According to a Canadian government report issued on Monday, October 30, victimization from violent crimes appears to be higher among the Canadian Inuit and First Nations than among the rest of Canada’s people.

A three-page overview of the survey as well as the full text of the report, prepared by the Canadian Center for Justice Statistics and issued by Statistics Canada, indicate that nearly 40 percent of the residents of the Yukon territory, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut territory said they were victims of a violent crime during the previous year.

The study was based on interviews with about 1,300 people ages 15 and over who live in the three northern territories. The report explains the difference between the new victimization study and existing police crime statistics. Apparently only about one-third of crimes are reported to the police, whereas the victimization study is based on a random sample of the whole population.

Aboriginal people represent 85 percent of the population of Nunavut, 51 percent of the Northwest Territories, and 23 percent of the Yukon. In comparison, First Nations people represent only 14 percent of the population of Saskatchewan, the province with the highest percentage of aboriginals.

Surveyed individuals in the territories who did report they were victims of a crime were then interviewed in more detail to ascertain if the incidents were reported to the police, where the crimes occurred, how much if any injuries were involved, and the use of weapons, if any. The published report compares the results with data from an earlier survey covering the rest of Canada.

The figures for Nunavut (which would include the residents of the Utkuhikhalik and Qipisa Inuit communities, the focus of interest for this website), show that there were two homicides in the territory in 2005, for a rate of 6.7 per 100,000 people, the highest rate in Canada. The assault rate in Nunavut, at 5,975 per 100,000, is also the highest in Canada, which averages 727. There were 29,992 people living in Nunavut in 2005.

But figures for other categories of crimes in Nunavut in 2005 are also interesting. The robbery rate—also a type of violent crime—is only 20. Next to Prince Edward Island, it is the second lowest in Canada. In comparison, the Province of Manitoba has a robbery rate of 170 per 100,000. Breaking and entering in Nunavut is higher than most of Canada, but the motor vehicle theft rate in the territory is about the average for the country.

Considering the isolation of Nunavut, it is not surprising that the rate of counterfeiting is the lowest in Canada. With a total property crime rate of 5,555 per 100,000 in 2005, Nunavut was lower than the rate for British Columbia with 6,234 and similar to the rates for Saskatchewan (5,484) and Manitoba (4,995).

Looking at the figures for the three northern territories together, the report indicates that the peoples of the North are three times as likely as other Canadians to be victims of violent crimes. In the territories, 80 percent of the crimes were committed by relatives or other people known to the victims, while only 56 percent of similar crimes in the provinces of southern Canada were committed by relatives or known individuals. Expressed another way, only 20 percent of the violent crimes in the territories were committed by strangers, compared to 44 percent in the provinces.

Surprisingly, despite the higher crime rate in the territories of the North, 54 percent of the residents there reported that they felt safe from crime, compared to 44 percent of the people in the provinces. Perhaps as a result, when the residents of the territories were asked about the measures they took to protect themselves from crime, 64 percent responded that they took routine precautions, such as locking their car doors, compared to 76 percent of the provincial residents.

Examining gender issues, the study points out that spousal violence is substantially higher in the northern territories than it is in the provinces. About 12 percent of the territorial population reported spousal violence during the five years preceding the survey, compared to 7 percent in the provinces. Nunavut had the highest rate of spousal violence of the three territories—22 percent, compared to 11 percent in the Northwest Territories and 9 percent in the Yukon.

Female victims of spousal violence in the territories are much more likely to suffer from beatings, choking, threats with guns or knives, or sexual violence than are males. Women are twice as likely as men to be injured. Women are twice as often the victims of stalking in the North as men.

The report does not try to draw conclusions from the data it presents, though it does give a profile of the northern territories compared to the rest of Canada. The territory people tend to be younger than the residents of the provinces, they have a higher percentage of single-parent families, they are more likely to have common-law relationships, they have higher rates of unemployment, and they report heavier rates of alcohol consumption than the provinces.

The report does not examine why these social factors might produce higher rates of violent crimes in the territories than in the rest of Canada, though any examination of the literature about the Inuit and the First Nations will quickly turn up research on the social problems of Nunavut and the rest of northern Canada. For instance, a UN Human Rights Commission report last year analyzed infant mortality, unemployment, poverty, morbidity and other social issues among the Inuit and the other First Nations of Canada. Social problems such as suicide, rampant in Nunavut , have been carefully studied. This newly-released report complements such works with hard data on one of the most serious social issues of all—victimization from violent crimes.