In Canada’s provincial capital of Fredericton, four people were shot dead by an unidentified man in the early hours of August 10. The country woke up to this shocking news as Fredericton with a population of just 60,000 people barely causes a blip on the radar of any crime statistics.
However, as the victims were identified – two civilians and two police officers dead in an hour of violent crime many are beginning to raise the question – does the U.S.’s neighbour too have a gun problem? Why now? Because the gun violence incident in Fredericton comes close on the heels of another one in Toronto which also claimed the lives of two civilians and injured atleast 12 people.
Those looking at gun violence and its rise in Canada says the first thing to acknowledge the problem is to stop any comparison with the U.S. The U.S. is an outlier due to its Second Amendment laws as well as its population. Canada is home to 35 million people while the U.S. to 350 million and gun homicides in the U.S. average upto 11,000 a year.
So if one removes the United States from the comparison chart, Canada actually fairs quiet poorly in comparison to other OECD countries. Canada has the fourth highest rate of death by firearm – more than twice the rate of Australia, and 10 times that of Britain but behind France, Germany and Italy.
Homicides by firearms are also on the rise – for the past three years in a row. As of 2017, Canada’s most populous city of Toronto had endured close to 300 shootings—an average of one shooting every day—which left 434 victims with varying degrees of injury in their wake. Shootings in Toronto increased 41 per cent between 2015, 2016 and 2017.
In another Canadian city of Regina, as of 2017 there had been a 94-per-cent increase in violent offences involving guns over the five-year average, and a 163-per-cent increase in the number of victims of firearms offences between 2015 to 2016.
What is also a point to note is that police have said firearms smuggled in from the U.S. are not entirely to blame for the increase in gun-related violence – infact upto 50% of guns used in crimes are domestically sourced. These could be for example resales of those procured through theft of firearms or illegal resales by owners of gun licenses.
Fredericton is a wake-up call that if a town which describes itself as a ‘small, intimate’ community can suffer this horror then Canada is facing a risk of a much bigger problem.
(The last fact in this article has been corrected after being brought to our attention by a reader)