I can't wait to go home next week...

Canada's murder rate shot up last year to its highest in nearly a decade, putting the country's peace-loving reputation on the line.

Statistics Canada said 658 people were murdered last year, meaning the homicide rate was up 4 percent from 2004. It gave no reason for the increase, which followed a dramatic 13 percent jump in 2004.

The national homicide rate was 2 per 100,000 population, Statscan said. That is relatively low by international standard and less than half that of the U.S. rate, which was 5.5 per 100,000 in 2004, according to the FBI.

Canadians were shocked last year by a spate of shooting deaths in Toronto, where the homicide rate jumped 9 percent. However, Edmonton, the capital of the western province of Alberta, was the most murder-ridden place to be last year, with 4.3 homicides per 100,000 people.

Another high-profile case involved four Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers being shot dead in March last year as they investigated a farmhouse in Alberta. The gunman killed himself.

The growing number of shooting deaths has put pressure on the government to clamp down on handguns.

Other serious violent crimes such as attempted murder and assaults with a weapon also rose last year but the overall crime rate fell 5 percent because fewer non-violent crimes were reported.

The national crime rate has been relatively stable since 1999.
(From Yahoo News in Ottawa.)

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