firearms increased from 52 in 2019 – a rate of 115 per 100,000 people – to 64 in 2020, or a rate of 142. The NWT had the highest overall rate of any province or territory that year.
Comparatively, the number of violent crimes involving a firearm in Nunavut decreased from 63 in 2019 to 33 in 2020. Incidents increased slightly in the Yukon, from 24 to 26, though the numbers were lower than in the other territories.
Of the 64 incidents reported in the NWT in 2020, 33 involved a handgun, 25 a rifle or shotgun, and one an unspecified firearm. In the five remaining cases, either an unknown or firearm-like device was used.
Firearms are generally involved in a small portion of violent crime in Canada. In 2020, 2.8 percent of violent crime victims in the country were “victimized in a firearm-related incident,” Statistics Canada said.
Of 4,550 violent crimes reported in the NWT that year, 1.5 percent involved a firearm and 15.2 percent involved another weapon.
During the same year, 0.9 percent of 4,136 violent crimes reported in Nunavut involved a firearm, as did 1.7 percent of the 1,682 crimes in the Yukon.
The study also examined changes in firearm-related violent crime over two six-year periods: 2009 to 2014 and 2015 to 2020.
The report found that while rates of those crimes declined across Canada over the first six years, they began an upward climb in 2015.
The NWT was among jurisdictions that saw the largest spikes in firearm-related violent crime rates between the two periods. In the territory, the rate increased 87 percent – from 45 per 100,000 population in 2009-2014 to 84 in 2015-2020. During the same period, Nunavut’s rate increased from 127 to 129 while the Yukon’s rate increased from 36 to 47.
The report noted, however, that crime rates in the territories can vary considerably from year to year due to the small population size.