Sustainable Development Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16Footnote 1 aims to achieve peaceful, just and inclusive societies and is foundational to the achievement of all SDGs. People and communities can more easily engage in the actions needed to achieve the SDGs when they feel a sense of personal safety, enjoy fundamental freedoms and have opportunities to participate in public life. Furthermore, laws and regulations govern all aspects of life and help shape outcomes in people's lives. SDG 16 includes many longer-term goals including:

It addresses challenges such as terrorism, organized crime and corruption. By 2030, SDG 16 specifically aims to:

Canadian ambition for peace, justice and strong institutions

Canada's ambitionsFootnote 2 for SDG 16 are to ensure that everyone in Canada:

  • is safe and secure, in person and online
  • have equal access to justice
  • are supported by effective, accountable and inclusive institutions

A key focus of these efforts is to build a more inclusive society free from racism and discrimination.

Measuring Progress: the Canadian Indicator Framework

Canada's progress on meeting SDG targets is measured by the Canadian Indicator Framework (CIF) for the Sustainable Development Goals, developed by Statistics Canada in collaboration with federal departments and agencies. The CIF includes 76 indicators specific to Canada, which measure progress using a set of nationally relevant, objective and comprehensive indicators. CIF indicators for SDG 16 are:

  • proportion of people in Canada who reported feeling safe walking alone in their neighbourhood after dark
  • crime severity index
  • incidence of selected types of crime
  • incidence of cybercrime
  • criminal court case completion time
  • incarceration rate
  • proportion of the population with high levels of confidence in selected institutions

What we are doing to support peace, justice and inclusion in Canada

The Government of Canada fosters peaceful communities through major initiatives as varied as:

Other efforts are designed to promote a people-centred approach to access to justice that puts consideration of the individual at the heart of justice responses, whether in relation to modernizing the family justice system or supporting newcomers to Canada.

Canada's commitment to safe and peaceful communities is expressed through action and partnerships against gender-based violence. The federal strategy to end gender-based violence builds on current federal initiatives, coordinates existing programs, and lays the foundation for greater action on GBV. This has included providing additional funding to assist organizations such as women's shelters and sexual assault centres to deal with the impacts of COVID-19. Some activities also benefit children who have been the target of focused initiatives to address violence and sexual exploitation directed at them.

In partnership with the provinces and territories, the federal government launched the National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence in 2022. The Action Plan includes 5 pillars to guide cross-country efforts to end gender-based violence (GBV).

  1. Providing support for victims and their families through life-saving support and safe spaces, and delivering social, health, and community services that protect and empower victims and survivors.
  2. Preventing GBV by addressing its root causes.
  3. Supporting a responsive justice system to improve the experiences of victims and survivors.
  4. Implementing Indigenous-led approaches.
  5. Expanding social infrastructure and enabling environments as populations that experience socioeconomic inequities are at a greater risk of experiencing GBV.

More generally, the Government supports SDG 16 goals through the application of a Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA Plus) lens to federal initiatives to support the development of responsive and inclusive initiatives, including policies, programs, and other initiatives. The GBA Plus lens is applied when working on legal services, litigation, law reform, policy and program development, international agreements, research, communications, evaluation or other areas. This approach:

  • identifies existing barriers
  • improves access to justice
  • contributes to ensuring that everyone in Canada feels included, supported and safe

In this way, GBA Plus provides Canada with a robust policy tool to deliver on commitments and obligations including those contained in Section 2 of the Canadian Human Rights Act: "…all individuals should have an opportunity equal with other individuals… and to have their needs accommodated… without being hindered in or prevented from doing so by discriminatory practices based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, genetic characteristics, disability or conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered."

Diversity and inclusion are cornerstones of Canadian identity. They are also a source of social and economic strength. However, even in an open and diverse society like ours, we know very real challenges still exist. Through Canada's Anti-Racism Strategy 2019 to 2022, the Government of Canada sought to foster and promote an inclusive society where everyone is able to fully participate in the economic, cultural, social and political spheres. Achieving this vision was not only a way to build a better country, but it also addressed the human cost of systemic and individual racism and discrimination. The Strategy complements existing government efforts and programs aimed at eliminating inequities by focusing on 3 guiding principles:

  1. demonstrating federal leadership
  2. empowering communities
  3. building awareness and changing attitudes

In addition, the Government of Canada is developing a new Anti-Racism Strategy that builds on the foundations set in 2019 to 2022, as well as a new Action Plan on Combatting Hate. These initiatives build on the commitment to fight racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, and hate, and to promote the development of all people, including Indigenous persons, Black and racialized persons, and members of religious minorities.

The Government of Canada is committed to addressing systemic racism and discrimination to help ensure that everyone in Canada has access to equal treatment before and under the law. Canada's Black Justice Strategy aims to address anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination that has led to the overrepresentation of Black people in the criminal justice system. The development of Canada's Black Justice Strategy will help the Government respond to the United Nations' International Decade for the People of African Descent (2015 to 2024)'s call to action. The Framework for Canada's Black Justice Strategy, developed by an external Steering Group of Black experts and leaders to guide community consultations, has been released.

The Government of Canada's priority commitment to advance reconciliation and renew the relationship with Indigenous peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership, aligns with the aspirations of SDG 16. Measures to improve access to justice for Indigenous People take aim at systemic discrimination in the justice system, such as supporting engagement with Indigenous communities and organizations in the development of an Indigenous justice strategy to address systemic discrimination and the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the justice system.

Other measures enhance supports for culturally sensitive policing and safety in Indigenous communities. To help address the Calls for Justice outlined in the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People National Action Plan, which includes the Government of Canada's contribution, the Federal Pathway to Address Violence Against Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA + People, has been released. These initiatives reflect the broader Government of Canada commitment to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. These initiatives also support the implementation of Canada's responsibilities under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and under the UN Declaration Act.

The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of planned and well-managed migration policies for achieving peaceful and inclusive societies. Canada's national migration system includes temporary and permanent pathways to Canada for work, study, family unification, and protection. Ensuring that newcomers integrate and contribute to Canada's economy and communities remains a Government of Canada priority, recognizing that if such integration is not fostered, it can lead to tensions between migrant and host communities. To achieve this objective, Canada's settlement program provides support to newcomers to facilitate their migration transition period, learn English or French, find meaningful employment, and establish themselves in their welcoming communities. Information and orientation services focusing on Canadian laws, rights and responsibilities are provided to newcomers pre- and post-arrival, in support of a peaceful and inclusive society. These services are delivered in partnership with community organizations and other levels of government.

One of the strongest pillars for successful integration into Canadian life is achieving Canadian citizenship. Reflecting Canada's commitment to diversity and inclusion, the Government of Canada encourages all permanent residents to acquire Canadian citizenship and benefit from permanently belonging in Canadian society.

Mindful that inclusion extends to those contributing to Canada's economic and social well-being, the open work permit for vulnerable workers seeks to protect migrant workers with employer-specific work permits who are being abused or at risk of being abused in relation to their job in Canada.

As a champion country for the Global Compact for Migration, Canada has actively promoted the benefits of orderly, safe, and regular migration and mobility of people, as well as best practices for integration and social cohesion. Canada also funds initiatives that encourage balanced public narratives on migration and refugees, counter xenophobia and equip diverse stakeholders with resources to foster welcoming and inclusive communities.

For its part, the Court Challenges Program supports individuals and communities to exercise their right to bring before the courts test cases of national significance that aim to clarify and assert certain constitutional and quasi-constitutional official language rights and human rights.

In addition, the Government promotes transparency and empowerment through public legal education programs, which allow people to know and understand their rights. For newcomers to Canada, the Government funds information and orientation services. This aims, in part, to help them better understand Canadian values, our legal system and the realities of Indigenous people in Canada.

The importance of building strong institutions finds voice in Canada's commitment to the Open Government Partnership. Through Canada's 2022 to 2024 National Action Plan on Open Government, the Government of Canada is becoming more open, transparent and accountable to those it serves through its work related to:

  • climate change and sustainable growth
  • democracy and civic space
  • fiscal, financial and corporate transparency
  • justice
  • open data for results

The Government of Canada is also advancing openness and transparency through a series of key actions on access to information.

What Canada is doing to support peace, justice and inclusion abroad

The Government of Canada supports SDG 16 objectives and targets on peace, justice and inclusion through international assistance guided by Canada's Feminist International Assistance Policy. International assistance programming focused on inclusive governance includes:

  • promoting and protecting human rights
  • increasing equitable access to a functioning justice system
  • enhancing the full and meaningful participation of women and men, girls and boys in public life and national security sectors
  • ensuring that public services work for everyone

Canada implements its programming with multiple partners including by:

  • working with local human rights defenders, journalists, and media actors
  • supporting institutions and groups to advance the human rights of people living in the most marginalized conditions. This can include, but is not limited to, women and girls, persons with disabilities, ethnic minority groups, 2SLGBTQI+ people, Indigenous Peoples, and other groups living in poverty and/or marginalized conditions
  • working across traditional, informal, and customary legal systems, in justice and law enforcement and transitional justice processes
  • supporting public sector reform, public financial management, strengthening supreme audit and oversight institutions, domestic resource mobilization, and anti-corruption
  • building the capacity of partner states to prevent and respond to terrorism and criminality that could threaten Canada, Canadians, and Canadian interests at home and abroad
  • providing partners with training, mentoring and equipment for capacity building initiatives

Adopting a human rights-based approach helps ensure the fulfillment of Agenda 2030's commitment to "leave no one behind." Canada works to advance each of the 12 SDG 16 targets (United Nations Global Indicator Framework) in a way that:

  • advances gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in all their diversity
  • promotes diversity and inclusion
  • fosters openness, transparency and accountability

This also reflects Canada's commitments to the global Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda, which is at the heart of Canada's Feminist Foreign Policy. Canada's forthcoming third National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security includes commitments from 10 federal partners. It focuses on strengthening efforts to promote and support women's and girls' full and active participation in all peace and security efforts, protecting their human rights, and ensuring they have equal access to humanitarian and development assistance. The National Action Plan reflects Canada's commitment to sustain its role as a global leader on WPS, and to act with humility and determination in advancing WPS at home and abroad.

Canada has committed to developing a third Canadian National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.

Canada supports SDG 16's call to reduce violence and related deaths through support to UN peace operations, many of which include protection of civilian mandates. Canada is the 8th largest financial contributor to the UN's peace operations budget, with annual assessed contributions of approximately US $141 million, and is one of the largest providers of voluntary contributions to the UN Department of Peace Operations, including support for specialized training and the Women, Peace and Security agenda. Canada deploys military, police and civilian officials to UN missions. Canada also leads the multi-stakeholder Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations to increase the meaningful participation of police and military women deployed to UN missions.

The Government of Canada works with other countries and international organizations to advance a people-centred approach to justice and the realization of SDG 16 through partnerships including with:

  • the United Nations
  • the Commonwealth
  • the Organization of American States
  • the International Organization of La Francophonie
  • the Quintet and Five Eyes
  • the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

In May 2023, Canada was proud to advance a resolution on Equal Access to Justice for All, which was adopted by consensus by the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. Canada looks forward to the resolution's consideration by the United Nations General Assembly in late 2023 and to supporting its full implementation.

Similarly, Canada is active in international efforts such as the Global Partnership and Fund to End Violence Against Children. Canada is the leading donor on ending violence against children, with 11.3% of Canada's official development assistance contributing to programs to end violence against children.

Canada supports democracy, governance, and human rights in an inclusive manner through its international assistance programming, foreign policy advocacy and diplomacy activities. Democracy programming initiatives, such as the Promoting and Protecting Democracy Fund, and the Inclusive, Diversity and Human Rights Fund, strengthen democratic institutions, processes and participation, including from civil society, media, and marginalized persons. Canada is also playing a leadership role on the international stage to strengthen the resilience of democratic institutions by assuming the Presidency of the Community of Democracies in 2023.

Related links

Page details

Date modified: