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Social Issues, Crime

Ecole Polytechnique, homicide rate, Canadian media, homicides, assault rifle

The issue of crime is highly visible in the Canadian media. In 1998 there were 963 violent crimes (attacks on the person, abduction, and robbery), 4,485 crimes against property, and 1.6 homicides per 100,000 Canadians. In comparison, in the early 1990s the homicide rate was 0.6 in Japan, 0.9 in Britain, 9.9 in the United States, and 17.2 in Mexico. Generally, crime rates fell during the 1990s.

Concern about crime was heightened in 1989 when a man used an assault rifle to murder 14 women enrolled in the engineering program at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal. More-stringent gun control legislation was proposed soon after the incident but did not become law until 1995. The new legislation, currently being implemented, bans a number of assault weapons, further limits the legal use of handguns, and requires that all handguns and rifles in Canada be registered. These regulations have drawn vocal public criticism from rural areas and certain lobby groups but are widely supported by the general population. The number of violent crimes involving firearms declined about 7 percent in Canada in 1995, after being stable for some years, but it is unclear whether any of this drop is attributable to the new law.

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