OTTAWA - Statistics Canada says police recorded 543 homicides in Canada in 2012, down 55 from the previous year, as the country had its lowest homicide rate since 1966.
The agency says the 2012 homicide rate was 1.56 victims for every 100,000 population, down 10 per cent from 2011 and the lowest in four decades.
It says most of the drop in homicides was accounted for by three provinces.
Alberta had 24 fewer killings, British Columbia had 16 fewer and Saskatchewan dropped by nine.
Quebec, the Northwest Territories and Ontario were the only jurisdictions with increased homicides and they were only three, two and one higher, respectively.
In 2012, the homicide rate was highest in Nunavut at 14.84 for every 100,000 in the population, while among the provinces, Manitoba continued to record the highest homicide rate, at 4.10 for every 100,000.
Despite the overall decrease in homicide in 2012, fatal shootings increased to 172 from 158 in 2011.
Although the number of shootings increased in 2012, the rate of firearm-related homicides remained among the lowest in almost 50 years.
About 65 per cent of firearm homicides involved handguns.
Shootings accounted for a third of all killings while 31 per cent involved stabbing.
Gang-related homicides were unchanged in 2012 from previous two years, with 95 deaths.
The rate of gang killings remained stable for the third year in a row at 0.27 victims for every 100,000 population. Prior to this, gang-related homicides had generally been increasing since the early 1990s, until peaking in 2008.
The data say most homicide victims knew their killer. Among solved homicides in 2012, 84 per cent of homicide victims were killed by an acquaintance or a family member. The number of homicides committed by strangers decreased slightly in 2012, resulting in the lowest rate of stranger homicide in more than 40 years.
Police reported 82 intimate partner homicides in 2012, with 83 per cent involving a female victim. The rate of intimate partner homicide in 2012 was consistent with rates recorded over the previous five years.
There were fewer homicides committed by youths in 2012 than the previous year, with the youth homicide rate dropping to 1.42 for each 100,000 population, the lowest rate in over a decade.