Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, as sexual assault, and the government enforced the law effectively. Penalties for sexual assault carry sentences of up to 10 years in prison, up to 14 years for sexual assault with a restricted or prohibited firearm, and between four years and life for aggravated sexual assault with a firearm or committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with, a criminal organization. The government’s statistical office reported that in 2010 there were more than 22,000 reported incidents of sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm, and aggravated sexual assault against female and male victims. Government studies indicated that victims of sexual assault reported about one in 10 incidents to police.
The law prohibits domestic violence. Although the criminal code does not define specific domestic violence offenses, an abuser can be charged with an applicable offense, such as assault, aggravated assault, intimidation, mischief, or sexual assault. Persons convicted of assault receive up to five years in prison. Assaults involving weapons, threats, or injuries carry terms of up to 10 years; aggravated assault or endangerment of life carry prison sentences of up to 14 years. The government enforced the law effectively. Studies indicated that victims of domestic violence and spousal abuse underreported incidents.
In November imams, Muslim organizations, scholars, and Muslim community leaders joined a “Call to Action to Eradicate Domestic Violence,” which declared that “domestic violence and, in the extreme, practices such as killing to ‘restore family honor’ violate clear and nonnegotiable Islamic principles.” On December 9, participating imams and Muslim leaders issued a coordinated denunciation of violence against women, including honor-based crimes.
The federal statistical agency reported that there were approximately 593 shelters for abused women; the shelters provided emergency care, transition housing, counseling, and referrals to legal and social service agencies. Shelters admitted more than 64,500 women between April 1, 2009, and March 31, 2010, of whom almost three-quarters had fled abusive situations. Six in 10 of those women had not reported their abusive incidents to police. Moreover, only 27 percent of those reported incidents resulted in formal charges.
Police received training in treating domestic violence, and agencies provided abuse hotlines. The government’s family violence initiative involved 12 departments, agencies, and crown corporations, including Status of Women Canada, a cabinet ministry. These entities worked to eliminate systemic violence against women and advance women’s human rights. Provincial governments made efforts to address violence against women as well, including Ontario’s Sexual Violence Action Plan, a C$15 million ($14.7 million) effort to prevent sexual violence and improve support for survivors of sexual assault.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not contain a specific offense of “sexual harassment” but criminalizes harassment (stalking), punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment, and sexual assault, with penalties ranging from 10 years for nonaggravated sexual assault to life imprisonment for aggravated sexual assault. The government generally enforced these prohibitions.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals enjoyed the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of children without government interference, and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. The publicly funded medical system provided access to contraceptive services and information, prenatal care, skilled attendance during childbirth, and essential obstetric and postpartum care. Women had equal access with men to diagnosis and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.
Discrimination: Women have marriage and property rights, as well as rights in the judicial system, equal to those of men. They were well represented in the labor force, including business and the professions. Women did not experience systemic economic discrimination in access to or in the terms of employment, credit, or pay equity for substantially similar work, or owning and/or managing businesses, although some equality and labor groups reported that women represented less than one fifth of senior officers in top executive positions in the private sector. The federal statistical agency reported that hourly wages for women were, on average, about 17 percent less than for men. Women did not experience discrimination in education or housing.
Status of Women Canada promoted the legal rights of women. Employment equity laws and regulations cover federal employees in all but the security and defense services. However, Aboriginal women living on reserves (where land is held communally) lack matrimonial property rights.
On October 31, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal awarded nurses working for the Canada Pension Plan C$2.3 million ($2.25 million) in damages for pay equity discrimination dating back to the 1970s. On November 17, the Supreme Court awarded female postal workers at Canada Post C$150 million ($147 million) to settle a landmark pay-equity dispute that originated in 1983.