You may not be shocked to learn that the murder rate in Canada is significantly lower than it is in the USA. The two nations may share 5,525 miles of border, but when it comes to the taking of human life, they’re poles apart.
Gun laws play a large part, of course, as does law enforcement and a combination of a few social, political, economic and cultural factors.
Naturally, this difference in murder rates is reflected in the two countries' histories of serial killers. Many of the world’s most famous and prolific repeat murderers are - or were - American. Try to recall a famous serial killer from The Great White North and most of us would probably struggle.
That’s not to say that Canada’s not birthed some truly horrifying murderers.
Michael Wayne McGray - 8 victims
Ontario-born and Nova Scotia-raised, Michael McGray was charged and sentenced for seven murders in 2000. While in prison, he confessed to a further eleven, although none of those have been proven. Not only that but he definitely added to his kill count while inside, choking a cellmate of his to death in 2010.
A drifter for most of his adult life, McGray has since claimed that he is constantly fighting an inexplicable and innate ‘urge to kill’.
‘I wish I could say I felt bad for the victims because that's what society wants to hear, but I don't,’ the remorseless killer told a Canadian news channel on his arrest in 2000. ‘There's no emotion at all.’
McGray is now serving seven life sentences in a maximum security unit after his 2010 prison murder.
Bruce McArthur - 8 victims
Portly, overweight, white-haired and bearded, Bruce McArthur was seemingly made for his seasonal job as a mall Santa. In the summer months, he worked as a landscape gardener in Toronto. But whatever the season, he remained one thing: a manipulative and callous serial killer.
McArthur preyed upon gay men who were secretive about their sexuality and who were generally of Asian or Middle Eastern heritage. Between 2010 and 2017, Selim Esen, Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi, Andrew Kinsman, Majeed Kayhan, Dean Lisowick, Skandaraj Navaratnam and Soroush Mahmudi died at the man’s hands. When caught in January 2018, he was Toronto’s most prolific and Canada’s oldest recorded serial killer.
Shades of the Jeffrey Dahmer case loom large here. Not least because Toronto Police have since been accused of botching their investigation due to a perceived indifference towards the victims and their communities.
Elizabeth Wettlaufer - 8 victims
Elizabeth Tracy Mae 'Bethe' Wettlaufer murdered eight elderly people and attempted to kill a further six in Ontario between 2007 and 2016.
She used her position as a registered nurse in care homes to inject insulin into her victims, who ranged in age from anywhere between 68 and 96. Eight of them died, and six managed to survive (these were Wettlaufer's earlier victims when she was unsure of the exact amount of insulin that would prove deadly).
Wettlaufer, like Michael McGray, spoke of her uncontrollable compulsions to kill, admitting that she ‘knew the difference between right and wrong’ but she was 'visited by surges' out of her control. She added rather grimly: ‘God or the devil or whatever, wanted me to do it. I felt the surging and then my own laughter afterwards, which was like a cackling from the pit of hell.’
Clifford Olson - 11 victims
Known as ‘The Beast of British Columbia’ and called ‘Canada’s first true bogeyman’, Clifford Olson’s crimes are particularly gruesome and stomach-churning. In just one year, between 1980 and 1981, Vancouverite Olson slaughtered at least eleven children and teenagers.
The Canuck killer received eleven life sentences for the murders. Olson admitted to the crimes, therefore there was no trial and no opportunity for the public to learn about the killer’s motivations or other details of the cases.
Olson developed terminal cancer and was admitted to a hospital in Laval, Quebec in 2001. At the age of 71, he passed away on September 30, 2011.
Robert Pickton - 26 victims
The nauseating story of Robert Pickton and his killings is like something from a particularly disgusting horror film.
‘The Pig Farm Killer’ was convicted of just six of the 26 killings he was charged with. Although he confessed to 49 and, apparently, demonstrated annoyance and regret to police that he hadn’t been able to ‘make it an even 50’ before getting caught.
‘I made my own grave by being sloppy. Doesn’t that just kick you in the a*s. I wanted one more to make the big 5-0,’ he told a cellmate who was really an undercover cop.
If his confessions are to be believed - and most investigators who interviewed him and criminologists to study him think they are - then Pickton is Canada’s most prolific ever serial killer. And yet that’s not the shocking part.
Pickton, who preyed on Vancouver’s sex workers, disposed of the bodies using mincers and pigs. Worse still, he processed the ‘meat’ and used it in sausages which he sold to the community. He took particular joy from gifting them to local police officers.
Yves Trudeau - 43 victims
Yves Trudeau, also known as ‘Denis Côté’, ‘Apache’ and ‘The Mad Bomber’ killed a lot of people.
‘Apache’ (a nickname that came from the scalping of some of his victims) killed 43 people in his position as an assassin for the Hells Angel North Chapter in Quebec in the 1970s and ‘80s.
On his arrest in 1985, Trudeau turned state witness and grassed up his fellow biker pals. He was found guilty of 43 murders but tried for 43 manslaughters instead, because of his snitching. He served just nine years in prison. Six years after his release he was arrested for sexually assaulting a young boy and imprisoned again.
The judge said this during the 2004 trial: ‘In your lifetime, you have killed more people than the Canadian military did in the Gulf War.’
He was sentenced to four years in prison. Two years into the sentence he was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer and released on parole to die in a care facility.