Progress Report 2019-2020 and 2020-2021
Canada's Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence
On this page
- 2019-2020 and 2020-2021: Years in Review and Key Achievements
- The GBV Knowledge Centre
- GBV Research
- Pillar 1: Preventing Gender-Based Violence
- Pillar 2: Supporting Victims, Survivors and Their Families
- Pillar 3: A Responsive Justice System
- The Way Forward
Announced in June 2017, It’s Time: Canada’s Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence (the federal GBV Strategy) is the Government of Canada’s response to gender-based violence (GBV). It brings together the GBV-related efforts of the federal government to form a whole-of-government approach to end GBV in Canada.
The Government of Canada remains deeply committed to continue to work with other federal departments and agencies, Indigenous partners, civil society stakeholders, experts, as well as with victims, survivors, and their families to prevent and address GBV. The federal GBV Strategy continues to help fill gaps in supports for certain populations, including Indigenous women and girls; Black and racialized women; immigrant and refugee women; Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and additional sexually and gender diverse (2SLGBTQI+Footnote 1) people; women with disabilities; and, women living in Northern, rural, and remote communities.
This report provides an overview of the federal government’s initiatives in 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 to prevent and address GBV in Canada.
As of March 31, 2021, the federal GBV Strategy committed approximately $219.1 million over five years, and over $42.7 million per year ongoing, to advance efforts to prevent GBV, support victims and survivors and their families, and promote a responsive justice system.
Without a doubt, over these two years, the COVID-19 pandemic presented unprecedented challenges for everyone living in Canada; magnifying the gaps and inequalities in the very systems designed to keep people safe. During the reporting period, Women and Gender Equality Canada provided over $91 million in federal emergency COVID-19 funding to more than 1,300 organizations across Canada, including women’s shelters, sexual assault centres, and other organizations providing critical supports and services to those experiencing GBV. This funding ensured the continuity of services and enhances the capacity of organizations that provide critical and often life-saving services and supports for women, girls, and 2SLGBTQI+ people experiencing violence. As a result of this funding, more than 1.3 million individuals experiencing GBV had a safe place to go and access supports. Key Government of Canada efforts to respond to the increased needs for GBV supports and services during these difficult years are outlined in this report.
Without the guidance and support of women’s and other equity seeking groups, none of the work since the federal GBV Strategy’s launch in 2017, and especially since the onset of the pandemic, would have been possible. These have continued to push important GBV issues to the forefront. The victims and survivors of GBV and advocates are also to thank for their courage to share their stories and their determination to end GBV.
2019-2020 and 2020-2021: Years in Review and Key Achievements
The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying public health measures disrupted social and economic systems in every country, including in Canada, and generated uncertainty and fear.
While attention was initially focused on slowing the spread of COVID-19, evidence quickly emerged pointing to unprecedented challenges for those experiencing GBV and the organizations that support them. The frequency and severity of some forms of GBV increased, leading some to label it a “shadow pandemic”. There was a notable increase in domestic violence cases, calls to crisis lines and demand for emergency shelters.Footnote 2 This increase is attributed to longer isolation periods with abusers and restricted access to critical information, support services or other informal support networks which in turn created opportunities for more violent encounters along with less access to supports.
In August 2020, Statistics Canada released a report looking at perceptions of safety of Indigenous people during the early months of COVID-19. Among Indigenous women who responded to the survey, 13% reported some level of concern (somewhat/very/extremely) regarding the impact of the pandemic on violence in their home, compared to 5% among non-Indigenous women participants.
Additionally, a survey conducted in May 2020 by the Native Women’s Association of Canada among 750 Indigenous women and gender diverse people shows that 17% of women respondents experienced physical or psychological violence in the 3 months preceding the survey, and that more of the surveyed women were concerned about violence against women (64%) than they are about their own health in relation to COVID-19 (45%).
See: The Impacts of COVID-19 on Indigenous Women and Gender-Diverse People in Canada. On-line Survey Conducted by Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), Results audited by Nanos Research. June 3, 2020. See Also ‘The Impact of COVID-19 on Indigenous Peoples’ Submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. June 17, 2020.
In Canada, many organizations saw a greater demand for services to counter intimate partner violence and child maltreatment. In May 2020, for example, the Vancouver Battered Women’s Support Services reported a 400% increase in calls since mid-March of that year.Footnote 3 Other organizations noted that calls decreased, raising concerns that women and children were either unable to reach out for help, did not have access to supports or were unaware that services were available during the pandemic.
During that period, 10% of women reported being very or extremely concerned about the possibility of violence in the home, compared to 6% of men.Footnote 4 Young women between 15 to 24 years old were more likely than young men to be very or extremely anxious about violence in the home (12% versus 8%, respectively).Footnote 5 Results from the same survey showed that immigrants living in Canada were almost twice as likely as people born in Canada to be very or extremely concerned about the possibility of violence in the home (12% versus 7%, respectively).
This situation challenged the GBV sector to move quickly to offer safe, accessible, and appropriate solutions to address the increased demand for supports and services. Throughout the pandemic, in Canada, different orders of government worked together with frontline service providers to respond to the needs of those experiencing and most at risk of experiencing GBV.
Data generated early in the pandemic showed that the network of crisis support services, such as shelters and sexual assault centres, were critical for those who need it most. More specifically, in May 2020, 14% of women participants aged 15 to 24 said that they had contacted or used an organization offering victim servicesFootnote 6 since the start of the pandemic, more than any other age group of women or men.Footnote 7 In July 2020, Statistics Canada released the results of a survey on the experiences of victim services organizations in Canada. The results show that between mid-March and early July, half (50%) of the organizations which responded to the survey perceived no change in the number of victims and survivors served, while 31% said that the number of victims served had increased and 19% said that they had decreased. When asked about victims of domestic violence specifically, just over half (54%) of the responding organizations reported an increase in the number of victims and survivors served during this time. A further 29% said that the number of domestic violence victims served stayed the same and 17% reported a decrease.Footnote 8 These numbers, while alarming, underscored the need to maintain an urgent and sustained focus at all orders of government, and among service providers, in efforts to prevent GBV, provide supports to victims and survivors and their families and ensure that the justice system responds to the needs of victims and survivors.
Emergency Funding: Responding to COVID-19
In addition to funding specifically for the federal GBV Strategy, the COVID-19 pandemic brought new challenges that required the provision of financial support. The Government of Canada responded quickly to the sector’s needs by allocating emergency funding to eligible organizations so that they were able to adjust their operations and address specific capacity needs. Some examples include:
- Justice Canada provided over $1.3 million of additional funding to allow Child Advocacy Centres to access urgently needed resources for the following: additional staff to respond to the needs of children, youth and their families resulting from the impacts of COVID-19; personal protective equipment; cleaning needs; training; purchase or upgrade of existing technology to better meet client needs remotely; and temporarily adapting office space to follow public health’s physical and social distancing guidelines. In addition, the department worked with some provinces and territories to amend existing multi-year funding agreements to allow for the reallocation of resources to programs and services that responded directly to the pandemic and the resulting stay at home orders, such as reallocating funds to allow for the purchase and distribution of cell phones for women at high-risk of intimate partner violence in Yukon.
- Indigenous Services Canada provided $10 million to its existing network of 46 emergency shelters on reserve and in the Yukon to support Indigenous women and children experiencing violence as part of Canada’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Plan.
- Women and Gender Equality Canada provided over $91 million to organizations across Canada, including women’s shelters, sexual assault centres and other organizations providing supports and services to those experiencing GBV. Between April 2020 and March 2021, funding was redistributed by Women’s Shelters Canada, Canadian Women’s Foundation, and the Government of Québec to over 1,300 organizations across the country. With this funding, nearly 450 organizations were able to hire additional staff, and close to 500 organizations were able to extend staff shifts to respond to the increased demand for services. Over 300 organizations were able to purchase additional protective equipment and cleaning supplies to ensure the safety of their staff and clients. Additionally, over 550 organizations were able to expand programs and services to respond to the increased need and nearly 150 organizations were also able to support children impacted by GBV through childcare and support services. More than 1.3 million individuals experiencing GBV had a place to turn and critical supports during the pandemic.
- Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada expedited the temporary resident permit process for newcomers and their children confronting family violence and was maintained as a critical support during the pandemic. In addition, the department continued to issue temporary resident permits to help victims and survivors of human trafficking in Canada without legal status.
- Employment and Social Development CanadaFootnote 9 received over $400 million in additional funding in 2020-2021 through Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy, to address the needs of Canadians experiencing or at-risk of homelessness, including women experiencing and living in situations of violence. This funding helped communities reduce overcrowding in shelters, establish isolation spaces, and place individuals in temporary accommodations to limit the spread of COVID-19. It also supported efforts and programs that assist people experiencing or at risk of homelessness to find permanent housing. In November 2020, the Government of Canada announced an additional $299.4 million for Reaching Home for 2021-2022 to continue to support local responses to homelessness in the context of COVID-19. Additionally, the Emergency Community Support Fund, also administered through Employment and Social Development Canada, provided $350 million to support vulnerable Canadians through charities and non-profit organizations that deliver essential services to those in need.
- Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation is providing new capital funding of $44.8 million over five years for the construction of 12 new shelters, including 10 in First Nations communities (on-reserve) and two in the territories. Indigenous Services Canada will invest $40.8 million in operational funding for these new shelters over 5 years and $10.2 million annually thereafter.
The GBV Knowledge Centre
Addressing GBV in an effective and meaningful way requires applying an evidence-based approach and relying on sound knowledge, research, and data.
Based within Women and Gender Equality Canada, the GBV Knowledge Centre leads the governance and coordination of the federal GBV Strategy, reports annually on results and works with key federal partners to collect data and conduct research on GBV priority areas and policy development. The GBV Knowledge Centre works to mobilize knowledge for GBV victims and survivors, researchers, advocates, federal, provincial, and territorial government organizations and direct service providers who need the tools and information to promote effective and sustainable change.
The GBV Knowledge Centre has been instrumental in providing federal partners and GBV organizations access to the growing body of data related to the pandemic and its impact on different populations. For example, in spring 2020, a new section on the GBV Knowledge Centre online platform, providing information on provincial and territorial crisis lines from across Canada for individuals experiencing GBV, was created. At the onset of the pandemic, the online platform saw an increase of 116% in the number of visits. In fall 2020, a new section on GBV and COVID-19 was created with an infographic illustrating the impact of the pandemic on GBV. An infographic on the emergency funding for organizations providing supports and services to those experiencing GBV was also published.
Moreover, new materials were developed for the online platform: GBV related external research reports funded by federal departments (they can be found in the federal resources and research database); two fact sheets on Intimate Partner Violence and Family Violence; a GBV glossary; an infographic on the federal GBV Strategy; and a Chronology on Gender-Based Violence – Federal and International Strategies, Policies and Milestones.
In March 2021, a new record of 10,284 unique page views to the online platform was set. Overall, between April 2019 and March 2021, the GBV Knowledge Centre online platform was visited over 86,000 times: 28,117 times between April 2019 and March 2020, and increasing to 58,009 times between April 2020 and March 2021.
GBV Knowledge Centre Webinars
Between April 2019 and March 2021, the GBV Knowledge Centre hosted 30 expert webinars featuring researchers, GBV and knowledge mobilization experts, public servants, and funded recipients. A total of 1, 918 participants from federal, provincial and territorial governments, academics, National Indigenous Organizations and non-governmental organizations attended. Topics included: mobilizing knowledge to prevent and address gender-based violence; improving policy responses to sexual assault; the intersections between GBV, people with disabilities, and barriers to accessing justice; female genital mutilation/cutting; attitudes regarding gender equality and GBV; the 2SLGBTQI+ and gender diverse refugee policy landscape in Canada; shelters and transitional housing (a presentation on Women’s Shelters Canada’s report, “More Than a Bed: A National Profile of VAW Shelters and Transition Houses”); and, GBV in postsecondary institutions.
To better understand the lived experiences of victims and survivors and how to engage individuals and communities in efforts to end GBV, the GBV Knowledge Centre awarded a number of contracts, totalling $5.5 million, to fund research on themes such as: engaging men in advancing gender equality; understanding female genital mutilation/cutting in the Canadian context; and, the Collaborative Development and Assessment of Canadian Core Competencies for Gender-Based Violence Specialists and Addressing Gender-Based Violence and Access to Responsive Justice.
The GBV Knowledge Centre is committed to continue working with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis partners as an important step towards reconciliation and to better respect Indigenous knowledge and respond to the specific needs of each community. In 2019-2020, the GBV Knowledge Centre launched a call for research proposals related to gender equality and GBV, including a specific interest in Indigenous-led and co-created research; the results will be completed by the end of 2022-2023.
Deliberative Dialogue – Dispelling Myths of Intimate Partner Violence
In early March 2020, the GBV Knowledge Centre invited federal partners to participate in a Deliberative Dialogue session with researchers from Western University to identify solutions to harmful narratives about intimate partner violence in Canada. The outcome of this knowledge exchange forum prioritized the most problematic narratives found in media and personal perceptions and more importantly, proposed some strategic ways to use the Survey of Safety in Public and Private Spaces survey data to reframe an understanding of intimate partner violence in Canada.
Through Budget 2017 investments for the federal GBV Strategy, Women and Gender Equality Canada received $30.1 million over five years to undertake data collection and research in priority areas. In collaboration with Statistics Canada, Women and Gender Equality Canada facilitated the development of three important population-based surveys: the Survey on Safety in Public and Private Spaces (SSPPS), the Survey on Individual Safety in the Postsecondary Student Population, and the Survey on Sexual Misconduct in the Workplace.
Representing an initial investment of $17.1 million for development and implementation, these surveys were the first national surveys to focus on experiences of GBV in Canada and reflected the different lived experiences of GBV among diverse populations. These surveys provided invaluable self-reported information on many forms of GBV, including its prevalence, where it occurs, who is more likely to experience it, barriers to seeking help, and the social, economic and health impacts of GBV. The approach taken in the SSPPS to assessing intimate partner violence was particularly innovative and important for producing data about the gendered nature of intimate partner violence and the experiences of various population groups. It assesses 27 abusive behaviours falling under various types of intimate partner violence (physical, sexual, psychological, emotional, and financial) experienced by people of different genders and various other identity factors, the timeframe in which they occurred, lifetime and the previous 12 months, and the severity of the incidents. This method reveals gendered patterns of intimate partner violence that vary in their intensity and impact, as well as varying risks of GBV among different populations. The data released from the three surveys filled important data gaps, including providing the first-ever nationally representative data on transgender and gender-diverse people in Canada. The surveys allowed the Government of Canada and its partners to gain valuable information on the experiences of GBV among different populations, including women with disabilities, Indigenous women, 2SLGBTQI+ individuals, and immigrant women. As such, they improve the ability to identify underserved populations, enhance the availability of data to inform Gender Based Analysis Plus (GBA Plus) in public policy and provide a deeper understanding of GBV in Canada.
Of the remaining funding, $9 million was invested in qualitative and policy research, including a call for proposals on gender equality and GBV research launched in 2018. Resulting from the call for proposals and other funding mechanisms, 18 research projects were supported over 2019-2020 and 2020-2021, allowing researchers to fill key data and evidence gaps to inform the response to GBV in Canada. This research covered a range of topics related to GBV and access to justice, including social movements related to GBV including the #MeToo movement, 2SLGBTQI+ students’ experiences of sexual violence and access to justice, effective engagement of men and boys in preventing GBV, core competencies and best practices for intimate partner violence specialists to better support women and children experiencing intimate partner violence, and access to justice for sexual assault survivors with diverse identities in Canada. Women and Gender Equality Canada also invested in an important public opinion research on attitudes towards GBV and those who perpetrate and experience GBV. Published in March 2020, the research report "Attitudes related to gender-based violence and #MeToo in Canada: final report" (Research in Brief is here), provides important insights that will inform future efforts to shift the attitudes of people across Canada on these issues.
Women and Gender Equality Canada also focused on research about experiences of GBV within Indigenous communities, funding almost $1.5 million in research projects with community-based and Indigenous-led non-profits and research organizations. These research projects in 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 focused on the application of Indigenous culture-based practices and Ways of Knowing to GBV prevention, GBV among Indigenous women and girls with disabilities, Inuit women’s experiences of the criminal justice system in Inuit Nunangat (Inuit homeland), and key issues and considerations for GBV research within First Nations communities in Canada.
Survey of Safety in Public and Private Spaces (SSPPS)
1. As the first of three surveys, on December 5, 2019, Statistics Canada released, Gender-based violence and unwanted sexual behaviour in Canada, 2018: Initial findings from the Survey of Safety in Public and Private Spaces. This report focused on provincial findings: it provided an in-depth analysis of experiences involving inappropriate behaviours in public, online and at work, as well as information on experiences and characteristics of violent victimization, or physical and sexual assault. Using data from the 2018 SSPPS, this GBA Plus analysis fills a critical gap by measuring behaviours that have not been previously covered by other surveys.
2. On December 9, 2019, Statistics Canada released another report using SSPPS data entitled, Perceptions related to gender-based violence, gender equality, and gender expression. The report examined experiences of unwanted sexual behaviours in public places and at work, as well as unwanted experiences online among people living in the territories. On December 2, 2020, a subsequent report using territorial data from the SSPPS entitled Gender-based violence: Sexual and physical assault in Canada’s territories, 2018 was released and focused on experiences of sexual and physical assaults as well as an analysis of perceptions and attitudes regarding gender equality and GBV in the territories.
3. A milestone was reached on September 9, 2020, with the release of Statistics Canada’s report entitled, Experiences of violent victimization and unwanted sexual behaviours among gay, lesbian, bisexual and other sexual minority people, and the transgender population, in Canada, 2018. The report filled a significant data gap by providing the first-ever nationally representative data on the transgender population in Canada who, according to SSPPS results, account for approximately 75,000 people aged 15 and older living in the provinces and territories. The results published in this report reveal that, as stakeholders and service providers working with this population had already suspected, transgender people in Canada were significantly more likely to have been sexually assaulted or physically assaulted in their lifetime (since age 15) than cisgender people.
The SSPPS contributes to a necessary and growing body of research that will help establish baselines showing the prevalence of different forms of GBV in different populations of Canada, including women, First Nations, Métis and Inuit, 2SLGBTQI+ people, new immigrants, racialized groups, women with disabilities, and women living in rural, northern and isolated communities. The SSPPS results provide powerful and reliable data for monitoring trends in the levels and various forms of GBV in Canada, for ensuring the ability to measure tangible progress towards preventing and addressing GBV over time, and for assessing the effectiveness of policies, actions and initiatives in reducing GBV and improving victims’ and survivors’ experience with the justice, social and health systems.
SSPPS Data Highlights: GBV among gay, lesbian, bisexual and other sexual minority people, and the transgender population
- “Sexual minority” Canadians were about 1.5 times more likely as heterosexual people to have been physically or sexually assaulted since age 15 (59% versus 37%, respectively).
- Among “sexual minority” Canadians, women, Indigenous persons and persons living with a disability were more likely to have been sexually or physically assaulted since age 15.
- In the 12 months preceding the survey, “sexual minority” Canadians were also more likely than heterosexual people to have experienced unwanted sexual behaviours in public places (57% versus 22%) or at work (44% versus 22%), as well as unwanted behaviours online (37% versus 15%).
- “Sexual minority” Canadians were more than twice as likely as heterosexual Canadians to have been physically or sexually assaulted since age 15 or to have experienced unwanted sexual behaviours in public places and at work, or unwanted behaviours online in the 12 months preceding the survey.
- Among “sexual minorities”, women (49%) were more likely than men (35%) to have experienced unwanted sexual behaviours in the workplace.
- “Sexual minorities” were significantly more likely than heterosexual people (44% versus 22%) to have faced unwanted sexual behaviours at work in the year preceding the survey.
- Transgender Canadians were more likely to have experienced violence since age 15, and also more likely to experience inappropriate behaviours in public, online and at work than cisgender Canadians.
Source: Statistics Canada. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/85-002-x/2020001/article/00009-eng.htm
Survey on Individual Safety in the Postsecondary Student Population (SISPSP)
1. The results of the SISPSP fill another data gap. Conducted in 2019, the SISPSP collected information on experiences of GBV among current and recent postsecondary students aged 18 to 24 years (17 to 24 in Québec) across the ten provinces of Canada. The first survey of its kind, the SISPSP provides Canadian governments and postsecondary institutions with an accurate picture of the nature, extent and impact of GBV in these institutions. On September 14, 2020, a report entitled, Students’ experiences of unwanted sexualized behaviours and sexual assault at postsecondary schools in the Canadian provinces, 2019 was released, presenting the first results of the SISPSP.
2. On September 15, 2020, a second report, entitled, Students’ experiences of discrimination based on gender, gender identity or sexual orientation at postsecondary schools in the Canadian provinces, 2019 was released. Results from the SISPSP provide data for use by different levels of government, academics and not-for-profit organizations to better understand the nature, extent and impact of GBV in postsecondary institutions, but also to help inform policies, laws and programs designed to improve postsecondary students’ safety and well-being.
SISPSP Data Highlights
- One in seven women students (15%) were sexually assaulted in a postsecondary setting at some point during their time at school. This represented approximately 197,000 women students and was proportionally three times higher than among men students (5%).
- 45% of women students and 32% of men students personally experienced at least one unwanted sexual behaviour in a post-secondary setting in the 12 months preceding the survey.
- Women students, students living with a disability, bisexual students, and students who sometimes wore a visible religious symbol were more likely to have experienced a sexual assault or unwanted sexualized behaviours in the postsecondary context in the 12 months preceding the survey.
- One in five (20%) women students and about one in eight (13%) men students experienced discrimination based on gender, gender identity or sexual orientation in the year preceding the survey; accounting for over 200,000 women students and 118,000 men students.
Source: Statistics Canada https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/85-002-x/2020001/article/00005-eng.htm
Pillar 1: Preventing Gender-Based Violence
Much of the work to address GBV involves transforming the attitudes, behaviours and systems that perpetuate this form of violence. It requires sustained and coordinated efforts to take early action in challenging the harmful societal norms and the inequalities that perpetuate GBV. Prevention addresses the root causes and risk factors of GBV and is the most effective way to end this violence and its devastating effects. Conversations about gender equality, healthy relationships, and appropriate boundaries, for instance, lay the foundation for preventing GBV.
A significant focus of the federal GBV Strategy therefore aims to leverage actions and promising practices for preventing GBV in a range of settings, such as private and public spaces, workplaces, educational institutions of all types, and online. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a greater emphasis on innovative and effective tools and approaches for preventing GBV when in-person services are limited or out of reach.
Preventing GBV against Children and Youth
Early prevention in the form of supporting parents with tools, information and other mechanisms that encourage healthy parenting approaches and behaviours can provide lasting, positive changes that build healthy families and prevent violence early in life.Footnote 10 Through the Child Maltreatment Prevention funding stream of its Preventing Gender-Based Violence: The Health Perspective program, the Public Health Agency of Canada has invested $2 million between 2019-2021 to support the delivery and testing of promising parent support programs and to determine their effectiveness in preventing child maltreatment. For example, the Agency is supporting McMaster University’s Promoting Healthy Families: A Canadian Evaluation of Triple P project to test the effectiveness of the Positive Parenting Program (Triple P), a parenting and family support system designed to prevent behavioural and emotional problems in children and teenagers. In 2019-2020, a formative evaluation was conducted and ultimately expanded the project’s scope to produce stronger evidence supporting the delivery of effective child maltreatment prevention programs. The Agency also supports a project to enhance, deliver and evaluate the Positive Discipline in Everyday Parenting program, a trauma- and violence-informed approach to promoting strong parent-child relationships. The Program aims to reach 1,260 parents and caregivers in six provinces, and to train 180 facilitators to deliver the program and test its effectiveness. The Public Health Agency of Canada also supported the World Health Organization to develop evidence-based guidelines on effective parenting and caregiver programs to prevent child maltreatment, violence against children, and child behavioural problems. The guidelines will build the capacity of health and social service providers to identify and deliver effective maltreatment prevention programs and services to at-risk families and children.
Adolescence is a key time to provide young people with the knowledge and skills they need to develop healthy relationships that are free from violence. Through the Teen/Youth Dating Violence Prevention funding stream of the Preventing Gender-Based Violence: The Health Perspective program, the Agency has invested $12 million between 2019-2021 to support 25 projects designed to develop, deliver, and test innovative school- and community-based programs to promote healthy relationships and prevent dating violence among teens and youth. These projects help prevent GBV by teaching youth about respect, consent, and healthy relationships.
Projects funded through Public Health Agency Canada’s teen/youth dating violence prevention stream are connected through a community of practice facilitated by the Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network (PREVNet), allowing them to collaborate, share opportunities for learning, and discuss issues of mutual concern. In 2019-2020, PREVNet launched a website to share resources and information with funded projects and the broader community. The site has reached more than 189,000 professionals, researchers and service providers. Other key milestones achieved by March 31, 2021, through the Public Health Agency Canada’s teen/youth dating violence funding stream include collaborations with more than 230 partners. These collaborations have enhanced the reach of project activities and leveraged more than $1.58 million in financial and in-kind contributions.
In 2020-21, projects to prevent child maltreatment and teen/youth dating violence funded by the Public Agency of Canada directly reached 4,684 participants and 7,991 professionals in 85 sites across Canada. Knowledge mobilization products and events engaged an additional 335,000 stakeholders. Interim results indicate projects improved participants’ skills and knowledge, and influenced behaviour change to prevent and address GBV. For example, interim results from intervention research projects demonstrate participants improved their ability to identify healthy/unhealthy relationships and strengthened their communication skills. Interim results from capacity building projects demonstrate service providers feel more competent to provide trauma-informed services and support and respond to clients’ experiences of GBV.
The widespread adoption of communication technologies, including smartphones and their apps, social media platforms and multiplayer online games, has enabled bullying to migrate into digital spaces. Among children and youth, bullying, cyberbullying and harassment jeopardize learning and the development of healthy self-esteem.Footnote 11 Teachers, parents and guardians, social workers and youth advocates are working to address this form of violence as an area of significant concern. Despite similarities between traditional bullying and cyberbullying, the latter allows for anonymity, increased social dissemination and greater access to victims. When coupled with a limited supervision by parents or guardians in online spaces, cyberbullying among youth can go unnoticed and undeterred and it can have devastating effects.
Addressing Technology Facilitated Violence
In November 2019, Public Safety Canada partnered with Women and Gender Equality Canada to co-host an expert panel on GBV and technology-facilitated violence. Around 140 participants from various levels of government, non-governmental organizations and research centres attended the panel.
The results of the 2018 SSPPS show that, when compared to both men and women of all other age groups, young women aged 15 to 24 living in the provincesFootnote 12 experienced the highest prevalence of unwanted behaviour online (32.8%) in the 12 months preceding the survey. Unwanted behaviours online include having received threatening or aggressive emails or messages (either personally, in a group or on social media); having had intimate, sexually suggestive or explicit images or messages of them shared (or threatened to be shared) without their consent; having been pressured to send, share or post sexually suggestive or explicit images or messages; and, having received unwanted sexually suggestive or explicit images or messages.
Through its Preventing and Addressing Bullying and Cyberbullying in Canada initiative, Public Safety Canada is implementing interventions, conducting research, and developing an awareness campaign with a budget of $4 million over five years. Through the National Crime Prevention Strategy, Public Safety Canada funded 5 new community-based projects in 2019-2020 focused on addressing issues related to youth bullying and cyberbullying.
In 2019, Public Safety Canada conducted a public opinion research survey (PDF) to obtain a baseline measurement of Canadian youth and parents’ knowledge, experience, awareness, attitudes and behaviours with respect to cyberbullying. The research results informed the department’s awareness campaign designed to teach parents, guardians, educators, and youth how to prevent and respond to cyberbullying. A request for proposals process was initiated in 2019 and the campaign launched in March 2021. The cyberbullying campaign’s objective is to increase awareness of where youth, caregivers and parents can get the help they need and to help empower young people to take action to protect themselves and others from cyberbullying. The campaign has launched a Cyberbullying website with information and resources, including fact sheets and booklets, for youth, and caregivers/parents.
Public Safety Canada also completed two cyberbullying research reports, the first report presented a systematic review of existing Canadian cyberbullying research, while the second report focused on existing interventions in Canada and abroad to address cyberbullying. Both reports were published in the fall of 2020 and provide key insights into best practices and promising approaches for future action to prevent cyberbullying in Canada.
Through its Online Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness initiative, totalling $340,000 over 5 years starting in 2017, Public Safety Canada is supporting the development of awareness and educational resources targeted to youth. These resources are being developed through an intersectional approach to reach specific youth populations, including Indigenous, teen parents and 2SLGBTQI+ people as well as families, educators, child-serving organizations, and law enforcement.
PLEA, a non-governmental organization, delivers “Safer Space” workshops designed to raise awareness about child sexual exploitation online and how to report it. Between April 2019 and March 2021, over 292 preventative and educational youth workshops were delivered to 15, 813 youth participants in grades 4 to 12 and 50 professionals/adults in British Columbia.
Online child sexual exploitation refers to a range of illegal activities facilitated by technologies, like the Internet and mobile apps. This includes the production and sharing of child sexual abuse material (e.g., audio, video, images, or written depictions of child sexual abuse), child luring and grooming, sextortion, live child sexual abuse streaming, made-to-order content, and self-generated materials and sexting. While children of any gender can be affected by this crime, girls are significantly more at risk than boys to experience online sexual exploitation.
Online child sexual abuse and exploitation are particularly horrific crimes and the RCMP works diligently with its partners at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels to remove victims and survivors from harm and help bring offenders to justice. The RCMP received funding through the federal GBV Strategy in December 2018. The funds were disbursed to support and supplement ongoing processes to enhance operational capacity for online child sexual exploitation investigations and to expand efforts to identify Canadian transnational child sex offenders.
Launched in 2004, the National Strategy for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation on the Internet is led by Public Safety Canada, with partnership support from the RCMP, Justice Canada, and the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, a non-for-profit organization. It is a comprehensive, coordinated approach to enhancing the protection of children from online child sexual exploitation. Under this National Strategy, the National Child Exploitation Crime Centre is Canada’s law enforcement focal point for online child sexual exploitation. The National Strategy for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation on the Internet and the federal GBV Strategy are complementary. In 2020-2021, the National Child Exploitation Crime Centre received approximately 52,306 reports of online child sexual exploitation. These reports were assessed and resulted in approximately 16,026 investigative packages being sent to law enforcement agencies of jurisdiction within Canada and abroad, an increase of approximately 37% compared to the previous year. In 2020-2021, 329 Canadian child victims were identified, and their information was uploaded to the Interpol’s International Child Sexual Exploitation Database, increasing the number of identified victims by approximately 21% compared to the previous year. The RCMP’s Behavioural Sciences Investigative Services completed 2,753 risk assessments of registered child sex offenders in 2020-2021, which was approximately 1,000 more than in the previous year. The information for offenders who are deemed high-risk is shared with the Canada Border Services Agency for compliance purposes and is added to the Canadian Police Information Centre’s database for prevention purposes. The RCMP was the previous chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, which is an international alliance of law enforcement agencies, Industry partners, and non-governmental partners dedicated to protecting children from online sexual exploitation and transnational child sex offences. The RCMP continues to lead the Virtual Global Taskforce’s health and wellness initiatives, which seek to mitigate employee impacts of working in this difficult crime type. These efforts are critical to ensure ongoing operational capacity.
COVID-19 and Online Child Sexual Exploitation
The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the risk of online child sexual exploitation, as offenders have taken advantage of the fact that children are spending more time online, often unsupervised. Since the outset of the pandemic, the RCMP has seen increased online activity related to online child sexual exploitation. From March to May 2020, when the initial shutdown measures were implemented, the RCMP’s National Child Exploitation Crime Centre recorded an approximately 36% increase in reports of suspected online child sexual exploitation, attributed, in part, to an increase in viral media and a tangible increase in self-exploitation cases. Since then, the National Child Exploitation Crime Centre has also noted an increase in various areas related to the crime-type such as Zoom “bombing” incidents, the use of livestreaming, social media and online gaming platforms by both children and offenders, and online extortion.
Since April 2020, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection mentioned they had received on average 300 reports per month from families/victims related to online sexual exploitation or from the public pertaining to individuals sexually exploiting children online. This is nearly double the average of what was usually received prior to the pandemic.
In July 2020, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection reported an 81% spike over April, May and June in calls to their national hotline by youth who reported having been sexually exploited and in reports of people trying to sexually abuse children.
Preventing GBV against Postsecondary Students
GBV at postsecondary institutions can include, but is not limited to, sexual and physical assault, sexual harassment, stalking, and technology facilitated violence. Like other forms of GBV, GBV at postsecondary institutions is an under-recognized, underestimated, and under-reported crime that can have many harmful consequences, such as the risk of reduced academic performance, isolation, mental illness and substance abuse.
SISPSP results show that across all Canadian provinces, one in seven women students (15%) were sexually assaulted in a postsecondary institution at some point since they started their studies; amounting to about 197,000 women students. The prevalence of sexual assaults in this context was three times higher than among men students (5%). Among sexual assaults in the 12 months preceding the survey, women students, students with a disability, bisexual students and students who sometimes wore a visible religious symbol were more likely to have been sexually assaulted in a postsecondary context. Women were also significantly more likely than men to personally experience unwanted sexual behaviour as students in a postsecondary context (45% versus 32%, respectively).
With funding from Women and Gender Equality Canada, Possibility Seeds Consulting released “Courage to Act: Developing a National Framework to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence at Post-Secondary Institutions” (a Research in Brief is also available) in August 2019. The report was informed by advice from the Advisory Committee on the Framework to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence at Post-Secondary Institutions, over 300 diverse stakeholders, and a variety of communities across Canada. The report identifies recommendations, promising practices, and key resource gaps in three areas: responding to disclosures of GBV and support for people affected by GBV; GBV prevention education; and reporting, investigations, and adjudication. With funding from Women and Gender Equality Canada, Possibility Seeds Consulting is continuing work to address gaps identified in the report, such as toolkits and communities of practice for networking and information sharing.
Engaging Men and Boys
Fostering healthy masculinity and interrupting intergenerational trauma among men and boys is critical to preventing GBV and making lasting change. Following consultations with Indigenous communities, 2SLGBTQI+ communities, racialized communities, youth, and corporate representatives, in summer 2019 Women and Gender Equality Canada released “Calling Men and Boys In: Report from the roundtables on engaging men and boys to advance gender equality” that laid out four themes to pursue:
- Identify persistent behaviours contributing to inequality to start unlearning them
- Challenge and change negative norms, attitudes, and behaviours through accountability and healing
- Efforts must be sustained through building networks, sharing knowledge, and taking action
- Address resource scarcity and holding men accountable
The consultations highlighted much of the work already being done across the country by women’s organizations, academics, Indigenous men, and many others. They enabled a deeper understanding of the barriers and obstacles in calling in men and boys as partners and allies to advance gender equality and, by extension, preventing GBV. Efforts to engage men and boys must complement the efforts of the women’s and 2SLGBTQI+ movements and recognize the leadership of these movements in advancing the goals of equality and empowerment for all. Women and Gender Equality Canada funded four projects totaling $562,000 to promote promising practices and help address key gaps identified during the roundtables. Next Gen Men, in partnership with the University of Calgary, received $125,000 to build networks and spaces for pro-feminist male leaders to engage peer leaders and women’s organizations on gender equality-related issues. The Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters received $212,000 to promote sports figures as role models to build awareness of GBV and demonstrate healthy masculinity. Catalyst Canada received $100,000 to work to encourage and support men in calling out sexism in the workplace. FOXY received $125,000 to engage Indigenous young men and boys in its work on fostering gender equality in the North.
The Public Health Agency of Canada’s Preventing Gender-Based Violence: The Health Perspective investment supports projects that build skills for healthy relationships that actively engage men and boys. The Agency is funding the University of Calgary to deliver and evaluate WiseGuyz, a community-facilitated, school-based program for Grade 9 boys in Alberta. WiseGuyz aims to reduce male-perpetrated teen/youth dating violence by helping participants identify and deconstruct health-harming gender norms and explore healthier, more inclusive ways of “being a guy.” WiseGuyz is currently the only evidence-informed program designed in Canada that specifically addresses boys and healthier masculinities as a dating violence prevention strategy. This project will help build a more rigorous evidence base and, if results are positive, will position the program to be scaled up and adapted for a variety of settings. The Public Health Agency of Canada is contributing $1,254,484 over 5 years to support this project.
Engaging men and boys to play a positive role in challenging the roots of misogyny and building healthy gender norms by challenging harmful masculinity stereotypes is a solid step towards ensuring lasting gender equality and creating allies in the effort to end all forms of GBV.
Preventing GBV against Women with Disabilities
Preventing Violence against Women with Disabilities
Intersectionality is our lens and inclusion is our message: Promoting National AccessAbility Week in Quebec is an Employment Social Development Canada-funded project facilitated by DAWN Canada with a total investment of $215,000. Through this project, several activities were supported during National AccessAbility Week, which raised awareness about the importance of accessibility and inclusion in different sectors and communities across Canada and highlighted the contributions of individuals, communities and workplaces that are actively removing barriers to accessibility across the country. In 2019, the project focused on digital outreach through social media, email outreach and blog development. In 2020, DAWN worked more closely with media outlets and organizations with a larger reach to achieve a broader impact.
Women with disabilities comprise more than half of the Canadian population with disabilities, and they face multiple barriers that prevent them from fully and actively participating in Canadian society. Persons with disabilities experience some of the highest rates of violence – particularly physical assault, sexual assault and sexual abuse – and are more likely to experience multiple victimization than those without disabilities. The 2014 General Social Survey on Canadians’ Safety (Victimization) indicates that Canadians with disabilities were almost twice as likely to be victims of a violent crime than Canadians without disabilities. Persons with cognitive or mental health-related disabilities experienced violent victimization at four times the rate of persons without disabilities, and the proportion of women with mental health related disabilities who reported being a victim of sexual assault (7%) was over three times higher than that of their counterparts with no such condition (2%).
Preventing GBV in the Extractive Sector
In 2017, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) established the Indigenous Advisory and Monitoring Committee for the Trans Mountain Expansion and Existing Pipeline (IAMC-TMX), which brings together 13 Indigenous and six senior federal representatives to provide advice to regulators and to monitor the Trans Mountain Expansion Project and existing pipeline.
The Committee established the Socio-economic Subcommittee in January 2018 to advance socio-economic interests. A key priority for this Committee is identifying and addressing the impacts of temporary work camps and the influx of workers, including their potential impact on GBV. In response to this concern, the Socio-economic Subcommittee developed and implemented the Temporary Work Camps and Influx of Temporary Workers Initiative. Between 2019 and 2021, the initiative focused on 1) conducting research and analysis, guided by Indigenous communities, focused on Trans Mountain’s policies and regulations regarding Trans Mountain Expansion Project; 2) increasing Indigenous oversight of Trans Mountain’s socio-economic plans/strategies; 3) working closely with Indigenous communities to establish three regional socioeconomic monitoring initiatives, including in Alberta (Yellowhead corridor), British Columbia (Fraser Valley) and the BC Interior (Simpcw Territory), all with the goal of enhancing the role of Indigenous communities in identifying and mitigating (or preventing) adverse project impacts in their territory; and, 4) documenting lessons learned, including for the purpose of providing advice to the government for consideration in future major projects. IAMC-TMX activities are co-developed by Indigenous and federal members, alongside proponents and Indigenous communities, and include place-based informed work tailored to meet the needs of local communities.
Preventing Harassment, Abuse and Discrimination in Sport
Increasingly, athletes, coaches, and parents are calling to increase safety in sport to ensure a safe and inclusive space. Recent reports of serious abuse and harassment have highlighted sport as an area where work is needed to address different forms of maltreatment and violence too often experienced by sport participants, regardless of age, gender, or level, and including youth, girls and women and, perhaps more disproportionately, athletes who are Indigenous, Black, racialized or 2SLGBTQI+. Budget 2019 announced an investment of $30 million over five years, starting in 2019-2020, to enable Canadian sport organizations to build a safer, welcoming and accessible sport environment, free from harassment, abuse, discrimination other forms of maltreatment. These initiatives include:
- Supporting the development of the Universal Code of Conduct to Prevent and Address Maltreatment in Sport in consultation with the national sport community and subject matter experts (child protection, legal, researchers, etc.).
- Implementing enhanced requirements and support for funded sport organizations to address Harassment, Abuse and Discrimination.
- Supporting two pilot projects to provide independent reporting and investigation of maltreatment, first the Canadian Sport Helpline and second, an Investigation Unit.
- Launching a call for proposals to identify an organization to build on these pilot-projects and to deliver other independent services to the sport community.
- Supporting the development of minimum standards for training on the prevention of maltreatment in Canadian sport.
Pillar 2: Supporting Victims, Survivors and their Families
Through the federal GBV Strategy, federal partners are working with key stakeholders to better respond to and support the unique needs of victims, survivors and their families, using victim and survivor-centred, and trauma- and violence-informed approaches. Key themes that are evident in each of the initiatives under Pillar 2 are:
- An understanding of trauma and violence and their impacts on peoples’ lives and behaviour
- Creating emotionally and physically safe environments
- Fostering opportunities for choice, collaboration and connection
- Providing a strengths-based and capacity-building approach to support coping and resilience
The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the gaps in accessible and appropriate services, and reinforced the need for the federal government, and other levels of government, to continue developing responsive policies and programs that offer victims, survivors, and those at risk of GBV the resources they need to make choices for their healing and safety. In this regard, initiatives under Pillar 2 of the federal GBV Strategy show promise in minimizing harm to victims and survivors and ensuring greater access to services, as well as equipping service providers to respond safely, effectively and appropriately to the diverse needs of those affected by GBV.
Supporting Children and Families
Addressing online child sexual exploitation and supporting families victimized by this crime requires consistent approaches and tools that stay ahead of online offenders. Project Arachnid is a tool developed by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection to combat this crime. Project Arachnid processes images and sends removal notices to content providers. Between April 2019 and March 2020, Project Arachnid issued 1,763,104 notices to service providers, which resulted in 353 companies receiving notices. Public Safety Canada will continue to support Canadian Centre for Child Protection to manage Project Arachnid, which reduces the ability of offenders to propagate child sexual abuse material and provides psychological relief to victims and survivors. Continued support for Canadian Centre for Child Protection leads to increased public-private sector efforts by increasing the number of electronic service providers engaged in disrupting child sexual abuse material online.
In 2018, approximately 900 Regular Force members of the Canadian Armed Forces were sexually assaulted in the 12 months preceding the survey, accounting for 4% of women and 1% of men in the Regular Force. Among Regular Force members, LGBT+ members were significantly more likely to have been sexually assaulted in the 12 months preceding the survey compared to cisgender and heterosexual people (5% versus 1%, respectively).
Source: Statistics Canada. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/85-603-x/85-603-x2019002-eng.htm
The Department of National Defence supports Canadian Armed Forces members and their families through initiatives such as Family Violence Advisory Teams. The Family Violence Advisory Teams support military members and their families affected by violence by providing education and knowledge to service providers about GBV, family violence and how to best support victims and survivors. In addition, these teams improve the lives of 2SLGBTQI+ military members and family members through targeted training for service providers on diversity, inclusion, and the particular barriers that 2SLGBTQI+ individuals face when they experience violence and inequality or seek help. The Family Advisory Teams also engage in prevention efforts through the Healthy Relationships Campaign, which provides a range of resources for military members and their families on how to create and maintain healthy relationships and how to support friends who may be experiencing an abusive relationship.
The Sexual Assault Centre Contribution Program increases access to services for members of the Canadian Armed Forces community and encourages collaboration between community-based civilian service providers and Canadian Armed Forces community-linked service providers. The expected outcome is to help victims and survivors in the wider community better cope with the effects of sexual assault and access the support services they need. This includes anyone associated with the Canadian Armed Forces community, such as family members, civilian employees, contractors, and others impacted by the Canadian Armed Forces’ presence in their community.
Family Violence Initiative (FVI)
Led by the Public Health Agency of Canada, the FVI has been the federal government’s main collaborative forum for addressing family violence since 1988. Bringing together twelve federal departments and agencies, the FVI supports preventive programming and seeks to improve the justice system’s response to family violence and intimate partner violence. It also supports projects that raise public awareness about issues and encourage public involvement in responding to family violence. The FVI and the GBV Strategy are complementary and collaborate on many overlapping issues. For this reason, reporting on the FVI is integrated into the federal GBV Strategy’s annual reports.
Family violence is highly gendered in Canada. Police-reported rates of family violence against children aged 17 years and younger show that, in 2018, rates were considerably higher for girls (327 per 100,000 population) than for boys (207 per 100,000 population). Rates of sexual abuse perpetrated by a family member against girls were nearly five times higher than for boys (149 versus 32 per 100,000 population, respectively), while rates of family-perpetrated physical assaults were similar for girls and boys (143 versus 148).1
1 Statistics Canada. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/85-002-x/2019001/article/00018/01-eng.htm
In 2020-2021, through the Family Violence Initiative (FVI) funded grants and contributions program Supporting the Health of Survivors of Family Violence, the Public Health Agency of Canada supported projects that address COVID-19’s impacts on family and GBV, including the Strength of Families and Connection: Child Safety and Wellbeing during COVID-19 response and recovery project by the Child Welfare League of Canada. This project will strengthen the capacity of child welfare workers, service providers and alternative caregivers across Canada to effectively prevent and respond safely to child maltreatment in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. This project will provide access to new evidence-based training and resources related to child maltreatment.
Through the FVI, the Public Health Agency of Canada also provided funding for Supporting the Health of Survivors of Family Violence in Family Law Proceedings led by the University of Western Ontario. This project will build the capacity of up to 15,000 practitioners and professionals from the health, violence prevention and family law sectors. Through the development of training and cross-sectoral collaboration opportunities, this project will contribute to the goal of protecting the health and safety of survivors of family violence and those at risk.
The Public Health Agency of Canada continues to host and manage the Stop Family Violence webpages, a one-stop source of information on family violence.
As a FVI partner, Statistics Canada receives annual funding for compiling and publishing high-quality data in order to track the nature and extent of family violence over time, and links multiple data sets to respond to emerging issues. The primary data sets used to publish these materials include the Victimization Survey within the General Social Survey program, the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey, the Homicide Survey, the Survey of Residential Facilities for Victims of Abuse and the Integrated Criminal Court Survey.
Statistics Canada produces research studies, evaluation studies, data collection analyses and reports, and central data repositories, and it contributes to the identification of emerging issues and data gaps (e.g., dating violence, post-traumatic stress among victims of spousal violence, child maltreatment). Statistics Canada also ensures that data is as accessible as possible to other organizations and researchers. Numerous data sets related to family violence are available through the Research Data Centre Network so that academics, researchers, and graduate students may explore them to respond to their research questions, thereby increasing family violence research capacity across the country.
As another partner of the FVI, Justice Canada funded initiatives between 2019 and 2021 included a research study and an awareness campaign on family violence in remote communities in Nunavut, a research study to inform the development of Canada's first Coordinated Family Violence Court Model and awareness workshops on family violence to Francophone immigrant women in the Niagara region. In May 2020, the Department of Justice Canada launched a child- and youth-friendly webpage containing information about child abuse and resources for young people who are experiencing violence at home.
Supporting Promising Practices for Underserved Communities
Women and Gender Equality Canada’s Gender-Based Violence Program is supporting organizations working in the GBV sector to develop and implement promising practices that address gaps in supports for victims, survivors, and their families. More than $50 million was invested in approximately 60 projects. Some examples include:
- The Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women received $1 million over four years to develop and evaluate a “Community of Care” approach. The approach will be designed to improve supports to African Nova Scotian and Indigenous women who have experienced GBV.
- Shelter Movers received $780,000 over four years to assess the impact and effectiveness of a no-cost moving and storage service for women and children living in situations of violence. A trauma-informed approach will be used, focusing on safety and empowerment at every stage of service delivery.
- The Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters received $998,730 over three yearsFootnote 13 to evaluate the effectiveness of a women-centred approach to service delivery for victims and survivors of intimate partner violence, with the use of enhanced assessment tools supporting work in shelters and other community organizations.
As a result of this funding, in 2020-2021, more than 350 new partnerships have been created to develop training on cultural safety and trauma informed service delivery, transform care for 2SLGBTQI+ and gender diverse survivors of GBV, and pilot new supports the help survivors of GBV navigate the legal system.
- 49% of organizations are collaborating to share knowledge, tools and/or providing feedback to assist with the development / implementation of projects.
- 19% of organizations are helping to engage key stakeholders and/or expanding the reach of projects.
- 15% of collaborating organizations are directly involved in the implementation of projects.
- 11% of organizations are involved in the projects’ organizing/advisory committees and/or are involved in decision-making on the development / implementation of projects.
Immigrants, Refugees and Newcomers
Settlement service provider organizations are often the first point of contact for immigrants and refugees seeking support if they are experiencing GBV. With Budget 2017, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada received $1.5 million over five years to further enhance its Settlement Program. The funding is being used to develop a settlement sector strategy on GBV to support culturally responsive service delivery across Canada for newcomers and refugees possibly at risk of experiencing GBV. Having access to these service providers may be a lifeline for many who are isolated and who need help. For this reason, service providers who work with immigrants and refugees must have culturally appropriate knowledge and skills to effectively support clients with their various needs, whether related to settlement, integration, or GBV, and to ensure that anyone who is seeking information and support does not encounter barriers while doing so.
In 2019-2020, a coordinated partnership of settlement and anti-violence sector umbrella organizations was established to implement the Gender-Based Violence Settlement Sector Strategy. The strategy focuses on GBV capacity-building in the settlement sector, strengthened collaboration between the settlement and anti-violence sector, and enhanced service delivery for newcomers and refugees at risk of experiencing GBV. The partnership is the first of its kind in the settlement sector and a key opportunity to achieve a strategic impact across both sectors by strengthening relationships and building capacity.
YMCA Halifax/Dartmouth’s Gender-Based Violence Prevention Project
With support from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the Halifax-based YMCA launched its Gender-Based Violence Prevention Program through the YMCA Centre for Immigrant Programs. The project focuses on raising awareness about GBV and educating newcomer children, youth, and families on how to access available resources within their community. The project also focuses on building the capacity of service providers to engage, support, and better understand how GBV impacts newcomer communities.
By building on current expertise, knowledge and resources in the anti-violence and settlement sectors, this coordinated effort will address the structural barriers that newcomers and refugees continue to experience when accessing GBV supports. This GBV initiative has helped inform programming, identify capacity-building needs in the settlement sector, and will increase the sector’s ability to serve individuals and families experiencing violence.
The Government of Canada is undertaking important steps to ensure that 2SLGBTQI+ individuals no longer face discrimination, have their rights protected and receive access to equal opportunities. Each of these factors reduces GBV against 2SLGBTQI+ individuals. Notable achievements over the past two fiscal years include the following:
- Women and Gender Equality Canada, in collaboration with the LGBTQ2 Secretariat at Canadian HeritageFootnote 14, is supporting organizations by providing $20 million in funding under the LGBTQ2 Community Capacity Fund, the first federal fund specifically dedicated to 2SLGBTQI+ This Fund’s objective is to build stronger capacity and networks of 2SLGBTQI+ community organizations to advance 2SLGBTQI+ equality across Canada.
- The Rainbow Refugee Assistance Partnership provides support for 2SLGBTQI+ refugees living in situations of violence and persecution through an agreement between Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and Rainbow Refugee Society. 2SLGBTQI+ refugees face specific vulnerabilities. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada aims to increase awareness among Canadian sponsors and strengthen overall sponsorship of this vulnerable group, who may experience persecution due to diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, gender expressions and sex characteristics. Starting in 2020, the Rainbow Refugee Assistance Partnership is an initiative that builds on the success of the previous Rainbow Refugee Assistance Pilot. The partnership is a 5-year agreement that provides 3 months of start-up costs and monthly income support for up to 50 privately sponsored 2SLGBTQI+ refugees per year. The monthly income support for the remaining nine months of the sponsorship is provided by the sponsoring group. This initiative supports the overall objective under Canada’s Gender Results Framework to combat GBV and strengthening settlement supports.
Combatting Human Trafficking
Human trafficking is a grave violation of human rights and a highly gendered crime, with women and girls accounting for 96% of cases of police-identified human trafficking victims and survivors in 2019. The vast majority (90%) of victims and survivors were below the age of 35, and more than one in five (25%) victims were girls below the age of 18.Footnote 15
A confidential, multilingual service 24 hours, 7 days a week. For assistance, call 1-833-900-1010.
With funding from Public Safety Canada, the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking launched the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline in May 2019. The Hotline is a referral service and resource centre that receives calls, emails, and texts about potential human trafficking in Canada and can refer people to services and law enforcement.
The pandemic has required new technical solutions and processes to ensure 24/7 remote operation of this critical service and to continue to provide trauma-informed support and services to those who may need them. Public Safety Canada continues to work closely with the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking to ensure the sustained operation of the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline.
In September 2019, the Government of Canada launched the comprehensive National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking 2019-2024, a whole-of-government approach, led by Public Safety Canada, that brings together federal efforts to address this crime and that complements the work under the federal GBV Strategy. Building on existing anti-trafficking efforts and with investments of over $57 million over five years and over $10 million per year ongoing, the National Strategy strengthens the Government of Canada’s response to human trafficking and puts in place a comprehensive and coordinated framework that will empower victims and survivors; prevent these crimes; better protect those who are most at-risk; prosecute human traffickers; and, embrace partnerships to maximize the impact. The suite of measures to prevent and address human trafficking includes enhanced supports to victims and survivors of human trafficking to help them regain control and independence; increased awareness and capacity-building efforts to prevent the victimization of marginalized populations; and, improved criminal justice system experiences for victims and survivors. The National Strategy is a flexible framework that guides federal efforts and allows the Government to be responsive to new and emerging trends. The National Strategy’s 2020-2021 annual report on progress can be found online.
In July 2020, Public Safety Canada and Women and Gender Equality Canada worked together to launch two calls for proposals for projects under the National Strategy. In December 2020, the Government of Canada announced $22.4 million in funding to 63 organizations for projects designed to prevent and address human trafficking and support at-risk populations and victims and survivors. Public Safety Canada funding supports organizations in identifying and counselling victims and survivors of trafficking, providing transition and second stage housing, mental health services, and employment services and supports, as well as training and tools to gain financial independence. Other projects are aimed at increasing awareness of human trafficking among at-risk youth and preventing victimization.
Women and Gender Equality Canada’s human trafficking initiative under the National Strategy is supporting organizations to develop and implement promising practices to enhance empowerment supports for at-risk populations and victims and survivors of human trafficking, including women and girls, Indigenous women and girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people.
Aligned with the National Strategy, Justice Canada made available $1 million in funding annually for projects that focus on the needs of victims of human trafficking. Funding in the amount of $2 million was invested between 2019-2021 in human trafficking-related projects by community organizations and law enforcement agencies. These projects include improved services for victims of human trafficking, training for law enforcement officers and frontline service providers working directly with victims of human trafficking, and support for labour trafficking victims through intensive case management, direct services, education, community capacity building and agency collaboration.
Trauma-Informed Training for Professionals
Funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada under the capacity building stream of the Preventing Gender-Based Violence: The Health Perspective program, OUT Saskatoon is leading a project to improve the quality of care for 2SLGBTQ people in Saskatchewan and throughout the Prairies by training and mentoring educators and health and social service providers to recognize, prevent and respond safely to GBV among 2SLGBTQ people. In 2019-2020, the organization created a website to highlight its project and launch a conversation on GBV.
Service providers have expressed a need for guidance and training to help recognize the signs of violence, engage safely and effectively and provide support without stigmatizing or re-traumatizing victims and survivors. With $2.1 million in funding between 2019-2021, the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Equipping Health and Allied Professionals stream of their Preventing Gender-Based Violence: The Health Perspective program supports the development of training and resources for health and allied professionals about GBV, trauma-informed care and safety planning. This initiative is currently funding seven projects focused on equipping professionals with the training and resources they need to recognize, prevent and respond safely to GBV, five of which were newly funded in 2019-2020. The two newly funded projects in 2020-21 that support these goals are:
- Preventing Violent Behaviour: Implementing a National SNAP Community of Practice: led by Earlscourt-Creche Child Development Institute, this project will strengthen the capacity of community-based service providers to deliver Stop Now and Plan (SNAP), an evidence-based, gender-specific mental health promotion intervention that provides high-risk children with skills to reduce anger, aggression, and violent and disruptive behaviour.
- Recognize and Respond: Building Midwives’ Capacity to Address Intimate Partner Violence and Child Maltreatment: led by the Canadian Association of Midwives, this project will adapt and complement the evidence-based learning resources to support midwives, particularly Indigenous midwives, to recognize and respond safely to family violence.
The RCMP has made the Using a Trauma-Informed Approach online course available to all RCMP employees. In addition, the Sexual Assault Review Team continued to develop and implement training and educational material on various other relevant topics, including gaps in sexual assault investigations and guidance on best practices, educational material on consent and rape myths, and guidance for contacting victims of sexual assault. The Sexual Assault Review Team also collaborated with the RCMP’s Depot Training Academy to update the sexual assault investigations scenario, and the updated scenario was introduced into Depot training in February 2020. These training courses and educational materials help reinforce the rights of and support services for victims, and further educate investigators on sexual offence investigations.
Providing Housing and Safe Shelter
Women’s Housing Need and Homelessness
In June 2020, the Women’s National Housing and Homelessness Network released “The State of Women’s Housing Need & Homelessness in Canada.” This report identified eight key challenges that support the notion that access to housing and safe shelter is crucial in ending cycles of violence. In addition, it presents opportunities for change by highlighting the ways in which public system failures and gaps in services and policies within homelessness and GBV sectors worsen exposure to violence and intergenerational homelessness among women, girls and gender-diverse peoples.
“On any given night in Canada, more than 6,000 women and children stay in shelters because home is not safe for them, according to the Canadian Women’s Foundation.”Footnote 16 A CBC News report revealed that “in November 2019, an average of 620 women and children were turned away from domestic violence shelters across Canada every day. That is nearly 19,000 times a month, if November was typical.”Footnote 17 These numbers, complicated by the pandemic, have reinforced the need for more resources and support services for victims, survivors and their families. Access to safe housing is essential for people leaving situations of GBV and it plays a crucial role in ensuring that individuals who experience violence have safe options that empower them to make decisions about their living situation.
In 2017, the Government of Canada launched the National Housing Strategy led by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. The National Housing Strategy is now more than a $72 billion, 10-year plan that will give more Canadians a place to call home. The Strategy covers the entire housing continuum, from shelters and transitional housing to community and affordable housing, to market rentals and homeownership. At least 25% of investments under the Strategy are to support the needs of women and their children, which includes women leaving situations of violence. The National Housing Co-Investment Fund, a Strategy initiative that supports the construction of new and revitalization of existing affordable housing, has committed to support the construction of over 1,400 new shelter units and the repair or renewal of over 400 shelter units for women and their children. These shelter units support a variety of populations, including women and children leaving situations of domestic violence; they do not all specifically address GBV.
Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy was launched in 2019 and is led by Infrastructure Canada since October 2021. This program supports the goals of the National Housing Strategy to help the most at-risk Canadians maintain safe, stable and affordable housing and to reduce chronic homelessness nationally by 50% by 2027–2028. In the context of COVID-19, the homeless-serving sector has been able to use Reaching Home funding towards a variety of needs, such as purchasing beds and physical barriers for social distancing and securing accommodation to reduce overcrowding in shelters. Funding recipients are strongly encouraged to coordinate efforts with shelters and other service providers for women and children leaving situations of violence, which are eligible to receive funding under the Reaching Home program, including additional investments made to support the homelessness sector’s response to COVID-19.
In its ongoing efforts to ensure everyone in Canada has housing that meets their needs and that they can afford, in October 2020, the Government of Canada, through the Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation, launched the $1 billion Rapid Housing Initiative. The Rapid Housing Initiative was launched to help address urgent housing needs of at-risk Canadians, especially in the context of COVID-19, through the rapid construction of affordable housing. The Rapid Housing Initiative takes a human rights-based approach to housing, serving people experiencing or at risk of homelessness and others who are among the most vulnerable, including women and children leaving situations of domestic violence. As of March 31, 2021, the Rapid Housing Initiative has committed to the creation of more than 4,700 permanent affordable units. These include 870 units committed for women and their children, of which 200 units are for women and children leaving situations of domestic violence.
Additionally, the National Housing Strategy supports shelters for at-risk populations across Canada, including Indigenous peoples, through initiatives such as the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Housing Partnership Framework. Through bilateral agreements, the federal government provides funding that is cost-matched by Provinces and Territories to help meet housing priorities, which may include shelter and transitional housing needs.
Safe Shelter and Housing for Indigenous Peoples
A strong demand exists for shelter funding and new shelters to serve Indigenous populations across the country. In 2019, the construction of five additional shelters on reserve for persons leaving situations of violence in First Nations communities across Canada was completed. All five shelters became operational in 2020. These shelters were constructed using $10.4 million in funding over three years to Canada Housing Mortgage Corporation announced in Budget 2016. The shelters receive operational funding from Indigenous Services Canada’s Family Violence Prevention Program, and were integrated into Indigenous Services Canada’s existing network of 46 shelters serving women and children living on-reserve in the provinces and in Yukon.
On May 29, 2020, the Shelter Initiative for Indigenous Women and Children was announced as part of a suite of initiatives to provide critical support to Indigenous families and communities. Through the Shelter Initiative, $44.8 million is being allocated to Canada Housing Mortgage Corporation over 5 years to build ten new shelters on-reserve and two in the territories, to support Indigenous women and children escaping violence. Indigenous Services Canada will invest $40.8 million in operational funding for these new shelters over 5 years and $10.2 million annually thereafter. This funding will increase Indigenous Services Canada’s network of funded shelters to 58.
Through the Fall Economic Statement 2020, the Government of Canada announced $724.1 million over five years to launch a Comprehensive Violence Prevention Strategy to expand access to a continuum of culturally relevant supports for Indigenous women, children and 2SLGBTQI+ people facing GBV. This initiative will also support new shelters and transitional (second stage) homes for First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples across the country, including on reserve, and in the North, and in urban areas. Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation will provide funding to support construction, and Indigenous Services Canada will fund ongoing operations and prevention programming. In January 2021, the Government of Canada announced its commitment to fund shelters for Inuit women and children. This funding is part of the Comprehensive Violence Prevention Strategy.
The Family Violence Prevention Program seeks to improve the safety and security of Indigenous women, children and families. To do so, it funds the day-to-day operations of a network of shelters that provides services for Indigenous women and children, families and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people across Canada, including in the North, in urban centres, on reserve in provinces, and in Yukon. There is an annual budget varying from $39 million (2019-2020) to $87.6 million (2021-2022). The shelters are a vital place of refuge for women and their children, helping them leave violence and obtain education and support to prevent future violence. Through the Comprehensive Violence Prevention Strategy, the program will support nearly 100 shelters and 50 transition (second stage) homes across Canada.
The Family Violence Prevention Program also:
- supports awareness activities and projects that provide families and communities with tools to address violence. This includes treatment and intervention, culturally sensitive services (including Elder and traditional teachings) and awareness and self-development projects. Furthermore, the Program provides core funding to the National Aboriginal Circle against Family Violence to fulfill its role as a national coordinator in supporting shelters and their staff through training fora, prevention activities, research and collaboration with key partners. It also supports Métis engagement on assessing shelter needs and community prevention projects to raise awareness and support Métis women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people; and,
- contributes toward the Moose Hide Campaign, which raises awareness and engages men and boys in ending violence against Indigenous women and girls.
Addressing GBV against First Nations, Inuit, Métis Women and Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People
In a response to one of the Calls for Justice, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and Statistics Canada committed in July 2020 to work with the policing community and key organizations to enable police to report statistics on Indigenous and ethno-cultural groups in police-reported crime statistics on victims and accused persons.
Statistics Canada and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police know that the demand for this information has never been greater.
Source: Statistics Canada: https://www.statcan.gc.ca/eng/about/smr09/smr09_106
“Reclaiming Power and Place,” the two-volume Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, was released on June 3, 2019. It details the colonial underpinnings of the systemic racism, oppression, and discrimination that many First Nations, Inuit and Métis women and girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people have faced and continue to experience.
The results of the 2018 SSPPS show that, among people living in Canadian provinces, Indigenous women (55%) and men (55%) were significantly more likely to have been sexually or physically assaulted since age 15 than non-Indigenous women (38%) and men (35%).Footnote 18 Among “sexual minorities”, those who were Indigenous were also more likely to have experienced a sexual assault (65%) and a physical assault (73%) since age 15 than non-Indigenous “sexual minorities” (37% and 45%, respectively).Footnote 19
In response to the National Inquiry’s interim report, Women and Gender Equality Canada launched the Commemoration Fund in February 2019. Because commemoration is a powerful way to honour truths, support healing, create awareness, and advance reconciliation, the Government invested over $13 million in more than 100 commemoration initiatives from coast to coast to coast to help honour the lives and legacies of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, including 2SLGBTQQIA+ people. A few notable projects include the following:
- Women and Gender Equality Canada invested $459,403 to support an Eagle Vision project to raise awareness about and honour the lives and legacies of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ p This project includes the development of a podcast series based on televised episodes of “Taken”, which tell the personal stories of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people through interviews with loved ones, community leaders, elders, experts, and law enforcement. The podcast shares the stories and uncovers the truth behind some of Canada’s unresolved cases and has helped communities move forward to focus on healing and reconciliation. At the project’s completion, the Taken podcasts, which are available in both Cree and English, reached 609,128 Canadians and were played 1,419,302 times. Numerous testimonials from Canadians on social media reflected the profound effect of the podcast.
- Women and Gender Equality Canada also invested $495,081 in a 20-month project by the Legacy of Hope Foundation to raise awareness and honour the lives and legacies of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ This project included a virtual National Exhibition Launch Event, a national gathering of families of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people, a national travelling exhibition, and an accompanying activity guide on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people.
National Action Plan to End Violence Against Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People
In response to the Calls for Justice in the National Inquiry’s Final Report, the Government of Canada committed to working in collaboration with families and survivors, Indigenous leaders, and provinces and territories to develop a National Action Plan to Eliminate Violence Against Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People. Women and Gender Equality Canada, with a mandate to develop a National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence, is collaborating with Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs to ensure complementarity and alignment between the two national action plans.
Starting in December 2019, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs funded several national and regional Indigenous organizations to help facilitate community engagement to identify, short-, medium- and long-term priority Calls for Justice, as well as wise and promising practices that directly address the disproportionate violence experienced by Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people. Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs worked with Indigenous partners, provinces, territories, and other federal government departments throughout 2020-2021 to facilitate the development of the MMIWG and 2SLGBTQQIA+ National Action Plan. Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs has also been working with the provinces and territories via a Federal-Provincial-Territorial Working Group on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls to ensure cooperation and complementarity between different jurisdictional responses to the National Inquiry’s Final Report.
Through the Federal Victims Strategy, Justice Canada has made funding and policy support available to provincial and territorial governments and Indigenous organizations since 2016 to support the design and delivery of Family Information Liaison Units and Indigenous-led community-based programs to provide culturally grounded services and supports for family members of missing or murdered Indigenous women and girls across Canada. The Units represent a new and unique model of service for family members; one that contributes to access to justice by ensuring a culturally grounded and trauma-informed team made up of “navigators” who actively work with government institutions and agencies on behalf of family members to obtain the information they are seeking about what happened to their missing or murdered loved one. The Units were established in response to concerns raised by family members about the ongoing structural and systemic difficulties they experience in accessing information from government agencies about their missing or murdered loved one. For many family members, the information has been unavailable or inaccessible due to factors such as the historical nature of the event, the geographic distance between family members and where their loved one was murdered or went missing, and/or systemic barriers.
In addition to the Family Information Liaison Units, Justice Canada also provides funding for aligned and complementary community-based initiatives and activities designed and delivered by Indigenous community organizations to provide direct support and assistance to family members. Building on the knowledge and experience of Indigenous communities and agencies that have been advancing this critical work in support of families for decades, this funding supports family-centred activities such as healing circles; sharing circles; cultural ceremonies and sweats; land-based healing events; trauma and grief workshops on loss; family gatherings; community events at sacred sites; and, individual and group counselling with Elders and western-based counsellors.
Funding for these Justice Canada initiatives continues until March 31, 2023.
Pillar 3: A Responsive Justice System
The Canadian justice legal system is guided by the rule of law, the protection of victims, and respect for the rights of the accused. Yet, for many victims and survivors of GBV, reporting their victimization to the police and testifying in court can be a traumatic experience, and even more so if the victim or survivor identifies as an Indigenous person, a racialized person, a person with disabilities, a 2SLGBTQI+ person, or if they are a newcomer to Canada.
According to the 2014 General Social Survey on Canadians’ Safety (Victimization), only one in twenty (5%) sexual assaults in the year preceding the survey were reported to the police.Footnote 20 Among the reasons provided by victims and survivors for not informing police that they had been sexually assaulted, 45% said they did not want the hassle of dealing with the police, 43% thought the police would not have considered the incident important enough, 40% thought the offender would not be convicted or adequately punished, 34% feared or did not want the hassle of dealing with the court process, and 26% thought that the police would not have been efficient or effective.Footnote 21 More recent results from the SSPPS show similar results, with only 5% of women living in the provinces indicating that the police found out about their most serious incident of sexual assault experienced in the 12 months preceding the survey.Footnote 22 Victims and survivors of spousal violence often experience similar concerns when considering reporting abuse to the police. According to the 2014 General Social Survey on Canadians’ Safety (Victimization), only 18.8% of those who had experienced spousal violence in the previous five years reported it to the police. Another 10.2% said that the police found out about the violence in another way (e.g., a neighbour calling in the disturbance).
Stakeholders have consistently advocated for more information to be provided to victims and survivors, and for them to be given meaningful opportunities to engage in the criminal justice process. A justice system that inspires confidence may encourage victims and survivors to report more readily and feel more comfortable in navigating through the process.
While there have been advances to improve the criminal justice system for victims, such as amendments to criminal laws and increased awareness and training about the needs of victims and survivors of GBV, there is still room for improvement.
Strengthening Legislative Approaches
A responsive justice system also involves amending and passing new legislation when necessary. Several bills were introduced or enacted in 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 to continue to strengthen the legal and justice system’s responses to GBV.
Bill C-75: An Act to Amend the Criminal Code, Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
The former Bill C-75 (the Act) received Royal Assent on June 21, 2019. The amendments contained in the Act work to enhance victim safety and toughen criminal laws in the context of intimate partner violence by: creating a reverse onus at bail for accused charged with intimate partner violence who have prior convictions for this type of violence; clarifying that abusing a current or former partner in the commission of an offence is an aggravating factor for sentencing; and, allowing for higher penalties in cases involving repeat offenders of intimate partner violence. The Bill also included amendments that will facilitate human trafficking prosecutions.
Bill C-65: An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (harassment and violence), the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1
The former Bill C-65 was given Royal Assent in 2018 and strengthens provisions in the Canada Labour Code by putting in place one comprehensive approach that takes all forms of harassment and violence into consideration. It also expands the coverage of the Code to include parliamentary workplaces. With the new regulations that came into force on January 1, 2021, employers need to take action to prevent and protect their employees against harassment and violence, respond to incidents when they do occur and offer support to affected employees. They are also required to investigate, record and report all occurrences of harassment and violence.
Improving the System’s Responses to Family Violence
Family violence can cause, contribute to or be a consequence of the breakdown of a relationship. Separation and divorce can exacerbate an already violent relationship, and the period following separation is a time of heightened risk for escalating and sometimes lethal violence. Children may also be at an increased risk of experiencing family violence during and after separation and divorce.
While all members of a family can experience family violence, women are significantly more likely than men to:
- suffer more serious types of violence and more serious injuries
- be victims of coercive controlling violence, which increases the risk of post-separation violence, including against children
- report fearing for their lives as a result of post-separation violence
- be killed by a former partner
The Government of Canada is taking several steps to improve family justice system responses to family violence. These include introducing amendments to the Divorce Act to address family violence. These amendments were enacted through former Bill C-78 and came into force on March 1, 2021.
For the purposes of the Divorce Act, family violence is defined as conduct that is violent or threatening, that constitutes a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour, or that causes a family member to fear for their own safety or for the safety of another person. Within this definition, family violence includes physical, sexual, psychological, and financial abuse; harassment and stalking; and threats to kill or harm an animal or to damage property or causing that harm. In the case of a child, it also includes direct or indirect exposure to family violence. Behaviour does not have to be a criminal offence to be considered family violence under the Divorce Act. The amended Divorce Act requires judges to consider the impacts of family violence on the best interests of the child when determining parenting arrangements and sets out specific family violence factors that judges must consider.
The Government is also developing new resources on family law and family violence, including free online training for legal advisers, a toolkit to help legal advisors identify and respond to family violence in family law cases, and public legal education and information materials. In addition, through the Canadian Family Justice Fund, the Government provided funding to 12 public legal education and information organizations across the country to update materials to reflect the Divorce Act amendments.
As a partner to the Public Health Agency of Canada-led Family Violence Initiative, the RCMP receives annual funding for distribution to non-profit community organizations as well as municipal, provincial and territorial partners to support communities in responding to family violence. The RCMP Family Violence Initiative Fund aims to foster prevention efforts in communities, sponsor conferences, seminars, presentations or workshops that help promote public awareness about relationship and family violence, and support activities that assist victims of family and relationship violence, and initiatives that promote training for Sexual Assault Investigators.
Since 2004, the RCMP has helped fund nearly 450 initiatives in communities across Canada to assist:
- Crime prevention in communities
- Public awareness of relationship and family violence through conferences, seminars, presentations, or workshops
- Victims of crime
- Training of sexual assault investigators
- RCMP law enforcement and prevention programs
Several examples of recent initiatives supported by the Family Violence Initiative include community safety plans, health and wellness cultural experiences for communities, violence and/or healthy relationship awareness campaigns that highlight available resources in the community, restorative justice cultural training for frontline workers, and Intimate Partner Violence/Domestic Violence survivor safety kits.
Cultural Awareness and Humility Training
The design of the RCMP’s Cultural Awareness and Humility course was completed and piloted early in 2020. The Commissioner of the RCMP deemed the online training to be mandatory for all RCMP employees in October 2020. As of March 31, 2021, over 17,000 RCMP employees have completed the training. The course is designed to increase knowledge, enhance self-awareness, and strengthen the skills of RCMP employees and other Canadian law enforcement who work directly and indirectly with different cultures. The two-hour online product presents terminology, diversity, aspects of history and background information for understanding social disparities and inequities from Canadian multicultural and Indigenous perspectives.
The RCMP has shared the course with Canada’s other policing and security agencies via the Canadian Police Knowledge Network online portal. This is an important development as the other major Metropolitan policing agencies provide local policing services to the majority of the Canadian population.
Each year, the RCMP issues an official call for applications that provides funding opportunities in collaboration with local RCMP detachments.
Preventing and Addressing Gender-based Harassment and Discrimination in the RCMP
The RCMP’s “Vision 150 and Beyond,” the organization’s current strategic plan, is a roadmap to prepare the RCMP for the future and advance its modernization agenda.
Ensuring a safe and equitable workplace, free of harassment, violence, and discrimination is a key priority for RCMP modernization and reform. A number of critical reports on RCMP culture have reinforced that to prevent and address workplace harassment and discrimination, the RCMP needs to take a long-term approach that addresses not only wrongful behaviour, but also its root causes.
The RCMP is making progress in advancing a holistic long-term approach to broader organizational culture change, including by addressing the underlying factors contributing to harassment and discrimination, particularly for women and diverse groups of employees. Some notable examples of progress include:
- Addressing systemic barriers, by increasing GBA Plus capacity across all sectors of the organization, to identify and remove barriers for diverse groups of people in RCMP policies, programs and operations. Efforts are also underway to renew core values and set expectations for employee behaviour; and implement a new Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy.
- Modernizing recruitment and training, including promoting diversity and inclusion by improving the proactive recruiting program, piloting implicit bias testing, modernizing the screening entrance exam, and examining changes to the cadet training academy and curriculum.
- Strengthening leadership development, including the integration of Character Leadership, which emphasizes the importance of character and judgment, alongside skill, in recruitment, training and promotion processes.
The RCMP is making progress in addressing gender-based violence, harassment and discrimination, and will continue with its ambitious modernization agenda. Moving forward, the RCMP will explore systemic gender equality issues that are critical in preventing gender-based harassment and discrimination in the RCMP, including: backfilling employees on parental leave, and improving access to childcare, social and housing supports. Please visit the RCMP website for further details and progress on Vision 150, including initiatives to prevent and address harassment and discrimination.
The Federal Victims Strategy
Led by Justice Canada, the Federal Victims Strategy combines federal efforts to provide victims and survivors of crime with a more effective voice in the criminal justice system. The Federal Victims Strategy aims to improve the lives of all victims and survivors of crime in Canada and build the capacity of players and service providers within the criminal justice system. Under the Federal Victims Strategy, Justice Canada chairs the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Working Group on Victims of Crime, increases public awareness of victims’ and survivors’ issues, undertakes criminal law reform and policy development, and manages the Victims Fund.
Justice Canada hosts knowledge-building events, such as full-day Knowledge Exchanges, on issues like responding to violence against persons with disabilities, victims and survivors in restorative justice, and online webinars to raise awareness about victims’ and survivors’ issues and to build capacity among criminal justice professionals in supporting them. Justice Canada also leads Victims and Survivors of Crime Week, an annual outreach initiative that includes federal events, funding to non-governmental organizations to host local events, and national awards honouring outstanding service to victims and survivors of crime. Victims and Survivors of Crime Week 2019 took place from May 26 – June 1, 2019. The initiative included a federal in-person symposium, which took place in Fredericton, New Brunswick on May 27, 2019. One hundred and seventy-four people attended the 2019 event in-person, and 65 attended virtually, for a total of 239 participants. Victims and Survivors of Crime Week 2020 took place from November 22 – 28, 2020, and commemorated the 15th annual Victims Week, the 20th anniversary of the Federal Victims Strategy, and five years since the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights came into force. The 2020 initiative included a federal virtual launch event, to which 740 participants registered, representing viewers from five countries and 118 cities across the globe.
The Victims Fund is a grants and contributions program administered by Justice Canada to support projects and activities that encourage the development of new approaches, promote access to justice, improve the capacity of service providers, foster the establishment of referral networks and increase awareness about the services available to survivors of crime and their families. Through the Victims Fund, Justice Canada continues to fund projects that benefit victims of crime.
In 2019-2020 and 2020-2021, Justice Canada continued to fund the governments of Ontario, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador to deliver pilots on providing independent legal advice to victims of sexual assault. In 2019-2020, Justice Canada supported the government of Yukon to develop and implement a pilot independent legal advice program in their jurisdiction, bringing the total to five pilot sites across the country. In two of those pilots, Justice Canada also supported the expansion of services to include independent legal representation for victims of sexual assault in rape shield and third-party records proceedings. Preliminary reporting indicates that victims and survivors who utilize independent legal advice programs consider them a valuable and much-needed service.
Through the Victims Fund, Justice Canada has made over $13 million available between 2016 and 2021 to non-governmental organizations and to provincial and territorial governments to enhance the criminal justice system’s response to sexual assault. These resources continue to support the development and delivery of specialized training on the legal frameworks and unique dynamics inherent in sexual violence and intimate partner violence. They also support projects designed to enhance services and increase access to justice by victims and survivors of sexual assault. Justice Canada continues to make funding available on an ongoing basis for victims and survivors of sexual offences.
The Justice Partnership and Innovation Program
The Justice Partnership and Innovation Program is a discretionary grants and contributions programs that funds initiatives that respond to the changing conditions affecting Canadian justice policy in a number of areas related to family violence, human rights law, public law, private law, private international law, and Indigenous justice. The Program improves knowledge, understanding and skills, which leads to increased access to justice, in particular, for vulnerable populations.
Through the Justice Partnership and Innovation Program and Legal Aid Program, Justice Canada made available $10 million in contribution funding in 2020-21 to non-governmental organizations for the development and dissemination of public legal education and information outreach campaigns and the provision of free legal advice. The objective is to better inform workers, particularly those most vulnerable, about their rights, legal options and how they can access help if they have been sexually harassed in the workplace.
The Way Forward
Over the past four years, the federal GBV Strategy has greatly expanded knowledge, data, research, and collective action on GBV. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges, there have been strong, innovative responses by governments and communities across the country.
On January 22, 2021, at their 38th annual Conference, Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers responsible for the Status of Women endorsed the Ministerial Joint Declaration for a Canada free of Gender-Based Violence. Through this declaration, governments confirmed their common vision, principles, and goals for the development of a National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence.
This global health crisis is sobering but pushes us to be ready for the many challenges ahead, to act quickly and strategically, to listen and respond with compassion to victims and survivors, and to turn the vision of ending GBV and promoting gender equality – globally, nationally, locally and in our personal spaces of influence – into a reality. Women and Gender Equality Canada continues to work with federal partners, provinces and territories, Indigenous partners, service providers, victims and survivors, and experts to ensure that anyone facing GBV has reliable and timely access to protection and services, no matter where they live.
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