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 2013 police received approximately 21,300 reports of sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon causing bodily harm, and aggravated sexual assault (down from 21,900 in 2012). Most victims were women. Government studies indicated 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, likely due to social stigma, fear of further violence, or retribution.
According to the government’s statistical agency, Aboriginal women were three times more likely than non-Aboriginal women to experience violent abuse and were overrepresented among victims of homicide. On May 15, the RCMP reported 1,181 police-recorded incidents involving Aboriginal females between 1980 and 2012, of which 1,017 were homicide victims and 164 were considered missing. The review concluded that Aboriginal women were overrepresented among the country’s murdered and missing women and that the total number of murdered and missing Aboriginal females exceeded previous public estimates. The RCMP ordered its divisions across the country to review all unresolved missing and homicide cases and report on their status by year’s end. The RCMP maintained 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 March the government committed C$25 million ($22.8 million) over five years to reduce violence against Aboriginal women and girls. Also in March a special House of Commons committee on violence against indigenous women issued a report on hearings it held in 2013 and 2014 into cases of murdered and missing Aboriginal women and girls and proposed solutions to address violence against indigenous women. The committee recommended the government undertake an awareness and prevention campaign focusing on violence against Aboriginal women and girls and provide greater support for families of victims and communities. Additionally, the committee recommended better coordination of police data, collection, and training and continued efforts to reduce human trafficking and the violence and harm associated with prostitution. Aboriginal leaders, Aboriginal nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), some provincial premiers, and federal opposition parties called for the federal government to establish a public inquiry to study the issue. The federal government declined the request on the basis that cases of murdered and missing Aboriginal women constituted crimes and were most appropriately addressed by police. On August 29, the country’s premiers called for a national roundtable with federal government participation on murdered and missing Aboriginal women as an alternative to a formal public inquiry.
The government’s statistical agency reported there were approximately 600 shelters and transition homes providing services to abused women. As of 2012 (the latest available figures), these facilities provided 11,820 beds. 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 victims, and agencies provided abuse hotlines. The government’s Family Violence Initiative 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 C$4 million ($3.65 million) to 21 organizations for projects to address violence against women on university and college campuses between November 2012 and November 2014.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C and prosecutes the offense as aggravated assault with a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment. Persons committing or aiding another person to commit the offense may also be charged with criminal negligence causing bodily harm (maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment) or criminal negligence causing death (maximum penalty of life imprisonment). Persons convicted of removing or assisting the removal of a child who is ordinarily a resident in Canada for the purpose of having FGM/C performed on the child face a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment. Refugee status may be granted on the grounds of threatened FGM/C that may be considered gender-related persecution. Provincial child-protection authorities may intervene to remove children suspected at risk of FGM/C from their homes.
Although reliable statistics on the incidence of the practice were not available, there were a few reports that FGM was practiced, particularly among immigrant communities. Anecdotal evidence also suggested some families from immigrant communities in which FMG is culturally accepted send their daughters abroad to have the procedure performed.
Other 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.
In May the British Columbia Supreme Court ordered the extradition of a mother and uncle of a female family member on charges they ordered the alleged “honor” killing of the woman and her husband in India in 2000. The accused appealed the order, which remained pending as of August.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not contain a specific offense of “sexual harassment” but criminalizes harassment (defined as 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 laws 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 internal policies against sexual harassment, and federal and provincial governments provide public education and advice.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals enjoy the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to obtain the information and means to do so without government interference. Couples are entitled to attain the highest standard of reproductive health free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. The publicly funded medical system provided access to contraceptive services and information, prenatal care, skilled health attendance during pregnancy and childbirth, essential obstetric care and postpartum care, and emergency health care, including services for the management of complications arising from abortion.
Discrimination: Women have marriage, property, inheritance, and labor rights and enjoy the same legal status and rights in the judicial system as men. They were well represented in the labor force, including in business and the professions. Nevertheless, women experienced some economic discrimination in terms of employment, credit, or pay equity for substantially similar work, or in owning or managing businesses, education, and housing. According to reliable nongovernmental sources, women represented 37 percent of legislators, senior officials, and managers; labor groups also reported that women were underrepresented in executive positions in the private sector. The government’s 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. Aboriginal women living on reserves (where land is held communally) have matrimonial property rights. 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.