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. According to the government’s statistical agency, in 2011 the police received more than 21,280 reports of sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon causing bodily harm, and aggravated sexual assault (down from more than 22,000 incidents in 2010). Most victims were women. Government studies indicated that victims of sexual assault reported approximately 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.
On December 5, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld a sentence of criminal harassment against a man who stalked and threatened a woman but did not physically assault her. The court found that stalking and verbal harassment could have as severe consequences to a woman as a physical attack.
The federal statistical agency reported there were approximately 593 shelters for abused women. These shelters provided emergency care, transition housing, counseling, and referrals to legal and social service agencies. Some shelters were located on Aboriginal reserves and served an exclusively Aboriginal population. Shelters in rural and remote areas generally offered a narrower range of services than urban facilities and a greater proportion focused on short-stay crisis intervention. Anecdotal reports indicated a shortage of shelter spaces, trained staff, counseling, and access to affordable second-stage housing in rural communities, all of which impeded women from leaving abusive relationships.
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 and municipal governments also sought to address violence against women, often in partnership with civil society, including funding public education programs, hotlines, and shelters.
On November 14, the federal government announced grants of almost C$4.0 million ($4.0 million) to 21 organizations for projects to address violence against women on university and college campuses.
Harmful Traditional Practices: The criminal code does not refer to honor killings but prosecutes such cases as murder. Murder convictions in the first or second degree carry minimum penalties of life imprisonment with eligibility for parole. The government enforced the law effectively. The government’s citizenship guide for new immigrants explicitly states that honor killings and gender-based violence carry severe legal penalties. The government trains law-enforcement officials on issues of honor-based violence and maintains an interdepartmental working group of officials that focuses on forced marriage and honor-based violence.
On January 6, police in British Columbia arrested a mother and uncle of a female family member on charges of ordering the alleged honor killing of the woman and her husband in India in 2000. Authorities held the accused in custody pending the outcome of an extradition hearing.
On January 30, an Ontario court convicted parents Mohammad Shafia and Tooba Mohammad Yahya, and their son Hamed Shafia, of four counts each of first-degree murder in the 2009 drowning deaths of the couple’s three daughters and Mohammad Shafia’s first wife. The court characterized the murders as honor killings. The convictions carried automatic life sentences with no eligibility for parole for 25 years.
On March 6, the government contributed C$348,150 ($348,500) to a project run by the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Shield of Athena Family Services of Montreal, Quebec, to address violence against women and girls committed in the name of honor.
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. Couples are entitled 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 care and postpartum care. Women had equal access with men to diagnosis and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.
Discrimination: Women have marriage and property rights and enjoy the same legal status and rights in the judicial system as men. They were well represented in the labor force, including business and the professions. Women did not experience systemic economic discrimination in the terms of employment, credit, or pay equity for substantially similar work, or in owning or managing businesses, education, and housing. Some equality and labor groups reported that women were underrepresented in executive positions in the private sector. The federal statistical agency reported that hourly wages for women were, on average, lower than for men but that the wage gap had narrowed over the past two decades.
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. Aboriginal women and men living on reserves are subject to the Indian Act, which defines Indian status for the purposes of determining entitlement to a range of legislated rights and eligibility for federal programs and services. Aboriginal women do not enjoy full equality rights with Aboriginal men to transmit officially recognized Indian status to their descendants.
According to the government statistical agency, Aboriginal women were three times more likely than non-Aboriginal women to experience violent abuse and were overrepresented among victims of homicide. As of 2010, at least 582 cases of murdered and missing Aboriginal women remained unresolved nationwide. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police created the National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains to support law enforcement investigations and established projects with some municipal police forces to review outstanding files of missing women, including Aboriginal women.
On July 3, the government agreed to pay nurses working for the Canada Pension Plan an estimated C$169 million ($169.1 million) to settle a pay-equity suit dating to the 1970s after the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled in their favor in 2011.
On December 17, the report of a British Columbia public inquiry into missing women in the province acknowledged that Vancouver police exhibited “systemic bias” in their investigations of cases of poor, and mostly Aboriginal, missing and murdered women and girls in Vancouver between 1997 and 2002. The province called the inquiry to examine why it took police years to identify serial killer Robert Pickton who preyed on sex workers in Vancouver.