Findings by Statistics Canada shows Thunder Bay's 2016 homicide rate followed an Ontario-wide trend of more such deaths compared to the previous year, even though more cities across Canada went in the opposite direction.
Thunder Bay reported eight homicides in 2016, up from three the previous year. That gave the city a homicide rate in 2016 of 6.64 per 100,000 people, compared to 2.48 in 2015. Thunder Bay's homicide rate for 2016 was already profiled in a StatsCan report released in July covering police-reported crime statistics in 2016.
Wednesday's data highlighted Ontario as having the biggest province-wide increase in homicide deaths from 2015 to 2016, largely owing to increases in Toronto and Ottawa, according to statisticians. Still, Thunder Bay's rate per 100,000 people puts the city ahead of those two municipalities.
Toronto's rate in 2016 was 1.55 per 100,000 people, while Ottawa sat at 2.37.
The northwestern Ontario city's one-year rise contrasted with results seen elsewhere nationally: 18 of 33 Canadian census metropolitan areas — one or more neighbouring municipalities situated around an urban core — reported lower homicide numbers in 2016 than in 2015.
In Ontario, cities that reported lower numbers over the one-year span included Barrie, Windsor, Guelph, St. Catherines-Niagara, Kingston and Greater Sudbury.
Nationally, two more homicide victims were reported in 2016 than in the previous year, but with the country's population growth, the rate per 100,000 people actually fell from 1.70 to 1.68.
Tracking trends specific to Thunder Bay's homicide rate over the past decade often shows fluctuations. The city has seen a low of zero homicides reported in 2008 to a high of 11 in 2014. In the last five years, the number of homicides moves up and down each year with seven homicides in 2012, three in 2013, 11 in 2014, three in 2015 and eight in 2016.
Police confirmed that, as of Nov. 22, seven homicides have been reported in 2017.
Gang, firearm-related homicide numbers low
While statisticians reported an increase nationally in gang-related and firearm homicides, Thunder Bay's 2016 numbers in both categories remained well below average.
One of the city's eight homicides in 2016 was deemed to be gang-related, according to the report, while none involved the use of firearms. On average, 30 per cent of homicides reported within census metropolitan areas last year involved gang activity, while 44 per cent involved firearms.
StatsCan's 2015 data showed the city had neither a gang-related nor a firearm homicide that year.
Police in Thunder Bay have said that, often, homicides in the city involved people in "escalated confrontations," who were known to each other.