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Gang killings on rise: Stats

Article by: KATHLEEN HARRIS, OTTAWA BUREAU
– OTTAWA — Canada’s murder rate has hit the highest level in nearly a decade, with a surge in gang-related shootings and an alarming 48% jump in teenaged killers driving up national numbers.
A Statistics Canada report also finds handguns have become the weapon of choice for Canadian homicides and it fingers the proliferation of gangs in Ontario and Alberta for escalating deadly violence.
Police forces across the country recorded 658 homicides in 2005, up 34 from a year earlier. Of those, 222 were committed with a gun — up from 173 in 2004 — while a knife was used in 198 deaths.
TREND IN WEAPONS
Before 1991, rifles and shotguns were used far more often in homicides than handguns. That trend has completely reversed. Last year handguns were used in six of 10 firearm homicides, compared to one in four committed with rifles or shotguns.
Justice Minister Vic Toews said the statistics reflect the disturbing rise of gangs plaguing Canada’s urban cores — and the need to stay on course with the Conservative government’s legislative plan to clamp down.
“We’ve also seen that mechanisms like the gun registry simply have been ineffective,” Toews said.
NO CERTIFICATES
Police report that 83% of firearms seized in homicide investigations since 1997 were not registered.
In homicides committed with a gun, four out of five accused killers did not have a valid firearms certificate.
Police report 107 homicides were pegged as gang-related in 2005 — up 35 from the year before. Most of the increases were in Ontario, particularly Toronto, and in Alberta.
The Stats Canada report found Edmonton is Canada’s murder capital, with the highest rate of homicide of all nine metro areas. Toronto and Calgary also saw murder rates jump to the highest levels in more than a decade.