The Greater Toronto Area's homicide rate fell 13 per cent last year to its lowest mark since 1999, holding below the national average, according to a Statistics Canada study.

Toronto and its suburbs had one of the largest decreases of any Canadian metropolitan area last year as the national homicide rate dropped to its lowest mark in 44 years.

With a rate of 1.4 homicides per 100,000 residents, the GTA ranked 18th out of 34 metropolitan areas.

Despite having one of the lower homicide rates, the GTA recorded more homicides than any other metropolitan area.

In raw numbers, 80 homicides were investigated by Toronto police and suburban police departments last year, according to a report released Wednesday.

Of those, half of the victims were fatally shot. Furthermore, 20 homicides were gang-related - a drop of 35 per cent since 2009.

Thunder Bay is Canada's murder capital

Despite having just five homicides in 2010, the smaller city of Thunder Bay, Ont., was crowned Canada's per-capita homicide capital for the second consecutive year.

Thunder Bay had a rate of 4.2 homicides per 100,000 residents, followed by Saskatoon (3.7) and Regina (3.7), where rates have been above the national average for more than a decade.

Between 2000 and 2010, 621 people charged with a homicide in Canada were suspected of having a mental or developmental disorder, representing 13 per cent of those accused, the report found.

About one-third had been previously convicted of a violent offence.

Meanwhile, Canada's national homicide rate was 1.62 in 2010, when 554 homicides (56 fewer than 2009) were reported to police agencies across the country. Of those, 138 were unsolved at year's end.

With 36 homicides in 2010, Greater Vancouver's rate dropped 42 per cent to 1.5, its lowest mark since data became available in 1981.

According to the report, people shouldn't think of homicide and violent crime as a big-city problem.

Almost one-third of Canada's homicides occurred in its three largest metropolitan areas – Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver – but their rates were below the national average, the report found.

Guns are most common

Firearms were the most common weapon used in homicides in Canada.

For the entire country, 170 people were fatally shot last year, followed by 164 fatal stabbings and 117 fatal beatings. Forty-one people were strangled, 17 died in vehicle-related incidents, 11 died in deliberately-set arsons and four were poisoned.

The report listed six causes of death as "other" and 20 as "unknown."

Here are some more highlights from the report, which is based on information supplied by police agencies:

  • Homicide victims were most likely to have been killed by someone they knew
  • The rate of homicides committed by strangers dropped 14 per cent
  • There were 170 fatal shootings in Canada in 2010, down 10 shootings from 2009
  • Manitoba and Saskatchewan had the highest homicide rates of all provinces
  • Saskatchewan has the highest rate of gang-related homicide among provinces, while Winnipeg and Vancouver had the highest rates out of all cities
  • Youths accounted for one in 10 persons accused of homicide; male youths are about 10 times more likely than females to be accused of homicide
  • Homicides involving youths are more likely to be gang related than adult homicides