Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, 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. Most victims of sexual assault were women.
The law prohibits domestic violence against men or women, although most victims were women. 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.
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. Civil society groups also claimed the government failed to allocate adequate resources to address these cases.
The federal government launched an independent national inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women in 2016 with a budget of C$53.8 million ($42.1 million) and a mandate to report by the end of 2018. By August the inquiry had held only one public hearing, and one of the five commissioners and a number of senior staff had resigned. In response to criticism, the commissioners widened the scope of the mandate to consider the conduct of policing services and policies across the country.
Police received training in treating victims of domestic violence, and agencies provided hotlines to report abuse. The RCMP, Ontario and Quebec provincial police services, and various municipal police forces announced reviews of their handling of sexual assault allegations. This review followed an investigative media report analyzing 870 police jurisdictions between 2010 and 2014 that found police dismissed complaints of sexual assault as “unfounded” without laying charges at an average national rate of 19 percent, with reported rates as high as 60 percent in some jurisdictions. 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. In June the government launched a national strategy to prevent and address gender-based violence, budgeting C$101 million ($79 million) over five years to create a center of excellence within Status of Women Canada for research, data collection, and programming. Provincial and municipal governments also sought to address violence against women, often in partnership with civil society.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C of 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 the country to have FGM/C performed on the child may 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 suspect a risk of FGM/C.
Internal government reports obtained by media organizations asserted FGM/C practitioners travelled to a third country to provide the illegal procedure. The government instructed border services officers to monitor baggage for FGM/C equipment and to be aware of young female nationals returning from travel in regions where they may be subjected to the practice.
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.
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 non-aggravated 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 had internal policies against sexual harassment, and federal and provincial governments provided public education and advice.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .
Discrimination: Women have the same legal status and rights in the judicial system as men, and the government enforced the rights effectively. 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 reservations (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.
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.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived both by birth within the country’s territory and from one’s parents. Births are registered immediately and are not denied or not provided on a discriminatory basis. There were no reports of the government denying public services, such as education or health care, to those who failed to register.
Child Abuse: 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, when warranted. For additional information, see UNICEF child protection at www.unicef.org/protection/ .
Early and Forced Marriage: The law establishes 16 years as the legal minimum age of marriage. 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.
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 and practices related to child pornography. Authorities enforced the law effectively. The minimum age of consensual sex is 16 years. Persons convicted of living from the proceeds of the 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 at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
Approximately 1 percent of the population is Jewish.
The B’nai Brith Canada League for Human Rights received 1,728 reports of anti-Semitic incidents in 2016, a 26 percent increase from 2015. The greatest number of reports (490) came from the province of Ontario. Some university students reported anti-Semitic attacks on campus. For example, in January in Sackville, New Brunswick, an unidentified person carved a large swastika in the school’s field. In January unknown individuals left a rock with anti-Semitic messages written on it on the doorstep of a Jewish person’s home in Winnipeg, Manitoba. City authorities and university officials denounced both incidents publicly.
In March Ryerson University officials fired Imam Ayman Elkasrawy, a teaching assistant, for making anti-Semitic comments that were captured on video during prayers at a Toronto mosque. Elkasrawy apologized for the comments, but the Toronto police and the Muslim Association of Canada were investigating the incident. The Muslim Association of Canada apologized for the incident and suspended Elkasrawy for preaching an unauthorized sermon.
In July unknown individuals left anti-Semitic graffiti on a car in Montreal. Montreal police reportedly refused to open an investigation into the incident and advised the car owner to remove the graffiti herself. Following public pressure, the Montreal police apologized and opened an investigation into the incident.
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, 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. No comprehensive federal legislation protects the rights of persons with disabilities, creating a situation where accessibility provisions are unevenly implemented and enforced throughout the country.
Children with disabilities attended primary, secondary, and higher education, and the majority attended classes with nondisabled peers or in a combination of nondisabled and special education classes with parental consent.
Disability rights 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. 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.
The law prohibits discrimination because of race. Federal, provincial, and territorial human rights commissions investigated complaints and raised 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.
According to the government’s statistical agency, 1,362 incidents of hate crimes were reported to police in 2015, of which 641 were motivated by race or ethnic bias, and 38 percent involved violence, including assault and uttered threats. Blacks constituted the most commonly targeted racial group, accounting for 224 incidents, and Jews 178. According to the report, there were 49 police-reported hate crimes against East or Southeast Asians, 48 against South Asians, and 92 against Arab or West Asians.
Indigenous peoples constituted approximately 4 percent of the national population and much 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 peoples remained underrepresented in the workforce, leadership positions, and politics; 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’s 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 persons, more than double the rate of 74 incidents per 1,000 among nonindigenous persons.
The law recognizes individuals registered under the Indian Act based on indigenous lineage and members of a recognized First Nation as Status Indians and thereby eligible for 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’s statistical agency, in 2011 indigenous children accounted for almost 50 percent of the approximately 30,000 children younger than 14 in foster care. A Supreme Court ruling in 2016 confirmed that some federal government responsibilities do exist for non-Status First nations and Metis peoples (descendants of historical unions between indigenous and European persons).
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.
The law imposes statutory, contractual, and common-law obligations to consult with indigenous peoples on the development and exploitation of natural resources on land covered by treaty or subject to land claims by First Nations. 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. This law was yet to be uniformly implemented.
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 based on 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 January 2016 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. While the government dedicated new funds to address inequities in welfare services for children living on reserve, the tribunal issued three noncompliance orders, most recently in May. The government filed an application for judicial review of two parts of the tribunal’s ruling in June.
In February the Ontario Metis signed a memorandum of understanding with the federal government to initiate discussions toward an agreement to set up negotiations on Metis self-government, lands, rights, and other outstanding claims against the government. In April the government and Metis leaders signed an additional agreement to start negotiations on shared priorities in a permanent forum chaired by the prime minister. In 2016 the Supreme Court ruled unanimously the Metis 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.
In February an Ontario judge ruled the federal government was liable for the “Sixties Scoop,” during which child welfare services removed an estimated 20,000 indigenous children, 16,000 of them in Ontario, from their parents’ custody and placed them with nonindigenous foster families in Canada and the United States. In October, Ontario plaintiffs and the federal government announced they had reached a settlement of C$800 million ($63 million); individual plaintiffs will receive between C$25,000 ($20,000) and C$50,000 ($39,000) in compensation. The government also agreed to pay the plaintiffs’ legal fees (estimated at C$75 million [$59 million]), and provide C$50 million ($39 million) for a new Indigenous Healing Foundation, which had been a key demand of the plaintiffs.
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, Quebec, New Brunswick, and British Columbia prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression. Nunavut and Yukon territories prohibit such discrimination implicitly based on “sex” or “gender.”
In June parliament amended the federal human rights act to add gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination.
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 for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, and intersex communities.
In January the federal government settled a case with a transgender individual who sought to remove a gender identification from the individual’s social insurance card. The government pledged to review its policy on collecting personally identifiable gender information and further pledged to do so only if there are “legitimate purposes.”
In August the government permitted transgender citizens to add an observation to their passports to indicate that they do not identify as either male or female. The change is an interim measure pending the availability of passports allowing individuals to designate their gender as “x.”
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.