Canadians received the news recently that our country’s homicide rate has fallen to a level not seen in half a century.
The number of murders dipped another 8% last year to 1.44 per 100,000, which is the lowest it’s been since 1966.
Which got me wondering how Canada stacks up against the other nations of the world.
Despite the improvement, we still rank only 46th among 218 nations, according to the most recent numbers available from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
The safest country in the world is Liechtenstein, which can go years without a murder. But with just 37,000 people and the lowest unemployment rate in the world the tiny European principality is hardly a fair comparator.
Many of the safest countries come as no surprise, like Sweden and Japan. But Indonesia is in the top 10, and even China and Serbia have fewer murders per capita – or at least police-reported murders – than Canada.
The UNODC defines homicide as “an unlawful death purposefully inflicted on a person by another person,” not directly related to an armed conflict.
We like to think of our country as a peaceful oasis compared to the U.S., and our gun-toting neighbours to the south do have three times as many homicides – 4.7 per 100,000.
But that places the U.S. only half way down the list at 108th, making it a safer place to live than Russia or Costa Rica.
Even more surprising is the fact that the most murderous places on the planet are the same destinations many Canadians fly to each winter for sun and sand vacations.
The thirty countries with the worst homicide rates include Panama (17 per 100,000), Mexico (22), Saint Lucia (22), the Dominican Republic (22) and the Bahamas (30).
For some reason, the vacation brochures fail to mention that.
The most dangerous countries include Jamaica (40 murders per 100,000), Belize (45), U.S. Virgin Islands (53) and Venezuela (54), where the soaring murder rate has given rise to growing anti-government protests.
With 90 homicides per 100,000 people, Honduras is the undisputed murder capital of the world, with a homicide rate nearly double that of the next most dangerous country.
The trend to fewer murders in Canada began in the 1970s and continued last year when “just” 505 were reported.
Statistics, of course, are cold comfort to any family that’s been touched by homicide.
But the U.N. numbers do help counterbalance the impression created by media reports, crime entertainment and organizations that thrive on fear that Canada is somehow going to hell in a hand basket.