Public Violence in Canada


270 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7735-0590-3




Reviewed by Sidney Allinson

Sidney Allinson is a Victoria-based communications consultant, Canadian
news correspondent for Britain’s The Army Quarterly and Defence, and
author of The Bantams: The Untold Story of World War I.


This book could be of particular relevance to the student of modern Canada, in that it explores aspects of society not always considered by historians and sociologists. However, though Torrance employs effective techniques of research and statistical analysis, she somehow avoids any sense of the actual human suffering of the topic, so that one has the uncomfortable impression of watching the squirmings of hurt insects on a microscope slide. The book also tends to emphasize “state violence” rather than crimes committed by individuals.

Certainly, though, this work is timely. Every morning, newspapers, radio, and TV report a litany of the latest violent events. De-sensitized by such repetition, one comes to almost accept as normal the frequent incidence of killing, beating, rape, political assassination, and other violent crimes. Despite this, most Canadians still feel we live in a less violent country than most, particularly in comparison with the United States. Reassuringly, Torrance at first offers some factual support to this smug impression, but then also raises some thought-provoking questions about the brutal effects of changing social conditions world-wide.

The book defines “public violence” as mainly that of groups, either political or labour interests. Torrance points out there has been relatively little such strife here because Canadians rarely have cause to get fighting mad. Her statistics show Canada as ranking neither among the most nor among the least violent of the 18 advanced Western democracies used as samples. (Of equal interest, no communist state is discussed or studied.) Five countries, Belgium, France, Italy, the U.K. and the USA are listed as being more violent than Canada, while seven coutries are shown to have less violence: Australia, Denmark, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland. This “unnatural quiescence of the population” here is one more thing for which any typically non-violent Canadian may be thankful.


Torrance, Judy M., “Public Violence in Canada,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed September 23, 2023,