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Canada

Executive Summary

Canada is a constitutional monarchy with a federal parliamentary government. In a free and fair multiparty federal election held in October 2015, the Liberal Party, led by Justin Trudeau, won a majority of seats in the federal parliament and formed a government.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The principal human rights problems included violence against women, disparities in living conditions between indigenous and nonindigenous peoples, and trafficking in persons.

The government took steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish all officials who committed violations, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were no reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The law prohibits such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

There were no significant reports regarding prison or detention center conditions that raised human rights concerns.

Physical Conditions: According to the governmental statistical agency’s most recent figures, in 2014-15 there were on average approximately 39,625 inmates, pretrial detainees, and remand prisoners in federal and provincial correctional institutions, which had an official capacity of 38,771. The remand population exceeded the sentenced population. The national double-bunking rate (the practice of confining two inmates in a cell designed for one) in federal facilities was 19 percent in 2013-14.

The federal correctional investigator’s report for 2014-15 identified recourse to “administrative segregation” or solitary confinement by federal correctional services to manage crowded institutions and high-needs inmates as a concern. The correctional investigator, an independent prison ombudsman, urged authorities to cap the time inmates spend in segregation and to develop a policy framework to guide the use of segregation, including prohibiting the use of long-term segregation (beyond 15 days) for inmates with mental disabilities. Correctional Services Canada reported that the number of federal inmates held in solitary confinement for 120 days or more fell from 498 to 247 (a 51 percent drop) from March 2015 to March 2016, in part due to diversion of inmates with mental disabilities to treatment programs as an alternative to segregation.

In May the Ontario ombudsman recommended the government end the practice of extended solitary confinement in provincial prisons. The ombudsman’s report also recommended prison personnel receive training on the mental health effects of long-term solitary confinement and legislated maximums for periods of solitary confinement.

In October the Ontario provincial government transferred an indigenous prisoner out of solitary confinement after he spent more than 1,500 consecutive days in a cell under continuous artificial light for 23 hours each day while awaiting trial. Ontario’s Human Rights Commissioner flagged this case to prison authorities who then moved the man to a different cell. In October the Ontario Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services announced a 15- day limit on the number of consecutive days inmates can be held in solitary confinement (down from the present 30-day guideline), effective immediately. The minister also announced that each detention facility would establish segregation committees that would meet weekly and review the cases of prisoners in solitary confinement. The minister said jails should use solitary confinement as a measure of last resort under the least restrictive conditions available and ordered an independent review of policies and practices in Ontario jails. Advocates for prisoners said the changes were insufficient.

The Correctional Investigator’s Office reported 10 nonnatural deaths (including suicide) in federal custody in 2014-15, the latest available figures.

In July the government of New Brunswick announced it would advise the public when a prisoner dies but would not publish details on the inmate’s death. The change came after media reported 13 persons had died in New Brunswick prisons since 2004, but the coroner reviewed only four of the deaths.

In August the families of two female inmates who died in a Nova Scotia prison filed suit against the federal government for wrongful death. The families alleged prison authorities were negligent in addressing mental health needs of the inmates, both of whom committed suicide in 2015 after stints in solitary confinement.

Administration: Independent authorities investigated credible allegations of inhuman behavior and documented the results of such investigations in a publicly accessible manner.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted visits by independent nongovernmental human rights observers.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

National, provincial, and municipal police forces maintain internal security. The armed forces are responsible for external security but in exceptional cases may exercise some domestic security responsibility at the formal request of civilian provincial authorities. The federal Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) reports to the Department of Public Safety, and the armed forces report to the Department of National Defense. Provincial and municipal police report to their respective provincial authorities. The Canada Border Services Agency reports to the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and is responsible for enforcing immigration law. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the RCMP and provincial and municipal police forces, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year. Authorities investigated and publicly reported all fatalities that resulted from police action or in police custody.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Authorities generally apprehended persons openly with warrants. A judge can issue a warrant after being satisfied a criminal offense might have been committed. A person arrested for a criminal offense has the right to a prompt, independent judicial determination of the legality of the detention. Authorities respected this right in practice. Authorities provided detainees with timely information of the reason for the arrest and ensured prompt access to a lawyer of the detainee’s choice or, if the detainee was indigent, a lawyer provided by the state without restriction. Bail generally was available. Suspects were not detained incommunicado or held under house arrest.

Judges may issue preemptive peace bonds and apprehend individuals who authorities reasonably believe may carry out terrorist activities. Judges may also issue recognizances to detain persons and impose bail conditions if authorities deem the restrictions likely to prevent terrorist activity. Authorities may hold persons under preventive detention under recognizance for up to seven days, subject to periodic judicial review. Restrictions may include limits on travel and surrender of passports. Use of peace bonds and recognizance for counterterrorism purposes is subject to annual reporting requirements to the federal parliament.

Pretrial Detention: Authorities released detainees immediately after they were charged, unless a judge deemed continued detention necessary to ensure the detainee’s attendance in court, for the protection or safety of the public, or due to the gravity of the offense. Persons subject to continued detention have the right to judicial review of their status at regular intervals.

The government may detain or deport noncitizens on national security grounds with an immigration security certificate. The government issues certificates based on confidential evidence presented to two cabinet ministers by intelligence or police agencies and reviewed by a federal court judge who determines “reasonableness” and upholds or revokes the certificate. A judge may order an individual detained during the security certificate determination process if the government believes the individual presents a danger to national security or is unlikely to appear at the proceeding for removal. The judge may impose conditions on release into the community, including monitoring. Individuals subject to a security certificate may see a summary of confidential evidence against them. Authorities must provide full disclosure to court-appointed, security-cleared lawyers (special advocates), who can review and challenge the evidence on behalf of these individuals but not share or discuss the material with them. The law establishes strict rules on the disclosure and use of secret evidence, prohibits the use of evidence if there are reasonable grounds to believe authorities obtained the evidence as a result of torture, and provides mechanisms for review and appeal.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Persons arrested or detained are entitled to challenge in court the validity of the detention and to obtain prompt release and compensation if the detention is found to be unlawful.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Trials are held without undue delay before a judge alone or, for more serious cases, before a judge and jury. Defendants have the right to be present at trial and to consult with an attorney of their choice in a timely manner. The government provides an attorney at public expense if needed when defendants face serious criminal charges, and defendants may confront or question witnesses against them and present witnesses and evidence on their behalf. Defendants and their attorneys generally have access to government-held evidence relevant to their cases and adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants also enjoy a presumption of innocence, a right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them (with free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals), a right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and a right of appeal. The law extends these rights to all citizens.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There is an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters and access to a court to bring a suit seeking damages for, or cessation of, a human rights violation. Remedies can be monetary, declaratory, or injunctive. Federal or provincial human rights commissions may also hear alleged human rights violations. Individuals may also bring human rights complaints to the UN or the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The law prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and press, and the government generally respected these rights. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of speech and press.

Freedom of Speech and Expression: The Supreme Court has ruled that the government may limit free speech in the name of goals such as ending discrimination, ensuring social harmony, or promoting gender equality. The court has also ruled that the benefits of limiting hate speech and promoting equality are sufficient to outweigh the freedom of speech clause in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the country’s constitutional bill of rights.

The criminal code prohibits public incitement and willful promotion of hatred against an identifiable group in any medium. Inciting hatred (in certain cases) or genocide is a criminal offense, but the Supreme Court sets a high threshold for such cases, specifying that these acts must be proven to be willful and public. Provincial-level film censorship, broadcast licensing procedures, broadcasters’ voluntary codes curbing graphic violence, and laws against hate literature and pornography impose some restrictions on the media.

In November media reported that municipal and provincial police in Quebec had electronically monitored seven journalists in the province on multiple occasions between 2008 and 2016. In each case the police had a warrant from a Quebec court authorizing the surveillance. The most recent case started in 2016 as police investigated an internal leak suggesting police officers may have fabricated evidence. The electronic monitoring allowed police authorities to track the journalists’ movements and telephone logs. Federal, Quebec, and Montreal politicians condemned the electronic surveillance. The provincial government of Quebec committed to make it more difficult for police to obtain warrants to monitor journalists, and it launched a public commission to investigate the incidents. The commission’s investigation had not started as of November 8.

In July the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal ordered a comedian to pay C$42,000 ($32,400) to the family of a child whose appearance he mocked during a stand-up routine. The judge determined the comedian’s joke did not qualify as protected speech and violated the child’s right to protection against discriminatory comments. In October the Quebec Court of Appeals granted the comedian permission to file an appeal.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

Approximately 99 percent of households could access broadband services. According to the World Bank, 87 percent of the population used the internet in 2014.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the freedoms of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The government offered alternatives to refugee claimants whose cases the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) refused. The option for judicial review through the federal courts exists. Two other remedies of last resort are available through the Department of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship: a “preremoval risk assessment” and an appeal to the minister of immigration, refugees, and citizenship for a waiver based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

In January the government dropped its appeal of a 2015 court ruling that found authorities’ denial of access to appeal by refugee claimants from designated countries of origin (DCOs) was unconstitutional. DCOs include countries that do not normally produce refugees but respect human rights and offer state protection, or countries whose nationals have a high rate of rejection by the IRB and regularly abandon or withdraw asylum claims in Canada.

Claimants who arrive in the country in a manner designated by the minister as a mass or irregular arrival (in cases of suspected human smuggling) may be subject to detention (subject to review at legislated intervals) pending verification of their identity and admissibility. They face restrictions on access to appeal and remedies of last resort if the IRB refuses their claims.

Durable Solutions: The government accepted refugees for resettlement from third countries and facilitated local integration (including naturalization), particularly of refugees in protracted situations. The government assisted the safe, voluntary return of refugees to their homes.

Temporary Protection: The government also provided temporary protection (in the form of temporary residence permits) to persons who may not qualify as refugees.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In October 2015 the Liberal Party won a majority of seats in the federal parliament and formed a national government following a free and fair election.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit the participation of women or minorities in the political process, and they did participate. In November 2015 Prime Minister Trudeau named his cabinet, which, for the first time in the country’s history, included an equal number of men and women.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. There were isolated reports of government corruption during the year.

Corruption: In December former Laval Mayor Gilles Vaillancourt pleaded guilty to charges of fraud, breach of trust, and conspiracy to commit fraud, after running one of Quebec’s largest cities for 23 years. He agreed to repay illicit gains and forfeit assets worth C$8.5 million ($6.5 million). Vaillancourt could face up to six years in prison.

Prosecutors dropped fraud and related charges against Senator Patrick Brazeau and a judge dismissed charges against Senator Mike Duffy; the Senate reinstated both members. Prosecutors also dropped charges against former Senator Mac Harb and police terminated the investigation into official expenses claimed by Senator Pamela Wallin.

In November 2015 Quebec’s Charbonneau Commission released its final report of its investigation into the awarding of public construction projects. The report concluded corruption in the province’s construction sector was widespread and made 60 recommendations for major reforms to Quebec’s public contracts system.

Financial Disclosure: By law public officeholders, including elected members of the executive branch and their staff and designated senior nonelected officials, must disclose information about their personal financial assets. These declarations, as well as an annual report, are available to the public through regular reports from a commissioner for conflict of interest and ethics. The commissioner may impose an administrative monetary penalty for noncompliance, but the law does not provide for criminal sanctions. Members of the legislative branch are not required to disclose financial holdings but must recuse themselves from voting or conducting hearings on matters in which they have a pecuniary interest. Provincial governments provide independent audits of government business and ombudsman services.

Public Access to Information: The law permits public access to government information, and the government granted access for citizens and noncitizens, including foreign media. The law provides for the denial of legal requests for information on limited and specific grounds given and cited in law, a reasonably short timeline to disclose or respond, reasonable processing fees, and a mechanism to appeal denials, including appeal to the federal courts. The law does not impose criminal or administrative sanctions for noncompliance. The government released quarterly information on the public expenditures of senior government officials and published expense information on individual ministerial websites and a centralized website.

In May the government announced it would charge only a nominal C$5.00 ($3.80) application fee to request federal records and eliminate all other fees. The government also announced reforms to allow requesters to specify the format for data, making it easier for users to sort and analyze government data.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

A wide variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: Federal and provincial human rights commissions enjoyed government cooperation, operated without government or party interference, and had adequate resources. Observers considered the commissions effective. Parliamentary human rights committees operated in the House of Commons and the Senate. The committees acted independently of government, conducted public hearings, and issued reports and recommendations to which the government provided written, public, and timely responses. Most federal departments and some federal agencies employed ombudsmen. Nine provinces and one territory also employed ombudsmen.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) on Indian Residential Schools released its full report in November 2015 (see section 6, Indigenous People), and the federal government launched a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women (see section 6, Women).

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

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 2015 police received approximately 21,500 reports of sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm, and aggravated sexual assault (up from 20,735 in 2014). Most victims were women. Government studies indicated victims of sexual assault reported approximately one in 20 incidents to police. The federal government does not publish statistics on the number of abusers prosecuted, convicted, and punished.

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 or fear of further violence or retribution.

According to the government’s statistical agency, indigenous women were three times more likely than nonindigenous women to experience violent abuse and, according to the RCMP, were four times more likely to be victims of homicide. In June 2015 the RCMP reported indigenous women were disproportionately represented as victims of homicide and in missing persons cases. The report found there were 204 unresolved cases involving the disappearance or homicide of indigenous women, a decrease from 225 in 2014. A 2014 RCMP report concluded 1,017 indigenous women had been killed between 1980 and 2012 and that another 164 were missing. Civil society representatives and government officials said the number of cases may be much higher and alleged there were irregularities in investigations of the disappearances and killings of indigenous women. Civil society groups also claimed the government failed to allocate adequate resources to address these cases.

In August the federal government launched a national inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women. Five independent commissioners were directed to investigate and produce a public report of their findings by the end of 2018. The government conducted preinquiry consultations with indigenous stakeholders throughout the country and defined the inquiry’s terms of reference. The government provided C$53.8 million ($41.3 million) to fund the inquiry.

In November the Quebec provincial government, citing insufficient evidence, announced it would not lay charges against nine provincial police officers related to allegations in 2015 by indigenous women in the northwestern Quebec community of Val d’Or that the officers sexually assaulted them, gave them money and drugs for sexual services, physically abused them, or drove them out of town in the winter and forced them to walk home in the cold. An independent observer appointed by the government concluded the investigation was fair and impartial but called for consultations between indigenous communities and the province.

The government’s statistical agency reported there were 627 shelters and transition homes providing services to abused women. Shelters provided emergency care, transition housing, counseling, and referrals to legal and social service agencies. Some shelters were located on reserves and served an exclusively indigenous 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 shortages of shelter spaces, trained staff, counseling, and access to affordable second-stage housing. These shortages impeded women from leaving abusive relationships.

Police received training in treating domestic violence victims, and agencies provided hotlines to report abuse. 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 with civil society organizations to eliminate 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 and services, hotlines, and shelters.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C for women and girls 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 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 from their homes if they are suspected to be at risk of FGM/C.

Although reliable statistics were not available, anecdotal evidence suggested some families from immigrant communities in which FGM/C is culturally accepted send their daughters abroad to have the procedure performed.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The criminal code does not specifically refer to “honor” killings, but it prosecutes such cases as murder. Murder convictions in the first or second degree carry minimum penalties of life imprisonment with eligibility for parole. The law limits the defense of “provocation” to prevent its application to cases of “honor” killing and cases of spousal homicide. The government enforced the law effectively. The government’s citizenship guide for new immigrants explicitly states “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 February, British Columbia’s Supreme Court rejected the government’s request to extradite a man and woman wanted in India on charges they allegedly ordered the “honor” killing of the woman’s daughter there in 2000. The court found the relatives’ human rights could be abused in India and urged the government to consider trying the couple in Canada. In August the Supreme Court of Canada agreed to hear an appeal of the case.

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 have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence.

Discrimination: Women have the same legal status and rights in the judicial system as men, and the government enforced the rights effectively. Women were well represented in the labor force, including business and the professions. Credible sources reported 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. Labor groups reported women were underrepresented in executive positions in the private sector. A 2014 study by the Peterson Institute found women accounted for 7 percent of corporate board members, 14 percent of executives, 3 percent of chief executive officers, and 2 percent of board chairpersons at 2,074 Canadian companies surveyed. Seven provinces and two territories require private-sector companies to report annually on their efforts to increase the number of women appointed to executive corporate boards. 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.

Indigenous 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. Although these laws provide some legal protection, civil society organizations argued First Nations communities needed more resources for policing, shelters, family support, training, and capacity building to implement the laws effectively and enable better access to the justice system.

Indigenous women and men living on reserves are subject to the Indian Act, which defines status for the purposes of determining entitlement to a range of legislated rights and eligibility for federal programs and services. Indigenous women do not enjoy equal rights with indigenous men to transmit officially recognized status to their descendants.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived both by birth within the country’s territory and from one’s parents. Births are registered immediately, and there were no reports of the government denying public services, such as education or health care, to those who failed to register.

Child Abuse: In 2014 (the latest available figures), the government’s statistical agency recorded that 53,600 children and youth were victims of police-reported violent crime. The law criminalizes violence and abuse against children, including assault, sexual exploitation, child pornography, abandonment, emotional maltreatment, and neglect. Provincial and territorial child welfare services investigate cases of suspected child abuse and may provide counseling and other support services to families, or place children in child welfare care, where warranted. The federal Family Violence Initiative promotes awareness of family violence; works with research and community organizations to strengthen the capacity of criminal justice, housing, and health systems to respond to family violence; and supports data collection and research. Provincial and territorial governments also provide public education and prevention services, often in partnership with civil society.

Early and Forced Marriage: The law establishes 16 years as the legal minimum age of marriage. Data on the rate of marriage for individuals younger than 18 were unavailable, but early marriages were not known to be a major problem. The law criminalizes the removal of a child from the country for the purpose of early and forced marriage and provides for court-ordered peace bonds, which may include surrendering of a passport, to disrupt an attempt to remove a child for that purpose.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): See Women above.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children, the sale of children, and offering or procuring a child for child prostitution. Authorities enforced the law effectively. The minimum age of consensual sex is 16 years. Persons convicted of living off the proceeds of prostitution of a child younger than 18 face between two and 14 years’ imprisonment. Persons who aid, counsel, compel, use, or threaten to use violence, intimidation, or coercion in relation to a child younger than 18 engaging in prostitution face between five and 14 years’ imprisonment. Persons who solicit or obtain the sexual services of a child younger than 18 face between six months’ and five years’ imprisonment. Children, principally teenage females, were exploited in sex trafficking.

The law prohibits accessing, producing, distributing, and possessing child pornography. Maximum penalties range from 18 months’ imprisonment for summary offenses to 10 years’ imprisonment for indictable offenses.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction report on compliance at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

Approximately 1 percent of the population is Jewish.

The B’nai Brith Canada League for Human Rights received 1,277 reports of anti-Semitic incidents in 2015, down 22 percent from 2014. More than half of the reports (914) came from the province of Ontario. Reports in 2015 included harassment (1,123 incidents, a decrease); vandalism, including graffiti; attacks on synagogues, private homes, community centers and property and desecration of cemeteries (136 incidents, a decrease); and violence against persons (10 incidents, a decrease). Some university students reported anti-Semitic attacks on campus. For example, in March unknown vandals painted graffiti in a bathroom at York University’s Keele Campus.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution and law prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, the judicial system, or the provision of other state services, and the government effectively enforced these prohibitions. The federal minister of families, children, and social development, supported by the minister of persons with disabilities, provides federal leadership on protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, and provincial governments also have ministerial-level representation. Federal and provincial governments effectively implemented laws and programs mandating access to buildings, information, and communications for persons with disabilities, but regulation varies by jurisdiction, and there is no comprehensive federal legislation that protects the rights of persons with disabilities.

Children with disabilities attended primary, secondary, and higher education, and the majority attended classes with nondisabled peers or a combination of nondisabled and special education classes with parental consent. Disparities in educational access for students with disabilities existed between provinces and among school boards within provinces. Policy differences included types of services, criteria to determine eligibility, allocation of resources, access to inclusive versus segregated classes or facilities, and the number of teachers, teacher’s aides, and therapists.

Disability rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported that persons with disabilities experienced higher rates of unemployment and underemployment, lower rates of job retention, and higher rates of poverty and economic marginalization than the broader population.

Federal and provincial human rights commissions protected and promoted respect for the rights of persons with disabilities. The government provided services and monetary benefits, but disability groups noted a lack of coordination among services. Facilities existed to provide support for persons with mental health disabilities, but mental disability advocates asserted that the prison system was not sufficiently equipped or staffed to provide the care necessary for those in the criminal justice system, resulting in cases of segregation and self-harm.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

According to the government statistical agency, 1,295 incidents of hate crimes were reported to police in 2014, of which 611 were motivated by race or ethnic bias. Blacks constituted the most commonly targeted racial group, accounting for 238 incidents, and Jews 213. A detailed breakdown of victims of hate crime incidents by ethnic origin (except black and Jewish) was not available. The proportion of hate crimes involving violence, including assault and uttering threats, totaled 304 incidents.

The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race. Federal, provincial, and territorial human rights commissions investigate complaints and raise public awareness. The federal Canadian Race Relations Foundation coordinates and facilitates public education and research and develops recommendations to eliminate racism and promote harmonious race relations.

Throughout the year activists led protests and sit-ins to denounce what they claimed was systemic racism by police forces. The protests followed police shootings of civilians and other events, including the July death in custody of a Somali Canadian in Ottawa. Police opened an investigation into the fatality.

Indigenous People

Indigenous people constituted approximately 4 percent of the national population and higher percentages in the country’s three territories: Yukon, 23 percent; Northwest Territories, 52 percent; and Nunavut, 86 percent. Disputes over land claims, self-government, treaty rights, taxation, duty-free imports, fishing and hunting rights, and alleged police harassment were sources of tension. Indigenous people remained underrepresented in the workforce; overrepresented on welfare rolls and in prison populations; and more susceptible than other groups to suicide, poverty, chronic health conditions, and sexual violence. According to the government statistical agency, the overall violent victimization rate (which includes sexual assault, assault, and robbery) for indigenous persons in 2014 was 163 incidents per 1,000 people, more than double the rate of 74 incidents per 1,000 among nonindigenous persons. The rates of sexual assault and of spousal violence were almost three times higher than those of nonindigenous persons, and 51 percent of indigenous victims of spousal violence reported more severe forms of violence, compared with 23 percent of nonindigenous victims of spousal violence.

The law recognizes individuals registered under the Indian Act based on indigenous lineage and membership in a recognized First Nation as Status Indians, which confers eligibility to a range of federal services and programs. Status and services are withheld from unregistered or non-Status indigenous persons who do not meet eligibility criteria for official recognition or who may have lost status through marriage to a nonindigenous person or other disenfranchisement. According to the government statistical agency, indigenous children accounted for almost 50 percent of the approximately 30,000 children younger than 14 in foster care in 2011.

The law recognizes and specifically protects indigenous rights, including rights established by historical land claims settlements. Treaties with indigenous groups form the basis for the government’s policies in the eastern part of the country, but there were legal challenges to the government’s interpretation and implementation of treaty rights. Indigenous groups in the western part of the country that had never signed treaties continued to claim land and resources, and many continued to seek legal resolution of outstanding issues. As a result, the evolution of the government’s policy toward indigenous rights, particularly land claims, depended on negotiation or legal challenges. As of 2014, the latest year for which statistics are available, approximately 385 unresolved specific claims or grievances filed by indigenous people regarding the implementation of treaties remained under assessment or in negotiation (not including claims in litigation or before the Specific Claims Tribunal, which is a judicial panel), according to government reports. As of 2014 the government reported that negotiations for 100 self-government and comprehensive land claims were active. Indigenous groups who cannot settle specific claims through negotiation within three years may refer the claim to the Specific Claims Tribunal or the courts for a decision.

The law imposes statutory, contractual, and common-law obligations to consult with indigenous peoples in the development and exploitation of natural resources on land covered by treaty or subject to land claims. According to a Supreme Court ruling, the federal government has the constitutional duty to consult and, where appropriate, accommodate indigenous peoples when the government contemplates actions that may adversely affect potential or established indigenous and treaty rights.

The Supreme Court has affirmed that indigenous title extends to territory used by indigenous peoples for hunting, fishing, and other activities prior to contact with Europeans, as well as to settlement sites. Provincial and federal governments may develop natural resources on land subject to indigenous title but are obliged to obtain consent of the indigenous titleholders in addition to existing constitutional duties to consult, and where necessary, accommodate indigenous peoples in matters that affect their rights. If governments cannot obtain consent, they may proceed with resource development only on the basis of a “compelling and substantial objective” in the public interest, in which the public interest is proportionate to any adverse effect on indigenous interests. The court has established that indigenous titles are collective in nature.

In 2015 the federally commissioned TRC on Indian Residential Schools released its full report and recommendations regarding allegations of abuse of indigenous children in residential schools. In May the federal government implemented one of the TRC’s recommendations and settled a lawsuit for C$50 million ($38.4 million) with students the government placed at residential schools in Newfoundland and Labrador.

In January the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled the federal government discriminated against indigenous children when it failed to fund welfare services for children living on reserves at the same level of services for off-reserve populations. In September the tribunal issued its second of two subsequent rulings ordering the government to comply and to provide information on how it was implementing the ruling.

In April the Supreme Court ruled unanimously the Metis (descendants of historical unions between indigenous and European persons) and non-Status Indians are Indians under the Constitution Act and fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government. Nearly 600,000 Canadians identify as Metis. Lack of clarity in law as to whether federal or provincial governments had jurisdiction with regard to Metis persons had inhibited negotiations, but the ruling clears the way for Metis and non-Status Indians to negotiate with the federal government on issues that could include land claims, government services, and hunting and trapping rights.

In July the government committed C$9 million ($6.9 million) to support implementation of the country’s first national Inuit suicide-prevention strategy. The Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, a national advocacy organization, drafted the plan.

In August an Ontario judge heard plaintiffs’ arguments on a suit filed in 2009 by indigenous children involved in the “Sixties Scoop.” The Scoop involved an estimated 20,000 indigenous children, 16,000 of them in Ontario, whom child welfare services removed from their parents’ custody and placed with nonindigenous foster families in Canada and the United States. A separate group of plaintiffs filed a suit in Saskatchewan during the year on the same issue. Plaintiffs demanded compensation for emotional trauma and loss of culture. The government argued it acted in the best interests of the children and within social norms of the time. The trial on the Ontario suit was set to resume in December.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, and the criminal code provides penalties for crimes motivated by bias, prejudice, or hate based on personal characteristics, including sexual orientation. Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and the Northwest Territories explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador, and British Columbia prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression. New Brunswick, Quebec, and the Nunavut and Yukon territories prohibit such discrimination implicitly on the basis of “sex” or “gender.”

Birth certificates issued by provinces and territories provide the basis of identification for legal documents, and procedures vary for changing legal gender markers to match an individual’s outward appearance or chosen gender expression.

Provinces and territories have different requirements for persons to change their legal gender marker in documents such as birth certificates and identifications. Some provinces require one or more physicians to certify the applicant has completed gender reassignment surgery before an applicant may change the legal gender marker. The provincial governments of Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Alberta allow residents to change their gender marker with a personal and/or physician’s declaration indicating the individual’s gender identity.

There were occasions of violence and abuse against individuals based on sexual orientation, but in general the government effectively implemented the law criminalizing such behavior. NGOs reported that stigma or intimidation was a known or likely factor in the underreporting of incidents of abuse. Some police forces employed liaison officers to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, and intersex communities. In 2014, the last year for which data was available, the government’s statistical agency reported that 155 of 1,295 police-reported hate crime incidents nationally were motivated by sexual orientation.

In May an arsonist attempted to burn down Montreal’s Metropolitan Surgery Center, the only clinic in the country that offers surgery to create male or female genitals for transgendered patients. Montreal police were investigating the arson as a hate crime.

In June the government of Ontario announced it would no longer include gender designation on provincial health cards. The government also announced that in 2017 driver’s license holders would be allowed the option of displaying an “X” on their card if they do not exclusively identify as male or female.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

There were reports of societal violence and discrimination against members of other minority, racial, and religious groups, but the government generally implemented the law criminalizing such behavior effectively.

In January an assailant attacked a group of Syrian refugees who had attended an event organized by an Islamic group in Vancouver. The assailant pepper-sprayed a group of migrants who were standing outside the venue. Police were investigating the incident as a hate crime.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

Federal and some provincial laws, including related regulations and statutory instruments, provide for the right of workers in both the public and the private sectors to form and join independent unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively. Workers in the public sector who provide essential services, including police and armed forces, do not have the right to strike but have mechanisms to provide for due process and to protect workers’ rights. Workers in essential services had recourse to binding arbitration if labor negotiations failed. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and provides for reinstatement of workers fired for union activity. There were no reports of antiunion discrimination or other forms of employer interference in union functions.

Federal labor law applies in federally regulated sectors, which include industries of extra-provincial or international character, transportation and transportation infrastructure that crosses provincial and international borders, marine shipping, port and ferry services, air transportation and airports, pipelines, telecommunications, banks, grain elevators, uranium mining and processing, works designated by the federal parliament affecting two or more provinces, protection of fisheries as a natural resource, many First Nation activities, and most crown corporations. These industries employed approximately 10 percent of workers.

The law grants the government exclusive authority to designate which federal employees provide an essential service and do not have the right to strike. The law also makes it illegal for an entire bargaining unit to strike if the government deems 80 percent or more of the employees of the unit essential.

Provincial and territorial governments regulate and are responsible for enforcing their own labor laws in all occupations and workplaces that are not federally regulated, leaving categories of workers excluded from statutory protection of freedom of association in several provinces. Some provinces restrict the right to strike. For example, agricultural workers in Alberta, Ontario, and New Brunswick do not have the right to organize or bargain collectively under provincial law.

The government effectively enforced applicable laws and regulations in a timely fashion, including with effective remedies and penalties such as corrective workplace practices and criminal prosecution for noncompliance and willful violations, and generally respected freedom of association and the right of collective bargaining in practice. Penalties were sufficient to deter violations. Administrative and judicial procedures were not subject to lengthy delays and appeals.

In 2014 public-service unions initiated legal action claiming the government’s decision to limit the number of federal workers who can strike, contravened International Labor Organization conventions. In June the unions paused the suit after the government announced it planned to repeal the legislation.

The public-service unions suspended a suit challenging the government’s decision to impose a rule allowing it to override contracts and impose changes to negotiated sick leave plans for the federal public service without negotiation. Federal public-service unions had filed suit against the government and sought an injunction to prevent unilateral imposition of a new sick leave plan but agreed to suspend the injunction application pending changes to the law.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, and the government effectively enforced the law. The law prescribes penalties for violations of up to 14 years’ imprisonment, or life imprisonment in the case of certain aggravating factors, such as kidnapping or sexual assault. Such penalties were sufficiently stringent. During the year the government investigated and prosecuted cases of forced labor and domestic servitude.

The federal government held employers of foreign workers accountable by verifying employers’ ability to pay wages and provide accommodation and, through periodic inspections and mandatory compliance reviews, ensuring that employers provided substantially the same wages, living conditions, and occupation specified in the employers’ original job offer. The government can deny noncompliant employers permits to recruit foreign workers for two years and impose fines of up to C$100,000 ($76,400) per violation for employer abuses of the program. Some provincial governments imposed licensing and registration requirements on recruiters or employers of foreign workers and prohibited the charging of recruitment fees to workers.

There were reports that employers subjected noncitizen or foreign-born men and women to forced labor in the agricultural sector, food processing, cleaning services, hospitality, construction industries, and in domestic service. NGOs reported that bonded labor, particularly in the construction industry, and domestic servitude constituted the majority of cases of forced labor.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

There is no federal minimum age for employment. In federally regulated sectors, children younger than 17 may work only when they are not required to attend school under provincial legislation, provided the work does not fall under excluded categories (such as work underground in a mine, on a vessel, or in the vicinity of explosives), and the work does not endanger health and safety. Children may not work in any federally regulated sector between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. The provinces and territories have primary responsibility for regulation of child labor, and minimum age restrictions vary by province. Regulation occurs across a range of laws including employment standards, occupational health and safety, education laws, and in regulations for vocational training, child welfare, and licensing of establishments for the sale of alcohol. Most provinces restrict the number of hours of work to two or three hours on a school day and eight hours on a nonschool day and prohibit children ages 12 to 16 from working without parental consent, after 11 p.m., or in any hazardous employment.

Authorities effectively enforced child labor laws and policies, and federal and provincial labor ministries carried out child labor inspections either proactively or in response to formal complaints. There were reports that limited resources hampered inspection and enforcement efforts. Penalties were pecuniary and varied according to the gravity of the offense.

There were reports that child labor occurred, particularly in the agricultural sector. There were also reports that children, principally teenage females, were subjected to sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation (see section 6, Children).

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law and regulations prohibit discrimination with respect to employment or occupation on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin or citizenship, disability, sexual orientation and/or gender identity, age, language, HIV-positive status, or other communicable diseases. Some provinces, including Quebec, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as the Northwest Territories, prohibit employment discrimination on the grounds of social origin, “social condition,” or political opinion. Federal law requires equal pay for equal work for four designated groups in federally regulated industries enforced through the Canadian Human Rights Commission on a complaint basis: women, persons with disabilities, indigenous persons, and visible minorities. Ontario and Quebec have pay equity laws that cover both the public and private sectors, and other provinces require pay equity only in the public sector.

Authorities encouraged individuals to resolve employment-related discrimination complaints through internal workplace dispute resolution processes as a first recourse, but federal and provincial human rights commissions investigated and mediated complaints and enforced the law and regulations. The government enforced the law effectively, but some critics complained that the process was complex and failed to issue rulings in a timely manner. Foreign migrant workers have the same labor rights as citizens and permanent residents, although NGOs alleged that discrimination occurred against migrant workers.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Provincial and territorial minimum wage rates ranged from C$10.45 to C$13.00 ($7.91 to $9.84) per hour as of May. There is no official poverty income level. Some provinces exempt agricultural, hospitality, and other specific categories of workers from minimum wage rates. For example, Ontario has a minimum wage for persons younger than 18 who work less than 28 hours per week when school is in session, at a rate lower than the respective minimum for adult workers.

Standard work hours vary by province, but in each the limit is 40 or 48 hours per week, with at least 24 hours of rest. The law requires payment of a premium for work above the standard workweek. Entitlement to paid annual leave varies by province, but the law requires a minimum of 10 days’ paid annual leave per year (or payment of 4 percent of wages in lieu) after one year of continuous employment. Some provinces mandate an additional week of paid leave to employees who have completed a specified length of service. There is no specific prohibition on excessive compulsory overtime, which is regulated by means of the required rest periods in the labor code that differ by industry. Some categories of workers have specific employment rights that differ from the standard, including commercial fishermen, oil field workers, loggers, home caregivers, professionals, managers, and some sales staff.

Federal law provides safety and health standards for employees under federal jurisdiction. Provincial and territorial legislation provides for all other employees, including foreign and migrant workers. Standards were current and appropriate for the industries they covered. Federal, provincial, and territorial laws protect the right of workers with “reasonable cause” to refuse dangerous work and remove themselves from hazardous work conditions, and authorities effectively enforced this right. The government also promoted safe working practices and provided training, education, and resources through the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety, a federal agency composed of representatives of government, employers, and labor.

Minimum wage, hours of work, and occupational health and safety standards were effectively enforced. Federal and provincial labor departments monitored and effectively enforced labor standards by conducting inspections through scheduled and unscheduled visits, in direct response to reported complaints, and at random. Penalties were pecuniary and varied according to the gravity of the offense. Under the federal labor code, maximum penalties for criminal offenses, including criminal negligence causing death or bodily harm, or willful breach of labor standards in which the person in breach knew that serious injury or death was likely to occur, could include imprisonment. Enforcement measures include a graduated response, with a preference for resolution via voluntary compliance, negotiation, and education; prosecution and fines serve as a last resort. Some trade unions continued to note that limited resources hampered the government’s inspection and enforcement efforts.

NGOs reported migrants, new immigrants, young workers, and the unskilled were vulnerable to violations of the law on minimum wage, overtime pay, unpaid wages, and excessive hours of work. NGOs also alleged that restrictions on the types of labor complaints accepted for investigation and delays in processing cases discouraged the filing of complaints.

According to the Association of Workers Compensation Boards of Canada, during 2014, the most recent year for which data were available, there were 919 workplace fatalities. During the year there were some reports of workplace accidents.

In January the Ontario Court of Appeal sentenced a Toronto project manager to three and one-half years in prison after a scaffolding collapse in 2009 killed four workers. The court also levied fines against the employer for failing to ensure the equipment was safe.

In September, Ontario’s Ministry of Labor issued six health and safety violation orders against Toronto-based Fiera Foods following the death of a temporary worker crushed by machinery when her clothing became caught in a conveyer belt.

France

Executive Summary

France is a multiparty constitutional democracy. The president of the republic is elected by popular vote for a five-year term. Voters elected Francois Hollande to that position in 2012. The upper house (Senate) of the bicameral parliament is elected indirectly through an electoral college, while the public elects the lower house (National Assembly) directly. The 2012 presidential and National Assembly elections, the 2014 elections for the Senate, and the 2015 regional elections were considered free and fair.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

In November 2015 President Hollande declared a nationwide state of emergency following terrorist attacks in Paris and Saint-Denis. The parliament subsequently extended the state of emergency five times. Following the July terrorist attack in Nice, it was extended to the middle of July 2017. The state of emergency gives significantly expanded powers to police and state authorities. Prefects in all regions may prohibit public demonstrations or gatherings and close provisionally concert halls, restaurants, or any public place. Police and prefects also may search homes without a warrant and authorities may place persons of interest and their relatives under house arrest if they are deemed to pose a threat to national security. United Nations human rights experts, some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and Green Party members of parliament expressed concern the state of emergency negatively affected the balance between security and individual rights, but it enjoyed widespread legislative and public support throughout the year.

The most significant human rights problems during the year included a number of anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim incidents, although incidents decreased substantially in comparison to 2015. Government evictions of Roma from illegal camps were also reported. Lengthy pretrial detention remained a problem.

Other reported human rights problems included instances of excessive police use of force against detainees at time of arrest and against migrants and asylum seekers; overcrowding and unhygienic conditions in prisons; societal violence against women, trafficking in persons; and employment discrimination based on sex, gender, disability, and national origin.

The government took steps to prosecute and punish security forces and other officials who committed abuses. Impunity was not widespread.

During the year the country suffered one major terrorist attack, at least three terror-related individual killings targeting police and clergy, and several attempted terrorist attacks that led to investigations and prosecutions. As of the end of the year, police and prosecutors continued to investigate elements of the attacks.

Note: The country includes 11 overseas administrative divisions covered in this report. Four overseas territories in French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and La Reunion have the same political status as the 22 metropolitan regions and 101 departments on the mainland. Five divisions are overseas “collectivities”: French Polynesia, Saint-Barthelemy, Saint-Martin, Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, and Wallis and Futuna. New Caledonia is a special overseas collectivity with a unique, semiautonomous status between that of an independent country and an overseas department. Citizens of these territories periodically elect deputies and senators to represent them in parliament, like the other overseas regions and departments.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were no reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

The country suffered several terrorist attacks during the year. On June 13, Larossi Abballa killed a police officer and the officer’s partner, a Ministry of Interior civil servant, at their home in Magnanville. On July 14, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel drove a large truck through a pedestrianized seaside promenade in Nice, killing 86 persons. On July 26, Adel Kermiche and Abdel-Malik Nabil Petitjean attacked a Roman Catholic church in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, killing a priest and seriously injuring a male worshipper.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, and security and military personnel usually respected human rights principles in their work. There were, however, occasional accusations of abuses.

As of September 15, the defender of rights, the equivalent of an official ombudsman for civil liberties, registered 68 citizen claims of violence committed by security forces.

There were reports police beat, kicked, and used pepper spray on migrants and asylum seekers in the port city of Calais (see section 2.d.).

Credible allegations surfaced during the year that French peacekeepers committed acts of sexual abuse in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2015. These accusations were under investigation by the Ministry of Defense. The allegations emerged in 2015 and included the sexual abuse of homeless children by French troops stationed in the Central African Republic’s capital Bangui as part of Operation Sangaris. The Ministry of Defense condemned the alleged abuse. The case was separately under investigation by the Paris prosecutor’s office. In February prosecutors widened their probe after two children submitted rape accusations against French soldiers. On April 5, a French judicial source stated that prosecutors opened a third investigation into allegations of sexual abuse by Operation Sangaris troops, which continued at year’s end.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

While prisons and detention centers met many international standards, credible NGOs and government officials reported overcrowding and unhygienic conditions in prisons.

In 2015 the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) carried out a periodic visit to the country. The CPT investigated the conditions of deprivation of liberty in three prisons affected by overcrowding and alleged discrepancies in treatment of certain categories of detained and convicted prisoners in different establishments, including in a unit holding “radicalized” prisoners. In addition the CPT carried out a detailed analysis of the involuntary commitment of patients to psychiatric establishments and visited 12 police and gendarmerie stations to examine the material conditions provided for detainees.

In April the UN Committee against Torture considered the report submitted by France. The country corapporteur for France, Alessio Bruni, noted that, despite measures taken by the government, prison overcrowding continued in Marseille, Paris, and Nimes, with the worst detention conditions being in French Polynesia and other overseas territories. He regretted those placed in disciplinary wings and isolation were increasingly at risk of committing suicide, and noted with concern such placement could last up to 30 days. He also criticized the use of isolation in psychiatric hospitals, sometimes for more than 20 hours per day and for periods of up to several months.

Physical Conditions: The maximum acceptable capacity for the country’s 191 prisons was 58,507 inmates. As of August the Prison Service reported the country’s prisons held 68,819 inmates, representing 118 percent of prison capacity. The number of inmates increased from the end of 2015. Detention conditions for women were often better than for men because overcrowding was less common. The occupancy rate was 223 percent of capacity at the Faa’a Nuutania prison in French Polynesia and 146 percent at the Ducos prison in Martinique.

Although there were no known deaths in prison due to mistreatment or adverse conditions during the year, prison suicides remained a problem. According to the Ministry of Justice, 113 inmates committed suicide in 2015, a rate considerably higher than that outside prison.

On July 19, the administrative court of Caen ordered the state to pay 1,300 euros ($1,430) compensation to an inmate for failing to provide minimum required space in his cell.

In its 2012 report, the CPT raised concerns regarding inadequate medical and psychiatric staffing and degrading treatment of prisoners by prison staff during medical evaluations in some prisons. The CPT report also mentioned detainee complaints of derogatory comments by staff and the lack of opportunities for detainees to work or engage in other activities.

Administration: Authorities investigated credible allegations of inhuman conditions and documented the results in a publicly accessible manner.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted prison visits by independent human rights observers, both local and foreign. In addition to periodic visits by the CPT, the UN Committee against Torture regularly examined prisons, most recently in April.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions, although lengthy pretrial detention was a problem.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

Under the direction of the Ministry of the Interior, Overseas France, Local Authorities, and Immigration, a civilian national police force of 145,000 and a national gendarmerie of 98,155 maintained internal security. In conjunction with specific gendarmerie units used for military operations, the army was responsible for external security under the Ministry of Defense. Observers considered police and gendarmes generally effective.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the national police force, the gendarmerie, and the army, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. Official impunity was not widespread. The inspector general of national police and the Office of Judicial Police investigated and prosecuted allegations of brutality in the police force and the gendarmerie, a unit within the armed forces responsible for general law enforcement. The defender of rights investigated allegations of misconduct by municipal police, gendarmes, and private security forces and reported its findings to the prime minister and parliament. According to the 2015 defender of rights report, individuals filed 910 complaints against security forces in 2015.

In July 2015 the defender of rights called for a ban on police use of flash ball guns during demonstrations following several cases in which demonstrators sustained injuries from the weapon. In 2013 and 2014, the defender of rights was called upon to examine seven cases in which serious injuries or permanent infirmities were allegedly sustained due to the use of flash ball guns. In July 2015 Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced he would not ban police use of flash-balls. On June 24, in five decisions, the Paris Court of Appeals ordered the government to pay damages to five men who were subjected to unwarranted police identity checks that observers believed constituted racial profiling. The government must pay a 1,500 euro ($1,650) fine to each. The complaints were initially dismissed in a 2013 trial. The plaintiffs claimed they were subjected to unjustified identity checks because of their skin color. The State appealed the ruling.

On November 9, the Supreme Court definitively condemned the government for three unjustified identity checks conducted by police forces.

On September 30, a Caen criminal court sentenced a police officer to a two-month suspended prison sentence for violence committed on May 26 in Caen against a man who was demonstrating against the labor law (see section 2.b.).

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires police to obtain warrants based on sufficient evidence prior to detaining suspects, but police can immediately arrest suspects caught committing an illegal act. Individuals have the right to a judicial notification on the legality of their detention during their first hour in custody, and authorities generally respected this right.

By law police must inform persons taken into custody of their right to remain silent and their right to have a lawyer present during questioning. Authorities must inform detainees of charges against them once they are in police custody, and defense lawyers may ask questions throughout the interrogation. If a medical examination is required, the examiner must respect professional confidentiality. The law forbids complete strip searches except in cases where authorities suspect the accused of hiding dangerous items or drugs. A system of bail exists, and authorities made use of it. Detainees generally had access to a lawyer, and the state provides legal counsel to indigent detainees. The law allows police to detain individuals for up to 24 hours if police suspect them of having committed a crime punishable by a prison sentence. Authorities may extend this period of detention for an additional 24 hours regardless of the seriousness of the crime.

Under the state of emergency in effect during the year, authorities may place persons of interest and their relatives under house arrest if they deem them to pose a threat to national security. As of November 7, authorities had placed 95 persons under house arrest.

In cases involving terrorism or drug trafficking, the law allows extended periods of detention before notification to counsel. Authorities may hold suspects for up to 96 hours without charge or access to a lawyer and may petition a judge to extend detention by an additional 48 hours. Following this maximum six-day period, authorities must either charge suspects or release them.

Pretrial Detention: Long delays in bringing cases to trial and lengthy pretrial detention were problems. Although authorities generally allowed pretrial detention only in cases involving possible sentences of more than three years in prison, some suspects spent many years in detention before trial. As of August pretrial detainees made up approximately 11.5 percent of the prison population.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Persons arrested or detained, regardless of whether on criminal or other grounds, are entitled to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention and obtain prompt release and compensation if found to have been unlawfully detained.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence, although delays in bringing cases to trial were a problem. The country has no independent military court; rather, the Paris Magistrates Court tries any military personnel alleged to have committed crimes outside the country.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence, and authorities inform defendants of the charges against them at the time of arrest. Except for those involving minors, trials are public and usually held before a judge or tribunal of judges. In cases where the potential punishment exceeds 10 years’ imprisonment, a panel of professional and lay judges hears the case. Defendants have the right to be present and to consult with an attorney in a timely manner. Authorities provide an attorney at public expense if needed when defendants face serious criminal charges. Defendants are able to question the testimony of prosecution witnesses and present witnesses and evidence in their defense. Authorities allow defendants adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants and their attorneys have access to government-held evidence relevant to their cases. Defendants have the right to remain silent and to appeal.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There is an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters and access to a court to submit lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations. Individuals may file complaints with the European Court of Human Rights for alleged violations of the European Convention on Human Rights by the state once they have exhausted avenues for appeal through the domestic courts.

f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The constitution and law prohibit interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence, and the government generally respected these prohibitions.

The nationwide state of emergency in effect during the year gives police and prefects authority to search homes without a warrant and authorizes the government to read e-mails and text messages and listen to calls of individuals suspected of having links to terrorist activities. The civil society group La Quadrature du Net expressed concern the state of emergency augmented authorities’ ability to carry out invasive searches of homes and seized cell phones. As of November 7, police carried out 4,000 antiterrorism raids across the country under the state of emergency.

The government continued implementing July 2015 amendments to the Interior Security Code that allow specialized intelligence agencies to conduct real-time surveillance without approval from a judge on both networks and individuals for information or documents regarding a person identified as posing a terrorist threat. Since passage of the amendments, the Council of State has issued three implementing decrees designating the agencies that may engage in such surveillance, including using devices to establish geolocation. During the year the Constitutional Council struck down provisions in the code that allowed surveillance of radio communications that was not subject to “any substantive or procedural conditions” as well as the police practice of copying the data on any electronic device during a house search without the consent of the individual or judicial authorization.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and press, and the government generally respected these rights. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to provide freedom of speech and press.

Freedom of Speech and Expression: While individuals could criticize the government publicly or privately without reprisal, there were some limitations of freedom of speech. Strict antidefamation laws prohibit racially or religiously motivated verbal and physical abuse. Written or oral speech that incites racial or ethnic hatred and denies the Holocaust or crimes against humanity is illegal. Authorities may deport a noncitizen for publicly using “hate speech” or speech constituting a threat of terrorism.

On September 7, a Paris criminal court pronounced the founding member of the revolutionary group, Action directe, Jean-Marc Rouillan, guilty of condoning terrorism for calling the Bataclan terrorists “really brave.” The court sentenced him to eight months in prison.

Press and Media Freedoms: While independent media were active and generally expressed a wide variety of views without restriction, the print and broadcast media, books, and online newspapers and journals were subject to the same antidefamation and hate speech laws that limited freedom of speech.

The law provides protection to journalists, who may be compelled to reveal sources only in cases where serious crimes occurred and access to a journalist’s sources was required to complete an official investigation.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal oversight. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 84.7 percent of the population used the internet in 2015.

The nationwide state of emergency in effect during the year allows blocking of websites and social networks linked to or advocating terrorism and authorizes the government to read emails and text messages of individuals suspected of having links to terrorist activities. As of November 7, authorities blocked 54 websites on these grounds.

In June 2015 the parliament adopted an intelligence bill that granted new powers to the intelligence services to monitor suspected threats to public order and detect future terrorists. The bill also provides an enhanced legal framework for the intelligence services’ activities. Civil liberties groups and digital freedom activists opposed the bill and asserted that the rules on intelligence gathering could lead to mass surveillance with inadequate oversight. In July 2015 following its review, the Constitutional Council announced that it approved the majority of the legislation, rejecting only three articles.

According to the law, during a state of emergency exceptional powers allow the interior minister to take “all the measures” necessary to block sites suspected of “condoning terrorism or encouraging acts of terrorism.”

On June 3, the country adopted legislation on organized crime and terrorism mandating a maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment and a 30,000 euro ($33,000) fine for consulting terrorist websites. On August 8, a Chartres criminal court sentenced a 31-year-old man to two years in prison for repeatedly visiting and reading websites related to the commission of terrorist acts.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution and law provide for the freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected this right.

The state of emergency in effect during the year grants a number of exceptional powers to authorities, including the right to set curfews, limit the movement of people and forbid mass gatherings, establish secure zones where individuals may be monitored, and close public spaces such as theatres, bars, museums and other meeting places. Prefects in all regions may decide on the provisional closure of concert halls, restaurants, or any public place, and to prohibit public demonstrations or gatherings.

Between March and September, there were 14 demonstrations in the country to protest against the labor law, leading to violent clashes between protesters and police forces. Several demonstrators and unions claimed police used excessive force during the demonstrations. As of June 7, the head of the police internal affairs unit reported that 48 judicial inquiries into police violence had been opened.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution and law provide for the freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right.

Under the state of emergency, police and prefects may dissolve associations acting in favor of serious disruption of public order.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: On June 16, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) released a study warning that children living in refugee camps such as Calais and Dunkirk were exposed to sexual exploitation, trafficking, and abuse on a daily basis. UNICEF estimated there were approximately 500 unaccompanied children living across seven refugee sites in northern France. It identified cases of debt slavery and forced criminal activity and a “constant threat” of sexual violence. Some young women reported being promised safe passage to the United Kingdom in exchange for sex.

On February 13, seven migrants living in the Calais refugee camp filed lawsuits alleging violent acts committed by police against them between January 21 and February 10. At year’s end an investigation into the allegations continued.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

In October, the government cleared the Calais refugee camp and resettled an estimated 5,600 individuals, including 1,600 unaccompanied minors, in refugee welcome and orientation centers around the country. Migrants had access to basic services, medical care, and information on applying for asylum at these centers. Unaccompanied minors were placed in separate specialized centers that provided additional education and health services for children.

In-country Movement: The law requires persons engaged in itinerant activities with a fixed domicile to obtain a license that is renewable every four years. Itinerant persons without a fixed abode must possess travel documents.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The country’s laws provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has a system for providing protection to refugees. The system was active and accessible to those seeking protection. The Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Refugees (OFPRA) provided asylum application forms in 24 languages, including English, Albanian, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Turkish, Tamil, and Arabic, although applicants must complete them in French, generally without government language assistance.

In July 2015 the parliament adopted a law on asylum reform to improve procedures for assessing asylum cases. The law requires the reduction of application processing times, from 24 to nine months, and introduces a directed housing system so that asylum seekers are not concentrated in a handful of regions and enjoy better reception conditions.

On September 20, an administrative court ordered the government to pay a 5,500 euro ($6,050) fine to a 16-year-old Iraqi minor of Kurdish origin who was living in the Calais refugee camp after the prefecture did not promptly register his asylum request. The court also found that the prefecture failed to alert the child protection services.

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The government considered 16 countries to be “safe countries of origin” for purposes of asylum. A “safe country” is one that provides for compliance with the principles of liberty, democracy, rule of law, and fundamental human rights. This policy reduced the chances of an asylum seeker from one of these countries obtaining asylum but did not prevent it. While individuals originating from a safe country of origin may apply for asylum, they may receive only a special form of temporary residence status that allows them to remain in the country. Authorities examined asylum requests through an emergency procedure that may not exceed 15 days. Countries considered “safe” included Albania, Armenia, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cabo Verde, Georgia, Ghana, India, Macedonia, Mauritius, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Senegal, Serbia, and Kosovo.

Refoulement: While the government provided protection against the expulsion or return of persons to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened, human rights groups regularly criticized its deportation practices for their strict adherence to the law. During the year several French NGOs provided legal advice to migrants and asylum seekers and criticized individual cases of deportations.

Freedom of movement: Authorities maintained administrative holding centers for foreigners who could not be immediately deported. Authorities could hold undocumented migrants in these facilities for a maximum of 45 days. There were 26 holding centers on the mainland and three in the overseas territories with a total capacity of 1,970 persons.

On June 28, five associations (Assfam, Forum-Refugies-Cosi, France Terre d’Asile, Cimade, and Ordre de Malte) providing help to foreigners released a joint annual report on migration for 2015. The report stated that 47,565 undocumented migrants were placed in administrative holding centers in 2015, representing a slight decrease from 2014, when 49,537 were held.

On July 12, the European Court of Human Rights condemned the country for the practice of detaining foreign children in holding centers while their parents were undergoing deportation proceedings. In view of the children’s age and the duration and conditions of their administrative detention, the court found that authorities had subjected them to an inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Access to Basic Services: In 2013 the defender of rights submitted his report on the overall migration situation in the department of Mayotte, located in the Indian Ocean. Observing that approximately 3,000 unaccompanied foreign minors on the island were not receiving assistance, the defender of rights sent a letter to the interior minister in 2014 that urged the government to establish a representation of the French Office for Immigration and Integration on Mayotte to provide better support to minors. Since 2012 local police have been allowed to detain suspected undocumented migrants up to four hours for not having a residency permit.

Durable Solutions: The government has provisions to manage a range of solutions for integration, resettlement, and return of migrants and unsuccessful asylum seekers. The government accepted refugees for resettlement from other countries and facilitated local integration and naturalization, particularly of refugees in protracted situations. The government assisted in the safe, voluntary return of migrants and unsuccessful asylum seekers to their home countries. In 2015 the government voluntarily repatriated 4,211 undocumented migrants to their countries of origin.

According to a public statement by President Hollande, since 2011 the country has admitted 10,000 Syrian refugees.

Temporary Protection: Temporary protection is a procedure that provides for immediate temporary protection in the case of a mass influx of migrants and asylum seekers or an imminent influx of displaced persons. Authorities often initiated this protection when the asylum system was unable to process such an influx. Authorities may grant individuals a one-year renewable permit that could be extended for an additional two years. According to OFPRA, the government did not grant temporary protection in 2015.

STATELESS PERSONS

OFPRA reported there were 1,326 stateless persons in the country as of December 2015. It attributed statelessness to various factors, including contradictions among differing national laws, government stripping of nationality, and lack of birth registration. As the agency responsible for the implementation of international conventions on refugees and stateless persons, OFPRA provided benefits to stateless persons. The government provided a one-year residence permit marked “private and family life” to persons deemed stateless that allowed them to work. After two permit renewals, stateless persons could apply for and obtain a 10-year residence permit.

The laws afford individuals the opportunity to gain citizenship. A person may become a citizen if: either parent is a citizen; he or she is legally adopted by a citizen, he or she is born in the country to stateless parents or to individuals whose nationality does not transfer to the child; or he or she marries a citizen. A person who has reached the legal age of majority, 18, may apply for citizenship through naturalization after five years of habitual residence in the country. Applicants for citizenship must have good knowledge of both the French language and civics.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and law provide citizens the ability to choose their government through free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The 2012 presidential and national assembly elections were considered free and fair, as were the 2014 Senate and the December 2015 regional elections.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit the participation of women and members of minorities in the political process, and they participated actively.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. There were some reports of government corruption during the year.

Corruption: On May 4, a Cayenne appeals court sentenced the mayor of Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni in French Guyana to 18 months in prison and a fine of 100,000 euros ($110,000) for complicity in the misappropriation of corporate assets. He was accused of encouraging a private company, whose main shareholder was his municipality, to provide 887,000 euros ($976,000) in compensation benefits to the company’s director, a friend and associate of the mayor.

The inspector general of national police and the Inspectorate of the National Gendarmerie actively investigated and prosecuted allegations of police and gendarme corruption. Citizens may report police abuses on the internet through the Ministry of Interior’s website, provided they identify themselves. In 2015 citizens registered 2,958 reports online.

Financial Disclosure: The president, members of the parliament and the European Parliament, ministers, regional and departmental council heads, mayors of larger communities, and directors of state-owned companies (post office, railway, and telephone) are required to declare their personal assets to the Commission for the Financial Transparency of Political Life at the beginning and end of their terms. The commission issued and made available to the public periodic reports on officials’ financial holdings on a discretionary basis at least once every three years. Officials who fail to comply are subject to sanctions.

The Central Office for Combating Corruption and Financial and Tax Crimes investigates offenses including tax fraud, influence peddling, and failure of elected officials to make financial disclosures or report their own violations of the law.

Public Access to Information: The law provides for public access to government information, and the government provided access for citizens and noncitizens, including foreign media.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

A wide variety of domestic and international human rights organizations generally operated, investigated, and published their findings on human rights cases without government restrictions. Government officials were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH) advised the government on human rights and produced an annual report on racism and xenophobia. Domestic and international human rights organizations widely considered the CNCDH independent and effective. Observers considered the defender of rights independent and effective, with access to all necessary resources.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and domestic violence, and the government generally enforced the law effectively. The penalty for rape is 15 years’ imprisonment, which may be increased, depending on the age of the victim and the perpetrator’s relationship to the victim. The government and NGOs provided shelters, counseling, and hotlines for rape survivors.

In August 2015 the daily newspaper Le Figaro published figures showing that the number of reported rapes in the country increased by 18 percent from 2010 to 2014, while rape allegations involving children rose by more than 20 percent in the same period. Crimes against women who belonged to an ethnic minority were generally underreported, as they were less likely to file a lawsuit if their presence in the country was undocumented.

The law prohibits domestic violence against women and men, including spousal abuse, and the government generally enforced the law. The penalty for domestic violence against either gender varies according to the type of crime, ranging from three years in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros ($49,500) to 20 years in prison. The government reported that spouses killed 115 women and 21 men in domestic violence cases in 2015, a 3.5 percent decrease from 2014. The National Observatory on Delinquency and Criminal Responses estimated that 223,000 women between the ages 18 and 75 residing in the country were victims of physical and sexual domestic violence in metropolitan France in 2010-15. The government sponsored and funded programs targeted at female victims of violence, including shelters, counseling, hotlines, free mobile phones, and a media campaign. The government also supported the work of 25 associations and NGOs dedicated to fighting domestic violence.

The government budgeted 66 million euros ($73 million) to fund its 2014-16 interministerial plan to combat violence against women, a 50 percent increase above the previous three-year plan. The program focused on enhancing protection and social assistance for survivors, increasing the number of social workers in police stations and beds in emergency shelters, lengthening the operating hours of a free emergency domestic abuse hotline, raising public awareness regarding rape and violence against women, and improving training to help health-care and other government employees identify victims.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is practiced in the country, particularly within diaspora communities where FGM/C was prevalent. The law prohibits FGM/C as “violence involving mutilation or permanent infirmity.” It is punishable by up to 10 years in prison (20 years if it involves a minor under age 15 and when the offense is committed by a person with authority over the minor) and a fine of 150,000 euros ($165,000). The law also criminalizes inciting a minor to undergo FGM/C and inciting another person to perform FGM/C. Both are punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to 75,000 euros ($82,500). The government provides reconstructive surgery and counseling for FGM/C victims.

According to the Ministry of Families, Childhood, and Women’s Rights, during 2014 approximately 20,000 women, half of whom were minors, were circumcised or at risk of FGM/C. According to a study released in 2007 by the National Institute for Demographic Studies, 53,000 circumcised women resided in the country. The majority of FGM/C survivors were recent immigrants from sub-Saharan African countries where the procedure was performed.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits gender-based harassment of subordinates by superiors. Sexual harassment is defined as “subjecting an individual to repeated acts, comments, or any other conduct of a sexual nature that are detrimental to a person’s dignity because of their degrading or humiliating character, thereby creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment.” The law divides sexual harassment into two categories: the first, for repeated instances of harassment, carries a maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment and a 30,000 euros ($33,000) fine; the second, for a single serious offense, carries a maximum sentence of three years’ imprisonment and a 45,000 euros ($49,500) fine. The law also criminalizes discrimination against transgender individuals.

The Ministry of Justice estimated that 300,000 cases of sexual harassment occurred each year but that only approximately 1,000 victims filed complaints. Of those, approximately 60 resulted in convictions, with an average penalty of 1,000 euros ($1,100). In 2014 the defender of rights published a French Institute of Public Opinion survey that indicated one in five women reported facing sexual harassment in her professional life and that 5 percent of those cases were brought to trial. According to a report released by parliament on November 16, a total of 1,048 lawsuits were filed in 2014, of which 65 led to convictions, representing a 6.2 percent conviction rate.

In 2014 Defense Minister Le Drian announced an action plan to fight sexual harassment and violence against women in the armed forces. The plan focused on four main areas: victims’ assistance, prevention, transparency (notably the publication of annual statistics on this matter), and disciplinary sanctions. The plan also included the creation of a surveillance unit to protect victims of sexual harassment and violence in the army.

In July 2015 Minister of State for Women’s Rights Boistard, Interior Minister Cazeneuve, and Transport Minister Vidalies announced a 12-point plan to combat sexual harassment on public transport, including a text alert system to report incidents more rapidly. The announcement followed a survey, published in April 2015 by the High Council for Equality between Men and Women, in which 100 percent of 600 women surveyed from Seine-Saint-Denis and Essonne reported they had experienced sexual harassment on public transport.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children, manage their reproductive health, and had the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence.

Discrimination: The law prohibits gender-based job discrimination and harassment of subordinates by superiors but does not apply to relationships between peers. The constitution and law provide for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, including under family, religious, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. The Ministry for Families, Childhood and Women’s Rights is responsible for protecting the legal rights of women. The constitution and law provide for equal access to professional and social positions and the government generally enforced the laws.

There was discrimination against women with respect to employment and occupation (see section 7.d.) and women were underrepresented in most levels of government leadership.

Children

Birth Registration: The law confers nationality to a child born to at least one parent with citizenship or to a child born in the country to stateless parents or to parents whose nationality does not transfer to the child. Parents must register births of children regardless of citizenship within three days at the local city hall. Parents who do not register within this period are subject to legal action.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage is 18. Child marriage was a problem, particularly in communities of African or Asian descent. According to human rights observers, 70,000 children between ages 10 and 18 were at risk of forced marriage. Although most forced marriage ceremonies occurred outside the country, authorities took steps to address the problem. The law provides for the prosecution of forced marriage cases, even when the marriage occurred abroad. Penalties for violations are up to three years’ imprisonment and a 45,000 euro ($49,500) fine. Women and girls could seek refuge at shelters if their parents or guardians threatened them with forced marriage. The government offered educational programs to inform young women of their rights.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): See information regarding girls under age 18 in the women’s section above.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes the statutory rape of minors under age 15, the minimum age for consensual sex, and the government generally enforced the law effectively. The penalty for statutory rape is 15 years’ imprisonment, which may be increased depending on the age of the victim and relationship to the accused. The law criminalizes the commercial sexual exploitation of children. The penalty for sexual exploitation of children is 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 1,500,000 euros ($1,650,000). If the minor is under age 15, the penalty is increased to 15 years’ imprisonment and a 3,000,000-euro ($3.3 million) fine. The sale or trafficking of children is punishable by 10 years’ imprisonment and a 1,500,000 euro ($1,650,000) fine. The government and NGOs provided shelters, counseling, and hotlines for statutory rape survivors. The law prohibits child pornography, and the maximum penalty for its use and distribution is five years’ imprisonment and a 75,000 euro ($82,500) fine.

According to the most recent estimate available, a 2007 parliamentary report by the Commission on Foreign Affairs, between 3,000 and 8,000 children were sexually exploited in the country each year. Unaccompanied foreign minors were exploited for sexual purposes. Reports indicated that significant numbers of children, primarily from Romania, West Africa, and North Africa, were victims of forced prostitution in the country.

On June 16, a UNICEF study warned that children living in refugee camps such as Calais and Dunkirk were exposed to sexual exploitation, trafficking, and abuse on a daily basis (see section 2.d., Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons).

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/english/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

There were approximately 550,000 Jewish residents in the country.

NGO and government observers reported numerous anti-Semitic incidents during the year, including physical and verbal assaults and attacks on synagogues, cemeteries, and memorials. On December 2, former interior minister Cazeneuve announced a significant decrease in anti-Semitic acts committed between January 1 and October 31. The statistics, based on complaints filed with police and gendarmes, showed the number of anti-Semitic acts (including threats and attacks) dropped by 61 percent compared with the same period in 2015.

Both the Ministry of Interior and the Jewish Community Protection Service’s annual report cited 808 anti-Semitic incidents in 2015, compared with 851 in 2014. Although they made up only one percent of the country’s population, Jews were the target of approximately 40 percent of hate crimes. According to press reports, anti-Semitism was causing a growing number of French Jews to leave their suburban homes and move to Paris. The mayor of Sarcelles, a Paris suburb, reportedly stated that he became aware of “a phenomenon of internal migration” approximately five or six years earlier and claimed that it was getting worse.

On January 11, a 15-year-old Turkish teenager of Kurdish origin stabbed a 35-year-old Jewish teacher with a machete in the southern city of Marseille. The attack took place as the teacher, who was wearing a yarmulke, was on his way to work at the Franco-Hebraic institute. The assailant injured the teacher slightly before being stopped and arrested by the police 10 minutes later. On January 13, the teenager was formally charged with “attempted murder on the grounds of religion and terrorist sympathizing” and placed in pretrial detention.

During the year the French cartoonist Zeon, who had a reputation for anti-Semitic and anti-Israel artwork, won the second International Holocaust Cartoon Contest sponsored by the Iranian newspaper Hamshahri in Tehran. His cartoon depicted the entry gate of a Nazi death camp atop a cash register with “six million” in cash inside. The National Bureau for the Vigilance against Anti-Semitism filed a lawsuit against Zeon for displaying anti-Semitic posters in various places around in Paris in 2011. On November 10, he appeared before the Paris criminal court.

President Hollande and other government leaders condemned anti-Semitism during the year.

In January 2015 Amedy Coulibaly killed four Jewish hostages and critically injured four others at a supermarket in Paris before being killed by police. As of January, seven men had been formally charged and placed in pretrial detention for their alleged links to Coulibaly. According to the Ministry of Interior, as of January, 12,000 sites were protected by security forces across the country, 26 percent of them Jewish.

In March the mayor of Montpellier, Philippe Saurel, joined Mayors United against Anti-Semitism, an initiative calling on municipal leaders to publicly address and take concrete actions against anti-Semitism. Other participating cities included Paris, Toulouse, Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Nice, and Nancy.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution and law prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, and the provision of other government services. The government generally enforced these provisions effectively.

While the law requires companies with more than 20 workers to hire persons with disabilities, many such companies failed to do so (see section 7.d.).

The law requires that buildings, education, and employment be accessible to persons with disabilities. According to government estimates, 40 percent of establishments in the country were accessible. In July 2015 the parliament ratified decrees that extend the deadline for owners to make their buildings and facilities accessible by three to nine years. On May 20, President Hollande announced that, as of May 1, a half million public buildings across the country were undergoing major renovation work to improve accessibility.

In 2013 the Council of Europe issued a resolution that criticized the country for not fulfilling its educational obligations to persons with autism. The council’s European Committee of Social Rights concluded that the country was violating the European Social Charter and called on it to report on its progress in improving the schooling of children and training of young adults with autism. According to NGOs, only 20 percent of the estimated 80,000-100,000 children with autism in the country attended school; the government meanwhile estimated that 29,000 children with autism attended school during the 2015-16 school year.

In April a Strasbourg administrative court ordered the government to pay a 3,800 euros ($4,200) fine to the family of a young boy with a disability for failing to facilitate his education.

The law requires the establishment of centers in each administrative department to help individuals with disabilities in receiving compensation and employment assistance. During the year one million persons with disabilities received financial support from the government. As of September the government paid each adult with disabilities 808.46 euros ($890) per month.

In April 2015 the minister of state for persons with disabilities and the fight against exclusion announced the enhancement of the government’s autism plan for 2013-17. On May 20, President Hollande announced that 60 separate classes in preschool and kindergarten for children with autism had been created since 2012.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Societal violence and discrimination against immigrants of North African origin, Roma, and other ethnic minorities remained a problem. Many observers expressed concern that discriminatory hiring practices in both the public and private sectors deprived minorities from sub-Saharan Africa, the Maghreb, the Middle East, and Asia of equal access to employment.

Citizens, asylum seekers, and migrants may report cases of discrimination based on national origin and ethnicity to the defender of rights. According to the most recent data available, in 2015 the defender of right’s office received 4,846 discrimination claims, 22.6 percent of which concerned discrimination based on ethnic origin.

In one prominent case from 2013, the National Front party suspended a local electoral candidate, Anne-Sophie Leclere, for a Facebook posting indicating she would prefer to see then justice minister Christiane Taubira, who was black, “swinging from the branches rather than in government.” In 2014 the criminal court in Cayenne, French Guiana, sentenced Leclere to nine months in prison, banned her from holding public office for five years, and fined her 50,000 euros ($55,000). The court also fined the National Front 30,000 euro ($33,000). Both parties appealed the ruling. In June 2015 the Cayenne appeals court cancelled the nine-month prison sentence. The court also ruled that the legal action against Leclere, filed by the Guyanese association Walwari, was not admissible. On September 28, the Paris criminal court sentenced her to a suspended 3,000 euros ($3,300) fine.

Based on unofficial government estimates, the Muslim community was between five and six million persons and consisted primarily of immigrants from former French North African and sub-Saharan colonies and their descendants. Government observers and NGOs reported a number of anti-Muslim incidents during the year, including slurs against Muslims, attacks on mosques, and physical assaults. The National Islamophobia Observatory of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, citing Interior Ministry figures, registered a 63 and 79 percent decrease in anti-Muslim racist incidents and threats during the first half of the year compared with the same period in 2015.

The National Islamophobia Observatory of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, citing Interior Ministry figures, registered a 52 percent decrease in anti-Muslim racist acts during the first 10 months of the year compared with the same period in 2015. From January 1 to September 30, 149 anti-Muslim acts were committed compared to 323 during the same period in 2015.

Following a December 2015 demonstration against an ambush on that injured two firefighters in a housing project in Ajaccio, Corsica, a mob attacked a Muslim prayer room and tried to set fire to copies of the Quran. The mob also vandalized a kebab shop and shouted slogans, such as “Arabs get out!” and “This is our home!” in the Corsican language. Corsican nationalist leaders condemned both incidents as racist acts. Interior Minister Cazeneuve condemned the acts as “intolerable” acts against a place of worship that carried the “odor of racism and xenophobia.” Corsica’s prefect, Christophe Mirmand, announced that he would ban protests in and around the Jardins de l’Empereur estate after riot police and gendarmes stopped a crowd of approximately 300 persons from entering it. In December 2015 two men were formally charged for links to the attack on firefighters; a date for their trial had not been set by year’s end.

On April 30, a Muslim prayer hall in Corsica was destroyed by a fire. According to Ajaccio’s public prosecutor, based on hydrocarbon traces found inside the hall the fire was probably a criminal act. No one was injured in the fire. The same day President Hollande issued a statement expressing his solidarity with the Muslims of Corsica. An investigation into the incident continued at year’s end.

In an August 26 decision, the country’s highest administrative court, the Council of State, rejected the city of Villeneuve-Loubet’s ban on conservative, full-body swimwear worn by some Muslim women. Municipalities claimed the ban was put in place as a security measure following the July attacks in Nice. In its ruling the court asserted the beachwear posed no real risk to public order and, in the absence of such risk, the restriction of individual freedoms could not be justified. The mayors of several cities including Nice dismissed the verdict and announced they would continue to enforce bans on full-body swimwear at public beaches.

Societal hostility against Roma, including Romani migrants from Romania and Bulgaria, continued to be a problem. There were reports of anti-Roma violence by private citizens. Romani individuals, including migrants, experienced discrimination in employment (see section 7.d.). According to a government study, an estimated 20,000 Roma resided in the country.

Authorities dismantled camps and makeshift homes inhabited by Roma throughout the year. In the first half of the year, the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) reported the eviction of 4,615 Roma in 37 different localities. According to ERRC and Human Rights League data, authorities evicted 11,128 Roma from 111 illegal camps in 2015, an 18 percent decrease from 2014, when 13,483 Roma were evicted. According to the ERRC, of the 111 settlement evictions, 76 followed a court decision and 31 followed a municipal or prefect order. Given the lack of housing alternatives, individuals generally moved to other camps after their eviction. In its annual report covering 2015, Amnesty International reported that authorities conducted forced evictions of Roma and failed to provide adequate alternative housing to evicted Romani individuals and families.

In September 2015 the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein expressed serious concern regarding forced evictions of Roma and Travelers in the country. He warned that authorities appeared to be making such evictions “systematic national policy” since 2012, noting the August 2015 eviction of more than 150 inhabitants of a shantytown in the Paris suburb of La Courneuve. Al Hussein noted that failure to improve treatment of Roma “simply exacerbates entrenched popular discrimination against what is already one of Europe’s most deprived and marginalized communities.” He also noted that during the year both the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Human Rights Committee asked authorities to refrain from forced evictions if they did not provide alternative housing.

On May 2, the French National Consultative Commission on Human Rights noted in its annual report that persistent societal tensions regarding the acceptance of certain minorities, notably the Romani population, and emphasized that anti-Roma prejudice remained high. In June the Operational Platform for Roma Equality, a network of European agencies, stated that evictions had a particularly traumatizing impact on children, leaving them vulnerable to trafficking and other abuses.

In August a group of unknown assailants attacked Roma living in a Marseille settlement with a knife and a Molotov cocktail. Seven persons were hospitalized, according to local media. At year’s end no suspects had been arrested in the case.

On September 27, the Collective for the Right of Roma Children to Education released a study conducted between November 2015 and July in 34 shantytowns across the country showing that 53 percent of children between ages 12 and 18 were not attending school.

Regarding “gens du voyage” (or Travelers), the law requires municipalities with more than 5,000 inhabitants to provide a campsite for Travelers with sanitary facilities and access to water and electricity. According to authorities, the law is meant to accommodate Travelers by preventing them from parking on unauthorized sites. As of 2010 the most recent year for which data were available, municipalities had built only 52 percent of the campsites required by law.

The government attempted to combat racism and discrimination through programs that promoted public awareness and brought together local officials, police, and citizens. Some public school systems also managed antidiscrimination education programs. In September 2015 the Ministry of Justice launched a website to inform and assist victims of discrimination.

On April 18, Labor Minister Myriam El Khomri, Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron, Youth Minister Patrick Kanner, and State Secretary for Real Equality Ericka Bareigts jointly inaugurated a national campaign to counter hiring discrimination. Labor Minister El Khomri announced that blind resume testing would be used to name and shame companies found guilty of biases in hiring.

On May 9, the ombudsman for human rights, Jacques Toubon, released a report on government discrimination against foreigners and failure to uphold their fundamental rights. The report noted several examples, including retired workers from Benin who could not get a state pension because they did not have French citizenship, despite having worked in the country for most their lives, and schools that refused to accept children of irregular migrants, despite being required to do so by law. The report called on the government to “prevent the spread of divergent or illegal interpretations of the law” in order to protect foreigners living in the country.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The statute of limitations is 12 months for offenses related to sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability. Authorities pursued and punished perpetrators of violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The NGO SOS Homophobia reported 1,318 homophobic acts in 2015, a 40 percent decrease from 2014. It reported 152 instances of physical assault, a 6 percent decrease from 2014.

On October 12, the parliament adopted a legal gender recognition procedure that removed requirements for individuals to undergo sterilization and provide proof of medical treatment in order to confirm their gender recognition. Human rights organizations welcomed this development but criticized the government for still requiring individuals to undergo a judicial process to change the legal documentation of their gender.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The constitution and labor law provide workers, including migrant workers, the right to form and join unions of their choice without previous authorization or excessive requirements. The law provides for the right to bargain collectively and allows unions to conduct their activities without interference. Workers, except those in certain essential services such as police and the armed forces, have the right to strike unless the strike threatens public safety. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and forbids removing a candidate from a recruitment procedure for asking about union membership or trade union activities. The Ministry of Labor, Employment, Vocational Training, and Social Dialogue enforces related regulations and provides penalties in cases of discrimination of up to three years’ imprisonment and a 45,000 euro ($59,500) fine. These penalties proved generally sufficient to deter violations.

Public-sector workers must declare their intention to strike at least 48 hours before the strike commences. Furthermore, a notification of intention to strike is permissible only after negotiations between trade unions and employers have broken down. Workers are not entitled to receive pay while striking. Wages, however, may be paid retroactively. For road transportation strikes, the law on minimum service provides for wages to be calculated proportionally to time worked while striking. Health-care workers are required to provide a minimum level of service during strikes. Laws in the rail and passenger transport sectors prescribe minimum service levels that public transport workers must maintain during a strike; transport users must also receive clear and reliable information on the services that would run in the event of a disruption. Authorities effectively enforced laws and regulations prohibiting retaliation against strikers.

Workers freely exercised their rights to form and join unions, conduct union activities, and bargain collectively. Workers’ organizations stressed their independence vis-a-vis political parties. Some of their leaders, however, did not conceal their political affiliations. Although the law prohibits antiunion discrimination, union representatives noted that it occasionally occurred, particularly in small companies. The government and employers respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The law recognizes the offenses of forced labor and forced servitude as crimes and provides for imprisonment of up to seven and 10 years, respectively, as punishment for violations. These fines generally proved sufficient to deter violations.

Men, women, and children, mainly from Eastern Europe, West Africa, and Asia, were subject to forced labor, including domestic servitude (also see section 7.c.). There were no government estimates on the extent of forced labor among domestic workers, many of whom were migrant women and children. In 2015 the NGO Committee against Modern Slavery assisted 145 victims of forced labor, the majority of whom were women employed in domestic work. The government attempted to address forced labor by providing financial assistance to NGOs who are responsible for providing assistance to victims.

On March 22, a criminal court in Nancy sentenced a couple to a two-year suspended prison sentence for exploiting a young Algerian girl over a period of seven years. The couple was also sentenced to pay a fine of 6,000 euros ($6,600) each to the victim.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The minimum age for employment is 16. There are exceptions for persons enrolled in certain apprenticeship programs or working in the entertainment industry, who are subject to further labor regulations for minors. The law generally prohibits persons under age 18 from performing work considered arduous or dangerous such as working with dangerous chemicals, high temperatures, heavy machinery, electrical wiring, metallurgy, dangerous animals, working at heights, or work that exposes minors to acts or representations of a pornographic or violent nature. It is also prohibited for persons under age 18 to work on Sunday, or between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The government effectively enforced labor laws, although some children were exploited in the worst forms of child labor, including commercial sexual exploitation and forced criminal activity. Inspectors from the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Vocational Training, and Social Dialogue investigated workplaces to enforce compliance with all labor statutes. To prohibit violations of child labor statutes, inspectors may place employers under observation or refer them for criminal prosecution. Employers convicted of using child labor risk up to five years’ imprisonment and a 75,000 euro ($82,500) fine. These penalties proved generally sufficient to deter violations. According to the report of the Court of Audit released during the year, there were 2,462 inspectors and comptrollers.

There were reports of Romani children engaged in forced begging, and some migrant children were in situations of domestic servitude. Commercial sexual exploitation of children also occurred (see section 6, Children).

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The labor code prohibits discrimination based upon an individual’s national origin, religion, race, sex, lifestyle, sexual orientation, age, family situation, pregnancy, state of health or disability, economic situation and place of residence. Authorities generally enforced this prohibition.

A gender equality law provides measures to reinforce equality in the workplace as well as sanctions against companies whose noncompliance could prevent women from bidding for public contracts. The law also requires employers to conduct yearly negotiations with employees on professional and pay equity between women and men in companies with more than 50 employees.

Employment discrimination on the basis of sex, gender, disability, and national origin occurred.

The law requires that women receive equal pay for equal work. In a study released during the year, the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies found in 2013, the most recent year for which data were available, the average annual private sector salary was 23,140 euros ($25,500) for men. Women on average earned 17,460 euros ($19,200) or 75 percent of the average salary for men. Salary depended on qualifications, age, and sex. The same study in 2016 also indicated 18 percent of salaried men in the private sector held managerial positions, while 13 percent of women with similar skills were managers. Low-skilled jobs were occupied mainly by women. Some 63 percent of nonqualified workers are women. Women were generally much more likely to work part time, due in part to child-care responsibilities: 15.7 percent of women worked part time, compared with 9.2 percent of men.

According to a 2014 survey on gender equality by the defender of rights, pregnant women were most vulnerable to workplace discrimination, with 80 percent of those surveyed reporting workplace discrimination due to pregnancy. One-third of those surveyed reported they witnessed discrimination after a woman returned to work from maternity leave.

The Fund Management Organization for the Professional Integration of People with Disabilities (AGEFIPH) reported the unemployment rate for persons with disabilities grew 25 percent in 2015, faster than the growth rate for the general population (10 percent). The law requires at least 6 percent of the workforce in companies with more than 20 employees be persons with disabilities. The law requires noncompliant companies to contribute to a fund managed by AGEFIPH. Approximately 52 percent of companies met the requirement in 2013; 48 percent contributed into the fund, while a small number (mostly large corporations) received an exemption from the government based on a negotiated action plan, according to AGEFIPH.

As of January 2014, the country lifted work restrictions for Romanian and Bulgarian citizens. Access by Romani migrants to the country’s labor market, however, did not improve their living conditions due to the country’s high unemployment rate, the lack of requisite professional skills and experience among many Roma, and employer reluctance to hire them.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

During the year the government raised the national gross minimum wage to 9.67 euros ($10.60) per hour, effective January 1. The Ministry of Labor enforced the minimum wage. According to 2014 data, the most recent year for which it was available, the poverty-level income rate was 1,008 euros ($1,110) per month for an individual, 1,512 euros ($1,660) for a couple, and 2,116 euros ($2,330) for a couple with two children under age 14.

The official workweek is 35 hours, although companies may negotiate exceptions with employees. The maximum number of working days for workers is 235 days per year. Maximum hours of work are set at 10 hours per day, 48 hours per week, and an average of 44 hours per week during a 12-week work period. Workdays and overtime hours are fixed by a convention or an agreement in each sector in accordance with the labor code.

Employees are entitled to a daily rest period of at least 11 hours and a weekly break of at least 24 hours total, not including the daily rest period. Employers are required to give workers a 20-minute break during a six-hour workday. Premium pay of 25 percent is mandatory for overtime and work on weekends and holidays. The standard amount of paid leave is five weeks per year (2.5 weekdays per month, equivalent to 30 weekdays per year). Some companies also allowed other compensatory days for work in excess of 35 hours to 39 hours per week, called “spare-time account” (RTT). Work in excess of 39 hours per week generally was remunerated.

The government sets occupational health and safety standards in addition to those set by the EU. Government standards cover all employees and sectors. Individual workers could report work hazards to labor inspectors, unions, or (for companies with more than 50 employees) their company health committee, but they did not have an explicit right to remove themselves from a hazardous workplace.

The Ministry of Labor, Employment, Vocational Training, and Social Dialogue is responsible for enforcing the law governing conditions of work and did so effectively in both the formal and informal economy. The government permitted salaries below the minimum wage for certain categories of employment, such as subsidized jobs and internships, that must conform to separate, clearly defined standards. Labor inspectors enforced compliance with the labor law. Disciplinary sanctions at work are strictly governed by the labor code to protect employees from abuse of power by their employers. Employees could pursue appeals in a special labor court up to the Court of Cassation. Sanctions depend on the loss sustained by the victim and were usually applied on a case-by-case basis.

Penalties for labor violations depend on the status of the accused. The law provides for employers and physical persons convicted of labor violations to be imprisoned for up to three years and to pay fines of up to 45,000 euros ($49,500) with additional penalties, including the prohibition to conduct a commercial or industrial enterprise. The law provides for legal persons found guilty of labor violations to be fined up to 225,000 euros ($248,000) and face additional sanctions, such as closing the establishment, placing it under judicial supervision, making the judgment public, confiscating equipment, or dissolving the establishment as a legal person.

Employers, except those in the informal economy, generally adhered to the minimum wage requirement. Immigrants were more likely to face hazardous work, generally because of their concentration in sectors such as agriculture, construction, and hospitality services.

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