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 2012 the police received approximately 21,900 reports of sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon causing bodily harm, and aggravated sexual assault (up from 2011 figures). Most victims were women. Government studies indicated that victims of sexual assault reported approximately one in 10 incidents to police. Statistics on the number of abusers prosecuted, convicted, and punished are not published by the federal government.
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.
The federal statistical agency reported there were approximately 593 shelters providing services to 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. Reports indicated a shortage of shelter spaces, trained staff, counseling, and access to affordable second-stage housing, 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 (FVI) involved 15 federal departments, agencies, and crown corporations, including Status of Women Canada, Health Canada, and Justice Canada. 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.
The federal government awarded grants of almost Canadian dollars C$4.0 million ($4.0 million) to 21 organizations for projects to address violence against women on university and college campuses from November 2012 to November 2014.
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 focusing on forced marriage and honor-based violence.
On June 28, the government announced a C$200,000 ($200,000) grant over two years to a multicultural and immigrant services British Columbia NGO to work with men and boys to develop strategies to recognize, intervene, and prevent honor-based violence. In September, the government awarded C$306,040 ($306,040) to the Canadian Council of Muslim Women for a project to curtail domestic violence and honor crime.
In May the British Columbia Supreme Court held an extradition hearing on charges a mother and uncle of a female family member ordered the alleged honor killing of the woman and her husband in India in 2000. Authorities held the accused in custody pending the outcome of the hearing.
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. Federal and provincial labor standards law provide some protection against harassment, and federal, provincial, and territorial human rights commissions have responsibility for investigating and resolving harassment complaints. Employers, companies, unions, educational facilities, professional bodies, and other institutions have adopted internal policies against sexual harassment, and federal and provincial governments provide public education and advice.
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.
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 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, and provincial law requires equal pay for equal work in the public sector and, in some provinces, also in the private sector. Legislation passed in June extended matrimonial property rights to Aboriginal women living on reserves (where land is held communally). This law comes into effect in 2014. First Nations may choose to follow federal law or enact their own rules related to matrimonial real property rights and interests that respect their customs.
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. The federal government funded a project from 2005 to 2010 that documented at least 582 cases of murdered and missing Aboriginal women that remain unresolved nationwide. The RCMP 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.
In February the House of Commons created a special committee on violence against indigenous women to hold hearings into cases of murdered and missing Aboriginal women and girls and to propose solutions to address violence against indigenous women. In October the House instructed the committee to deliver a report and recommendations by February 14, 2014. Also in February, NGOs reported allegations of excessive use of force, and physical and sexual abuse of indigenous women and girls, by RCMP officers in northern British Columbia.