A land of snow-capped mountains carved by ski fields, glistening lakes deep in the Rockies, rolling grass plains dotted with lonely rodeo towns, and futuristic cities spiked by steel-clad skyscrapers, this cut-out of North America is a simply amazing place. We’d say it should be on every globetrotter’s bucket list, but is Canada safe?
Cue this guide. Here, we’ll delve deep into the stats and offer information on the country’s biggest risks, all so you can get an idea about what it’s like to travel to the home of maple syrup and grizzly bears. Our aim? To help you understand how safe the nation is and if there are any precautions you should think of before booking.
The good news is that Canada isn’t usually mentioned in the same breath as the world’s most dangerous countries. It’s no El Salvador, no Mexico, no Myanmar. However, there are some nuanced things that we think are worth considering, whether that’s the dangers of going to certain regions, the unpredictable weather, or recent trends in the crime rate.
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Is Canada safe from crime? A general overview for 2022
Yes! In fact, Canada is considered among the safest and most secure countries on the planet. Tourism arrivals were at a soaring 22.1 million people per annum in 2019, and on an upward trend. That’s A LOT of trips, and the vast majority of them happened without a single hitch or issue. People came, saw the snow-capped peaks and tasted the bouillabaisse, and then left again. All good.
It’s something that’s borne out in the stats, too. The homicide rate in Canada has trundled along at less than two per 100,000 head of population for 19 of the last 20 years. That makes it more than half of what it is just over the border in the United States, and 42 times better than it is in the world’s most dangerous city, Tijuana!
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, though. Canada now enjoys historically low rates of property crime and general violent crime, which have both plummeted between 20-30% since the turn of the millennium. The country counts around 250-300 gun-related murders each year, while there are a whopping 45,222 of them in the neighboring USA!
All this paints a picture of a Canada that’s widely considered to be safe and accessible to tourists, who rarely consider crime a major issue before they arrive or while planning their jaunts. Of course, we wouldn’t say to COMPLETELY forget about these worries. It’s important to remain vigilant and alert no matter where you go in the world, and this snowy land of peaks and whale-filled seas is no different.
That’s especially true in 2022, as there seems to be a very recent uptick in murder rates and there’s been noticeable increases in gun crime to the point that around 44% of the locals are now concerned that it’s a major threat to the community.
Places in Canada you might want to avoid
While Canada has generally low crime rates across the board, there are certain cities and neighborhoods where incidents of everything from theft to violent crime go higher than the national average. Thankfully, they aren’t too often the places you’d be putting on the bucket list, but we think they are worth a quick mention because they’re more dangerous overall than most other destinations in the country…
- Kelowna – Set on a run of lovely lakeside in the lush Okanagan Valley in BC, Kelowna hardly looks like a dangerous place to be. However, severe drug issues have led to one of the fastest-growing crime rates in the whole of Canada, and it now sees more violent crimes and petty crimes than most places in the nation.
- Thunder Bay – The town with the single highest homicide rate in Canada (nearly seven in 100,000 head of population), Thunder Bay is best blazed through on your way to the nearby state parks filled with moose and high pine trees.
- Winnipeg – Manitoba’s capital is known for its access to the Canadian plains, its super-cold winter climate, and its enthralling Forks history site, but it also has the second-highest crime rate in the country and other crime stats that aren’t so great.
- Saskatoon – Although it’s decreasing, the violent crime rate in Saskatoon still sits above 100 in 100,000, which means its well above the national average.
- East Hastings – This part of Vancouver is basically a no-go for travelers. It’s the city’s answer to Skid Row in LA. There are big drug problems and petty crime is commonplace.
Thefts, scams, and other issues in Canada
As is the case pretty much anywhere in the world, there’s also the threat of falling victim to petty crimes when you come as a tourist. In fact, tourists are often the specific targets of these sorts of operations, which is why rates of these crimes tend to be higher in popular areas, whether that’s around the atmospheric streets of Gastown in Vancouver, in the heart of Toronto, or in the honeymoon hub of Niagara Falls. These spots always attract unsavory types and the only solution is to stay alert and aware.
You’ll also have to be wary of travel scams. These are actually on the rise in Canada as of 2022 and can be pretty high-tech compared to your usual taxi meter fix. Yep, there have been reports of fake online travel websites that take your money but don’t offer tickets, or even fake ATMs and banks. Of course, there’s also the usual mix of car hire cowboys and scamming bar staff to watch out for, although those tend to be pretty rare in these parts.
Environmental dangers in Canada
There’s a whole other aspect to safety in Canada that you’ll need to think about if you’re planning on venturing out to the less built-up parts of the country. A whopping 9.985 million square kilometers of land makes up this vast nation that runs from the USA border to the Arctic Circle. That means there are endless tracts of land where you might not even spy a piece of civilization or another person for days and days on end.
Anyone planning a trekking expedition to regions like the Yukon or Nunavut, the Northwest Territories or even the more remote parts of the more populous states further south, should make sure they do so properly for what can be harsh outdoor conditions. Canada can see temperatures dip to a face-freezing -62 F (-52 C), the mountains can be prone to avalanches, and there are always risks when hitting the high-altitude hiking trails.
Then you have the grizzly bears. These are probably the single biggest animal risk in Canada. The good news is that bear-on-human attacks are actually very rare. At last count there was only about one per year here. However, grizzlies are regularly encountered on the trails from Vancouver Island all the way to Ontario, so be sure to swat up on the proper behavior should you come across one.
Is Canada safe for solo female travelers?
Canada is actually considered the safest of all the countries in North and South America for solo female travelers. It has a generally low rate of sexually related crimes and has general crime rates that are way more inviting that many nations further south, making it largely welcoming and risk-free.
On top of that, Canada hosts some of the most liberal cities on the planet. Most even have dedicated LGBTQ+ neighborhoods and are open to all creeds and orientations, let alone solo women traveling on their own.
Of course, we’d still recommend taking some special precautions if you are a lone lady, but we’d say that for anywhere on the planet. Always be wary when going out alone after dark, always tell someone where you’re going, and try not to stray into more dangerous neighborhoods, especially in major cities like Toronto and Vancouver.
Is Canada safe? Our verdict
Is Canada safe? It’s actually one of the safest countries in the world to visit. Yep, stray north of the USA border and the murder rate drops to just a fraction of what it is further south, violent crime rates dip considerably, and travelers can enjoy low petty theft rates to boot. Canada also rates highly for political safety and safety for solo female travelers, so it’s a welcoming destination for people from all walks of life.
There are some caveats. It’s worth knowing that the last year or so has seen a slight uptick in violent crime incidents in Canada, and there are some towns and neighborhoods that have above-average crime rates you might want to avoid. On top of that, anyone looking to travel beyond the major cities to more far-flung areas of the country – the Yukon, the BC mountains – should be prepared or things like harsh weather conditions, an unpredictable climate, and – of course – the grizzly bears!