Many people looking to escape cities and countries with high crime rates look to Canada as a haven for a good reason. The country ranks 12th in terms of the safest countries in the world.
In this article, we'll look at some of the safest cities in Canada and at how Canada compares to other countries like the United States in terms of safety.
Without further ado, let's get started.
Here are the safest cities to live in Canada. All of these cities clock in well below the national average regarding crime. As of the end of 2021, Canada's national index came in with a CSI of 73.
Of note, all data is sourced from the Canada Crime Index and is updated as of the end of 2021. We utilize the Crime Severity Index, or CSI, as they call it. Optimally, a low CSI is good. However, there are also different CSI numbers regarding violent and non-violent crimes.
For the list below, we have filtered out all cities that do not have a population of at least 100,000. If you're looking for a smaller city, we'll provide a summarized list below of smaller ones.
What are the safest cities to live in Canada?
- Québec City Quebec
- Ottawa Ontario
- Trois-Rivieres Quebec
- Sherbrooke Quebec
- Gatineau Quebec
- Toronto Ontario
- Barrie Ontario
- Guelph Ontario
- Niagara Region Ontario
- Halifax Nova Scotia
1. Quebéc City, Quebec
Quebec City has one of the lowest crime rates in Canada, and its residents also experience a high quality of life overall. The province of Quebec is vastly different from any other province in Canada due to the predominantly French-speaking population, so there is also a larger sense of community.
Quebec has many national parks, making hiking trails and other outdoor activities extremely popular. It also boasts a very low unemployment rate, the lowest in the country at the time of writing. Quebec is also known for its overall low cost of living.
Quebec City is not as large as the other major cities here in Canada, which is likely the driving factor for it having one of the lowest crime rates in Canada. The city only has around 550,000 people as of the end of 2022.
It has a CSI rating of 42.5, the lowest Canadian city by quite a wide margin. There is also a vast history in the city that is almost unmatched here in Canada.
It is one of the oldest cities in North America and was founded by Samuel de Champlain in 1608. To give you an idea of how old this is, it is older than places like Boston and Philadelphia.
Its Old Quebec district is one of the loveliest historical spots in Canada.
Overall, not only is it a fantastic place to live if you're looking for a low-crime rate city, but it is also an excellent place to visit as a tourist.
2. Ottawa, Ontario
With a CSI rating of only 50.2, Ottawa is the second safest city to live in Canada. It is the nation's capital city, located in eastern Ontario on the south bank of the Ottawa River. This river forms the border between Ontario and Quebec.
Because the city is the capital of Canada, it is home to many federal government institutions and buildings. The Rideau Canal is a sight, as it runs directly through Ottawa and is one of North America's oldest continuously operated canals.
Ottawa's population is just over 1.1 million, making it the sixth largest city in Canada, behind only Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton. The city is home to a large winter festival called Winterlude during the first three weekends in February.
Not only does the city have some of the lowest violent crime rates in Canada, but some of the lowest drug-related crimes as well.
With housing skyrocketing in major metropolises like Toronto, Ottawa is considered a cheaper alternative despite still being relatively expensive. Its lower crime right should draw those looking for a safer city.
3. Trois-Rivieres, Quebec
Originally a trading post in the 1600s, Trois-Rivieres is much smaller than Ottawa and Quebec. But, with a CSI of 52.3, it comes in just behind Ottawa as one of the safest cities in Canada.
Of note, the seriousness of crimes in Trois-Rivieres is greater than that of Ottawa and Quebec, as it has a CSI of 80 regarding violent crime. However, the city is generally still one of the safest in the country.
Although it is closed down now, the city is also known for the oldest prison in Canada, the Old Prison of Trois-Rivieres. It opened in 1822 and ended up closing its doors in 1986.
With a relatively small population of 141,000 as of the end of 2022, it's not surprising that crime is lower than that of Quebec City. Although it is not always the case, generally, the smaller the population, the easier it is for law enforcement to do their job.
The city is located on the shore of the Saint Lawrence River, making it a visually appealing city for those who enjoy safety and scenery. The name means three rivers, primarily because it is where St Lawrence and Saint-Maurice Rivers confluence.
4. Sherbrooke, Quebec
Yet another smaller city in the province of Quebec, Sherbrooke, is a little larger than Trois-Rivieres. With a population of 151,000 as of 2021, it is the fourth largest city in Quebec.
The city has a CSI rating of 52.6, coming in a mere 0.3 shy of Trois-Rivieres. Violent crime is a bit more prevalent, but overall this city is still a safe destination. Sherbrooke is safe and has a vibrant economy focusing on manufacturing, healthcare, and technology.
The Sherbrooke University Hospital Centre is leading the way with advanced research in neuroscience and oncology. In total, it has over 6000 employees.
The city is home to one of the oldest golf courses in Canada and has a very strong tradition of brewing craft beer. Much like the other cities on this list from Quebec, it is pretty old. As a result, it includes some historical buildings, a benefit for those who choose to live here and tourists who choose to visit.
5. Gatineau, Quebec
If you're seeing a pattern on this list of safest cities to live in Canada, you're likely not alone. So far, 4 of the top 5 have been from Quebec, and it's evident that Quebec is the safest province in the country.
With a CSI of 53.3, Gatineau comes in just higher than Sherbrooke. However, it is essential to note that Gatineau has a lower rate of violent crimes than all of the other Quebec cities besides Quebec City.
Ottawa and Gatineau are separated only by the Ottawa River. Many residents of Gatineau work in Ottawa and vice-versa. The two cities share a lot of amenities, including public transportation and hospitals.
With Ottawa being primarily English-speaking and Gatineau being French-speaking, it creates an environment where any Canadian would be comfortable. Although Ottawa is much larger, Gatineau is still one of the larger cities in Quebec, with a population of around 291,000. The total Ottawa-Gatineau area, however, has nearly 1.4M.
The cities are connected by a multitude of bridges, including the Alexandra, Portage, and Chaudiere.
6. Toronto, Ontario
Considering Toronto is the largest city in Canada, many people may be surprised that it is also one of the safest cities to live in Canada. However, one thing that is important to keep in mind: Although Toronto does have a CSI of only 56.7, violent crimes are pretty prevalent in the greater Toronto area, and it has the 2nd highest rate of violent crimes of any city on this list, trailing only Halifax.
With a population of over 6.3M people, this shouldn't come as a surprise. The larger the city, the more prone it is to violent crimes. Considering the Canadian population is just under 40 million people as of January 2023, Toronto makes up a massive chunk of this population. It is a huge economic driver for Canada.
Located on Lake Ontario and home to the Toronto Maple Leafs, one of North America's most expensive sports franchises, it is also known to be one of Canada's most culturally diverse cities.
With the city being so popular among Canadians and foreigners looking to move to Canada, the housing market has gone parabolic over the last decade, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic.
So, it's essential to understand that although this is the safest city out of Canada's five largest by a large margin, it is also the most expensive. So a high income is required and be prepared to open up your wallet if you aspire to buy or rent here one day.
7. Barrie, Ontario
Going from the largest city in the country to one with a population of only around 150,000, Barrie is an outstanding alternative for those who do not want to pay the premium prices to live in Toronto but still want to live in the area, with it being only around 110 kilometres away.
With a CSI of 57.5, it's one of the safest cities to live in Canada. And it also has the third lowest rate of violent crimes out of any city on this list, trailing only Ottawa and Guelph.
It is part of the Greater Golden Horseshoe, an area and a cluster of cities around Toronto. As mentioned, it's only around 110 kilometres away.
The city is relatively old, being started after the War of 1812. It is one of Ontario's fastest-growing cities right now, primarily because of its tech exposure. With rapid technological advances, it is home to some of Canada's fastest-growing, albeit smaller, technology companies.
Remember that the cost of living in Barrie is nearly 10% higher than the country's average. Although it is cheaper than Toronto, it is still a costly place to live. So, you'll pay for living in one of Canada's safest and fastest-growing cities.
8. Guelph, Ontario
Quebec dominated the front half of this list of the ten safest cities in Canada. Ontario is set to dominate the back half, with Guelph coming in at number 8.
Also part of the Greater Golden Horseshoe, which contains over 26% of the entire population of Canada, it is located 22 kilometres away from Kitchener and only 70 kilometres away from downtown Toronto.
It has a CSI rating of 58.2, but many will want to pay attention to the fact that it has the lowest violent crime rates out of any city in Canada, with a CSI in this area of 51.6. So, if you're looking for safety in terms of violence and not overall crime, Guelph is the safest in Canada.
The city is called "The Royal City," primarily because it was named after Britain's royal family when it was created. Guelph was the ancestral name of King George IV, The House of Welf/Guelf/Gwelf.
The city has many green spaces, including vibrant rivers like the Speed and Eramosa Rivers. In terms of size, it's middle of the line, with a population of around 150,000 as of 2023.
9. Niagara Region, Ontario
Whether you are from Canada or the United States, you've likely heard of the Niagara Region in Ontario. It's home to Niagara Falls, most notably Horseshoe Falls.
The area is full of wineries and scenery, and the beauty of the area can't be denied, that's for sure. Regarding safety, the city has a CSI of 62.1, which is relatively equal between violent and non-violent crimes.
The area is named after the Niagara River. Niagara Falls contains Horseshoe Falls, American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls. These falls are a natural wonder of the world. Because they lie on both the Ontario and New York State borders, many Canadian and American tourists flock here.
As of 2023, the population was around 425,000 people, making this a middle-of-the-pack option in terms of size. However, please make no mistake about it; the region is huge, spanning 1850 square kilometres.
The largest city inside of the Niagara Region would be St Catherines, Ontario, which is home to almost a third of the Niagara Regions' population.
10. Halifax, Nova Scotia
The final city on this list is Halifax, the only city located outside of Ontario and Quebec. With a CSI of 65.7, it comes in at the lowest on this list, and violent crime is prevalent in the city. The CSI in terms of violent crime jumps to 91, making it the largest on this list.
The city has a population of just shy of half a million people. However, what's interesting is that Halifax is currently one of the fastest-growing cities in Canada. In 2017 it had a population of 431,000, marking some very healthy population growth.
It is well known for its maritime culture, and Nova Scotia is often considered one of the more vibrant provinces in Canada. The city is also very old, founded in 1749, with most of its residents originating from Europe.
The city played a critical role in the burial of many victims of the Titanic, with many ships heading out of Halifax to recover bodies and search for survivors. On another interesting note, Halifax Harbour is currently one of the deepest harbours in the world.
With the city being on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, if you're looking for a safe city near a large body of water with beautiful views, Halifax is undoubtedly one of the best places in Canada.
Runner-ups that didn't meet the population threshold
If you're looking for safe cities in Canada that have populations of under 100,000, here are some with their CSI numbers. All of these small cities, in terms of CSI numbers, are lower than that of the ones on this list.
- Essex County (Lakeshore) Ontario CSI of 21.8
- South Simcoe Ontario CSI of 32.4
- Okotoks Alberta CSI of 35.8
- Dufferin Ontario CSI of 40.4
- Granby Quebec CSI of 41
- West Parry Sound CSI of 42.7
Is Canada the safest country in the world?
No, but it's pretty close. Canada ranks 12th in terms of overall safety. Iceland was the safest country in the world in 2023, followed by New Zealand, Ireland, Austria, and Denmark.
Although guns are present in all countries listed above, there is a correlation between a country's safety and the extent of regulations and laws regarding gun ownership. However, this isn't always the case, as Ireland has some of the most relaxed gun laws in Europe.
Is Canada's crime rate higher than the US?
No. Canada's crime rate is materially lower than the United States. With 6.52 murders per 100,000 people, the United States ranks 129th in safest countries. Conversely, Canada comes in just shy of 2 per 100,000, ranking them 12th.
Although there are multiple elements of safety and crime, there is much more gun violence in countries like the United States relative to Canada.
What are the benefits of living in Canada over the US?
Canada is home to fully funded public healthcare, maternity leave, one of the most diverse populations on the planet, low crime rates, and extensive natural resources, which tends to provide a strong job market for those looking for work.
Depending on your political views, the benefits of living in Canada over the United States may be seen as negatives. Although this is misguided labelling and incorrect, Canada is often called a socialist country because of its extensive social programs and benefits. As a result, tax rates are higher.
Which Canadian city has the highest crime rate?
Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, is currently the Canadian city with the highest crime rate, as reported by the Canada Crime Index. The city has a CSI, or Crime Severity Index, of 263 and has the highest CSI regarding violent crimes. However, along with having one of the worst universities in Canada, Regina also has a high rate of crime.
Remember that the Canada Crime Indexes data is as of the end of 2021. I utilized a filter of 25,000 minimum population. If we scale this back to 10,000, Wetaskiwin, Alberta, with a CSI of 313, is the city with the highest crime rate in Canada.
And, if we go to cities with a population of 100,000 minimum, Kelowna is a city with the highest crime rates in Canada, coming in at a CSI of 142.
What city has the lowest crime rate in Canada?
Of all the cities with a population of 25,000 or greater, Okotoks, Alberta, has the lowest crime rate in the country, with an overall CSI of 35.8. Of that, the majority of crimes committed in Okotoks are of the non-violent variety.
Is Montreal or Toronto safer?
If we look at the Crime Severity Index, Toronto is safer than Montreal. Montreal currently has a CSI of 72, while Toronto has one of 56.5. Montreal also has many more instances of violent crime, with a CSI of 105.3 in that department, while Toronto comes in at 88.3.
Both cities, however, are among some of the safest in the country. Which, considering their large populations, is surprising.
What province in Canada has the highest crime rate?
Data compiled from Statistics Canada states that Saskatchewan had Canada's highest rural and urban crime rates as of the end of 2021, particularly in Regina. Manitoba came in second, while Alberta came in third. However, Saskatchewan had a notably higher crime rate than both provinces.
What is the most peaceful city to live in Canada?
If we stick to cities with 100,000 people or greater and judge peacefulness as low levels of violent crime, then Guelph, Ontario, would be the most peaceful city in Canada. With a CSI of just 51.6 regarding violent crime, it is the lowest in the country.
Of note, Guelph is also one of the safest cities in Canada overall, with it being on the list above.