Winnipeg is the most dangerous city, Canadians believe

Canadians believe Winnipeg is the most unsafe city in the country, with Ottawa soaring as the safest. (Source: Getty Images)

Canadians have revealed how safe they feel cities around the country are, even if they aren’t actually as safe as they may seem.

According to a new poll released by Mainstreet Research covering safety perceptions of 15 major Canadian cities, poll respondents felt that Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal were the most dangerous cities in the country. But Canadian’s perceptions may be warped. Even Winnipeg, which has continuously clocked above average crime rates, was judged harshly with only 35 per cent of respondents saying it was safe.

Our theory has been the scores are mainly driven by news coverage, and it looks like the stories that are breaking through on national TV and social media has not helped Winnipeg improve its standing with Canadians,” says Quito Maggi, President of Mainstreet Research, in remarks included in the poll. The city still languished at the bottom of the 15 city list, despite Winnipeg’s crime severity index standing at 87.22, which ranks fifth-highest in the country.

For the Canada’s two biggest cities though, the perceived danger is even unwarranted. Toronto’s crime severity index score stood at 47.5, the lowest crime rate of any of the 15 cities included in the survey. But it was still seen as the second-most dangerous city in the country, with only 40 per cent of Canadians saying it was a safe city.

Statistically you are safer in Toronto than many other cities but that can be difficult to get across when media coverage of crimes in the city becomes amplified by social media and national pick-up,” says Dr. Joseph Angolano, Vice-President of Mainstreet Research. 

Montreal, which has the third-lowest crime rate in the country, even saw its crime drop by 5 per cent, but that didn’t help the city escape being ranked third from the bottom among the 15 cities polled. “Montréal is still at the bottom of the list of perceived safety,” said David Valentin, Executive Vice-President of Mainstreet Research, in remarks included in the poll. “Montréal’s violent crime rate hasn’t moved since last year (5th best) but Montreal did see 42 homicides.” Nevertheless, the city’s Crime Severity Index score was only 57.8.

In contrast, Regina, Saskatoon and Edmonton all ranked higher on the list of cities than they merited. Saskatchewan’s capital, Regina, had the highest crime rate in the country, clocking in a Crime Severity Index score of 125.8. The city is now considered the 9th safest city on the list, down three spots from the previous year.

Saskatoon was ranked 12th safest city in the country, just ahead of Montreal, despite having seen a five per cent increase in crime. The city’s standing remains unchanged from the previous year, perhaps the only positive bit of news to come out of the poll.

The most surprising result was Edmonton, which jumped five places in perceived safety rankings to 6th safest city in the country. The jump came despite Edmonton scoring 105.7 on the Crime Severity Index, one of the highest in the country. “Edmonton had 47 homicides in 2016, typically the crime that receive the most media attention, yet Canadians net perception of safety in Edmonton has increased,” says Maggi, “with so much news about Edmonton involving the provincial government, perhaps these news stories are drowning out news about crime.”

Whatever the reasons, the new poll reveals how Canadians think about their biggest cities and how their perceptions are influenced by the news that comes out of those cities. So while the public may hear less about crime in Regina, it doesn’t mean that there’s less crime there than in Toronto or Montreal.

This is how each city ranked in perceptions across the country:

Safe and Unsafe cities based on Canadian perceptions (Source: Mainstreet Research)