Chapter 2: Population-specific HIV/AIDS status report: Women - Demographic profile

Chapter 2 - Demographic Profile

The purpose of this chapter is to draw a demographic portrait of women in Canada. This chapter provides statistics on various population segments at particular risk for HIV infection, including women involved in sex work, women who use injection drugs, women in prison, and women in unstable housing and homeless women. The 2006 Statistics Canada Census served as a main reference, while other data were retrieved from academic and grey literature.

2.1 General Trends: 2006 Census of Population and Projected Growth

In 2006, the population of Canada was 31,612,897, an increase of 1,605,803 people since the 2001 Census [1]. Just over half of Canadians (51.04% or 16,136,925) were women or female children in 2006 [2].

2.2 Vital Health Indicators: Life Expectancy and Morbidity

Life expectancy in Canada is estimated at approximately 76 years for men and 81 years for women. Women’s life expectancy in Canada has consistently ranked among the top 10 of all Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) countries for several decades [3]. Although women tend to outlive men in Canada, women are more likely to experience chronic conditions and disability [4]. At the same time, senior women are more likely than men to live out their later years in povertyFootnote 6.

Morbidity can be commonly defined as “departure from an overall state of health” but often refers more specifically to the effects of illness, disease or injury in a population [3]. For the purposes of this section, morbidity relates to hospitalization rates, prevalence of chronic conditions, and disability. In 2000-2001, statistics reveal that hospitalization rates were higher among women than men. The most common causes of hospitalization for women are pregnancy and childbirth (which account for more than 50% of all hospitalizations among women between the ages of 20 and 44). However, when childbirth and pregnancy are excluded from the data, the gap in hospitalizations rates between men and women narrows [3].

The prevalence of having more than one reported chronic condition is greater among senior women than senior men, as 71% of senior women and 60% of senior men reported more than one chronic condition [3]. In addition, women who reported a disability were more likely to be in a lower income bracket, single with dependent children (or senior women), and have few social supports. This reveals a socio-economic gradient in health whereby women who live in poorer economic and social circumstances experience worse health than their more economically and socially affluent counterparts [5].

A phenomenon called the “healthy immigrant effect” occurs when recent immigrants (less than 10 years) experience better health than non-immigrants or established immigrants [6;7]. For instance, studies have shown that recent immigrants are less obese and overweight than established immigrants. This is often explained by the more sedentary lifestyle and “western” diet established immigrants tend to adopt [6]. Other factors, such as starting tobacco and alcohol use once in Canada, have been shown to erode immigrants’ health status over time [6]. While both immigrant men and women initially benefit from the “healthy immigrant effect”, data show that established immigrant women are more susceptible to mental health problems than their male counterparts [7].

2.3 Age

Canada’s female population continues to grow older, but it remains one of the youngest among the world’s developed nations. In 2001, the median age for women was 38.4 and 36.8 for men. The 2006 Census indicates that the median age has grown to 40.4 for women and 38.6 for men. Women make up a greater proportion of the 65 years and older age population category, representing 57.2% and 56.5% in 2001 and 2006 respectively. An examination of Canada’s youth population, defined as those between the ages of 10 and 24 yearsFootnote 7, reveals that 19.9% of the total Canadian population fell under this category in 2006 [2]. 

2.4 Mental Health

According to the 2002 Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS), fewer women than men reported having good mental health. For instance, although 69.0% of men and 65.1% of women who took part in the CCHS reported having very good or excellent mental health, 56.7% of women and 43.4% of men reported having either fair or poor mental health [9]. The CCHS also indicated that women are more likely than men to suffer from specific types of mental health disorders, including major depressive episodes (62.2% women vs. 37.8% men), panic disorders (66.6% vs. 33.3%), social anxiety disorder (58% vs. 42%), and agoraphobiaFootnote 8 (75.9% vs. 24.1%) [9].

The CCHS also revealed that women are more likely than men to suffer from specific types of mental health problemsFootnote 9. For example, women reported a greater likelihood of having suffered from eating disorders (84.9% women vs. 15.1% men). However, women reported less illicit drug dependence than men (0.5% of women 15 years and over reported this vs. 1.1% of men)Footnote 10 and less alcohol dependence than men (1.3% of women vs. 3.8% of men, 15 years and over) [9].

More women than men who participated in the CCHS reported having contacted support services for problems related to emotional or mental health or use of alcohol or drugs – 65.4% versus 34.5% [9]. However, women in the survey also reported being more likely than men to encounter barriers accessing mental health services due to accessibility issues, such as cost, lack of transportation, knowing how or where to get help, or issues such as childcare or scheduling (66.5% of women). Moreover, a greater proportion of women (62.9%) than men (37.1%) who took part in the survey reported acceptability issues as a barrier to accessing health servicesFootnote 11.

2.5 Aboriginal Identity: First Nations, Inuit and MétisFootnote 12

In 2001, almost half a million women (3% of the total female population) self-reported as being First Nations, Inuit or Métis [11]. The female Aboriginal population increased to 600,695 in 2006, representing about 52% of all Aboriginal peoples in Canada (and 3.7% of the total female population) [12]. Of the total female Aboriginal population, 359,975 (59.9%) identified as First Nations, 196,285 (32.7%) as Métis, and 25,460 (4.2%) as Inuit [12]. When comparing gender for each group, the ratio shows slightly less women than men in the Métis and Inuit populations. This trend runs opposite to the gender ratio seen among the general Canadian population where a slightly higher proportion of females to males is found.

The Aboriginal population is younger than the general population. In 2006, the median age for Aboriginal peoples was 27 years compared with 40 years for non-Aboriginal peoples [12]. Moreover, almost one third (29.8%) of Aboriginal peoples are less than 15 years of age, irrespective of gender, as compared to 17.3% of the general population. Aboriginal birth rates reflect this trend. From 1996 to 2001, the fertility rate of Aboriginal women was 2.6 children as compared to 1.5 for non-Aboriginal women [12].

Aboriginal women also give birth at a younger age than their non-Aboriginal counterparts. Data suggest that more than one quarter (27%) of off-reserve First Nations children less than 6 years had mothers between 15 and 24 years, as compared with 8% of non-Aboriginal children [13]. Data for Inuit and Métis children reveal the same trend [14]. The focus on larger families, the higher participation of other relatives in raising children [13] and women’s younger age at conception may account for increased fertility rates seen among Aboriginal women.; However, there are indications that Aboriginal women are more likely than non-Aboriginal women to be single parents. For instance, data from the 2006 Census showed that 41% of First Nations children were living with only one parent as compared with 13% of non-First Nations children. A similar trend is seen among Inuit (one quarter of children were living with one parent) and Métis (31% of children were living with one parent) populations[15].

2.6 Immigrant Population and Visible Minority Status

In 2006, the female immigrant population represented 20.3% of the country’s total female population [16]. Moreover, within the immigrant population, men and women were almost equally represented at 47.9% men and 52.1% women. These numbers coincide with the profile of the general Canadian population in which there are more females than males.

According to the same 2006 data, more women (32.4%) than men (23.3%) came to Canada under the family classFootnote 13category of immigration which requires sponsorship by a family member who is either a Canadian citizen or permanent resident living in Canada [17]. A breakdown of the family class category shows that 67.1% of women came to Canada as a spouse or partner as compared with 59.9% of men, while the remainder came to Canada as a parent or grandparent [17]. In addition, while more than half of the female immigrant population (51.2%) came to Canada under the economic classFootnote 14, a closer analysis reveals that within this category, 72.7% of women immigrated to Canada as a spouse or dependant of a principal applicant as compared to 47.7% of men [17]. This overrepresentation of women as spouses or dependants in both the family and economic classes is significant as it indicates that immigrant women are socially and economically dependent on their partners. Women’s social and economic dependence on partners is relevant to HIV vulnerability as this dependence may translate into women assuming subordinate positions within their relationships.Footnote 15

The 2006 Census Metropolitan Areas (CMA) data indicate that 68.9% of the total foreign-born female population who arrived between 2001 and 2006 resided in Toronto (40.6%), Montreal (14.4%), or Vancouver (13.9%) [16].

Data show that over half (54.7%) of individuals belonging to the immigrant female population self-identify as visible minority women. Women who self-identify as visible minority women make up 11.1% of the total female population [20]. In 2006, of those women who self-identify as visible minority women, 24.3% self-identified as Chinese, 24% self-identified as South Asian, and 15.7% self-identified as Black (15.7%) [20].

In the 2006 Census, more than half (52.2%) of Canada’s Black populationFootnote 16 self-identified as first generation immigrantsFootnote 17 (50.4% male/54.5% female). Recent Black immigrants, that is, those arriving between 2001 and 2006, accounted for 22.1% of the total Black population (23.5% male/20.8% female). In addition, the immigrant cohort of Canada’s Black population is older than the non-immigrant cohort as statistics reveal that more than half of Black immigrants are between 25 and 54 years of age (58.2% females vs. 58.0% males) while one-fifth are more than 55 years old (23.3% females/20.7% males). Of the non-immigrant Black population in Canada, more than half are less than 15 years of age (53.3% males vs. 55.2% females) and one-fifth are between 15 and 24 years of age (20.6% males vs. 21.3% females); consequently, three quarters of the non-immigrant Black population are less than 25 years old, irrespective of gender.

2.7 Language and Education

2.7.1 Official and Non-Official Languages

In 2006, over half (57.6%) of Canadian women reported English as their first language, followed by French (22.2%) and non-official languages (20.2%) [21]. Most women who reported a non-official language as their first language reported being knowledgeable in one of the official languages: three quarters (74.6%) of this group reported knowing English, 11.6% of this group reported knowing both official languages, and 4.0% of this group reported knowing French [21].

Allophones, whose first language is neither English nor French, are increasing in Canada as a result of immigration patterns, thereby reducing the proportion of individuals who report English or French as their first language. In the CMA, those who reported having a first language other than English or French represented 44% of the total population of Toronto, 41% of Vancouver and 22% of Montreal [21].

Of First Nations people, 7.9% identified an Aboriginal language as their first language (single response). First Nations people identifying an Aboriginal language as their first language varies greatly among First Nations people living on- and off-reserve: 66.6% of First Nations women living on-reserve and 61.7% of First Nations men living on-reserve identified an Aboriginal language as their first language, as compared with 38.3% of First Nations women living off-reserve and 33.4% of First Nations men living off-reserve [22].

2.7.2 Education

In examining the education levelsFootnote 18 of Canadian women and men, statistics reveal that equal numbers of women reported having attained either a college/trade diploma (26.7%) or high school education (26.7%), while a slightly larger number of men reported having attained a college/trade education (29.5%) [24] However, slightly more women (23.1%) than men (22.0%) reported having attained a university education (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Highest level of education, by sex, Canada

Reference: Census 2006, 20% Sample Data

Text Equivalent - Figure 1: Highest level of education, by sex, Canada

Figure 1 is a bar graph that shows the proportion of men and women who reported having attained less than high school, high school, college or trade diploma or university degree as their highest level of education as of 2006.

The graph shows that among women in 2006, 23.4% reported having attained less than a high school education, 26.7% reported having attained a high school education, 26.7% reported having attained a college or trade diploma and 23.1% reported having attained a university degree. Among men in 2006, 24.1% reported having attained less than a high school education, 24.3% reported having attained a high school education, 29.5% reported having attained either a college or trade diploma and 22.0% reported having attained a university degree

 

In comparing the education level of women by provinces/territories, the 2006 Census reveals that the highest education level attained by most women living in provinces or territories, except for British Columbia, Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut, is a trade or college degree. Nunavut (48.3%)Footnote 19, Newfoundland and Labrador (25.4%) and Northwest Territories (21.6%) have the highest proportion of women with less than a high school diploma. Yukon has the largest proportion of women with a post-secondary education, university and trade/college combined, (63.7%) while Nunavut has the lowest (41.3%). Newfoundland and Labrador (18.4%) and Nunavut (16.6%) have the lowest proportion of women with a university education. The most educated female populations in Canada reside in British Columbia and Ontario where 31.2% and 31.1% respectively reported having a university education [24].

Figure 2 cross tabulates education for various female populations, including Aboriginal, immigrant and Black populations. It illustrates that immigrant women are relatively well-educated. In 2006, 30.0% of immigrant women reported having a university education, as compared with 23.1% of the total female population. A closer examination reveals that close to two thirds (60.5%) of immigrant women received their university education outside Canada [26]. When looking at the distribution of Black immigrant women, data reveal that over one third (36.9%) of Black immigrant women had a college or trade education and more than one fifth (21.2%) of Black immigrant women had a university education [27]. However, Black non-immigrant women reported being less-educated than their immigrant counterparts and less-educated than the overall female population, as more than a quarter (28.0%) of Black non-immigrant women reported having less than a high school diploma or certificate [27]. In summary, more immigrant women reported having a university education than the general female population, while fewer Black non-immigrants reported having a college/trade or university education than their immigrant counterparts.

Aboriginal women reported having less education than the total female population. Statistics show that 41.2% of Aboriginal women reported having less than a high school diploma (compared to 23.4% of the total female population) [24]. In addition, a lower proportion (17.6%) of Aboriginal women reported having a university education as compared with the total female population (23.1%) [24]. Compared with other female populations identified in census data, fewer Aboriginal women reported having post-secondary education and more Aboriginal women reported not having finished high school.

Figure 2: Women within Aboriginal, Immigrant and Black Populations (≥15 yrs of age) by Highest Level of Education, Canada

Figure 2: Women within Aboriginal, Immigrant and Black Populations (≥15 yrs of age) by Highest Level of Education, Canada
Text Equivalent - Figure 2: Women within Aboriginal, Immigrant and Black Populations (≥15 yrs of age) by Highest Level of Education, Canada

Figure 2 is a bar graph that shows the proportion of women within the total population, and within the Aboriginal, Immigrant, Black immigrant and Black non-immigrant populations who reported having attained less than high school, high school, college or trade and university degree as their highest level of education by 2006.

In 2006, 23.4% of the total population of women reported having completed less than high school, compared to 41.2% of Aboriginal women, 23.3% of immigrant women, 19.4% of black immigrant women and 26.4% of black non-immigrant women. In that same year, 26.7% of the total population of women reported having completed high school, compared to 22.9% of Aboriginal women, 24.3% of immigrant women, 22.5% of black immigrant women and 28.0% of black non-immigrant women. Among the total population of women in 2006, 26.7% reported having completed college or a trade diploma, compared to 25.4% of Aboriginal women, 22.4% of immigrant women, 36.9% of black immigrant women and 25.5% of black non-immigrant women. In that same year, 23.1% of the total population of women reported having completed university, compared to 17.6% of Aboriginal women, 30.0% of immigrant women, 21.2% of immigrant women and 20.1% of black non-immigrant women

2.8 Labour Force Activity, Class of Worker, Work Activity

2.8.1 Labour Force Activity

Women are less represented in the labour force than are men. In 2006, 61.6% of women age 15 years and over reported participating in the labour force as compared with 72.3% of men [27]. These percentages decrease further when immigrant status is factored in, as only 55.8% of immigrant women and 69.2% of immigrant men reported participating in the labour force.

A higher proportion of Black immigrant women (67.8%) and immigrant men (77.5%) reported participating in the labour force as compared to the overall immigrant population and the general female population [27]. This trend also holds true for non-immigrant Black women, as 67.5% of non-immigrant Black women reported participating in the labour force. A closer look at data shows that, when cross-referencing Black Canadians’ education levels to their participation rate in the labour force, educated Black women are more likely to report participating in the labour force than less educated Black women, regardless of immigration statusFootnote 20.

Statistics on female labour force participation among people who identify as Aboriginal are comparable to rates among the general population. Statistics show that 59.2% of Aboriginal women in Canada participate in the labour force as compared with 61.7% of non-Aboriginal women [28]. Their participation is not affected by area of residence, since 60.2% of Aboriginal women in rural settings and 63.1% of Aboriginal women in urban centres participate in the labour forceFootnote 21. Statistics reveal, however, that less than half (48.7%) of on-reserve First Nations women participate in the labour force [28]. Moreover, when cross-referencing the participation rates of Aboriginal peoples in the labour force with level of education, data indicate that the more educated Aboriginal peoples are, the higher their participation rate in the labour market, irrespective of area of residence. Conversely, the less educated Aboriginal peoples are, the less likely they are to participate in the labour force.

2.8.2 Class of WorkerFootnote 22

Of the total female labour force, 91.0% reported being wage earners, 8.4% reported being self-employed and less than 1% (0.4%) reported being unpaid family workers [24]. When comparing gender, the self-employment category consisted of one-third (34.4%) women and two-thirds men (65.7%). This ratio is reversed in the unpaid family workers category (which includes individuals who work in a family business, on a farm or in a professional practice owned or operated by a related household member) where more women than men reported not being paid for their work (68.5% versus 31.5%) [24]. Women’s over-representation in the unpaid work category may contribute to an increased workload for women and an increased susceptibility to financial dependency. This is especially true if women are also involved in paid work or in other types of unpaid work (such as care for the elderly or children, housework or volunteer work).

2.8.3 Work Activity

In 2006, of the total employed female population, 19.4% of women reported working part-time while 80.6% reported working full-time [24] However, an examination of the part-time employment category by sex reveals that a higher proportion of part-time employees were women (70.8%) as opposed to men (29.2%).

When looking at the presence of children in a home in conjunction with female and male labour force activity, the 2006 Census reveals that rates of participation in the labour market differ between the sexes [29]. Women with children at home reported participating in the labour force at a rate of 72.8%, while men with children at home reported participating in the labour force at a rate of 87.5% [29].Further, women with children less than 6 years of age reported participating in the labour force at a lower rate (70.5%) than those with children over 6 years of age (74.0%). These data show that more women stay at home during childbearing years as compared to later years, thereby putting themselves in financially dependent relationships.

Further, an in-depth examination of data on households with children under 6 years of age reveals that younger women (15-24 years of age) are less represented in the labour force than older women (25-54 years of age), irrespective of whether they have a spouse (common-law or married) present or not [29]. These findings are important as they indicate that younger women with young children, who are more likely to be financially dependent, may be at higher risk of poverty than their older counterparts.

2.9 Income

In 2006, Canadian women earned less than their male counterparts. The Census reveals that in 2005 women earned an average employment incomeFootnote 23 of $28,073 as compared to $43,869 for men [24]. Data show that for part-time work, women’s average earnings in 2005 amounted to $18,211 as compared to $27,304 for men [24]. Women working full-time also earned less than men. In 2005, women employed full-time earned an average income of $41,331 as compared to $58,537 for men [24].

Data also show that some groups of women earn less than others. For example, Black women reported earning less than the overall immigrant women population, and Aboriginal women reported earning less than Black and immigrant women. Women who reported knowing neither English nor French also reported earning less than all other demographic categories identified.

In 2006, more women than men headed lone-parent families in Canada (in 2006, 80.1% of all lone-parent families were headed by a woman [24]). Data on lone-parent families with children under 18 years of age reveal that female lone-parent families experience lower income than male lone-parent families. For instance, in 2006, female lone-parent families reported income of $40,536, as compared to $60,221 reported by male lone-parent families [30]. Moreover, 32.2% of female lone-parent families identified having low income statusFootnote 24 as compared to 16.0% of male lone-parent families.

According to the Canadian Labour Congress, women are more disadvantaged than men in Employment Insurance (EI) programs because they follow different patterns of work over their life-course [31]. While a significant majority of women in Canada participate in paid employment, many take extended leave to care for children or others [31]. More women than men work part-time or in temporary employment, thereby reducing or excluding them from eligibility for EI. In 2006-2007, women who qualified for EI received an average benefit of $298 weekly as compared to $360 for men [31].

2.10 Lesbian and Bisexual Women

According to data from the 2003 and 2005 Canadian Community Health Survey, an estimated 346,000 Canadian adults (18 years+) self-identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual [32].Footnote 25 Within this cohort, 71,000 (20.5%) women self-identified as lesbian and 85,000 (24.6%) self-identify as bisexualFootnote 26. Further, compared to heterosexual and lesbian women, bisexual women are younger: 35.9% of bisexual women are between 18 and 24 years of age, while only 15.4% of heterosexual women and 10.5% of lesbian women [32] fall into this age category.

Figure 3: Marital Status by Sex, Canada

Figure 3: Marital Status by Sex, Canada
Text Equivalent - Figure 3: Marital Status by Sex, Canada

Figure 3 is a bar graph that shows the marital status of men and women in 2006. In total, the graph contains 10 bars. There is one bar for men and one bar for women, for each of five marital status categories: single (never married), legally married (not separated), separated but still legally married, divorced and widowed.

The graph shows that among men in 2006, 38.2% reported they were single and had never married, 49.4% reported they were legally married and not separated, 2.7% reported they were separated but still legally married, 7.2% reported they were divorced and 2.5% reported they were widowed. Among women in 2006, 31.8% reported they were single and had never married, 46.5% reported they were legally married and not separated, 3.2% reported they were separated but still legally married, 8.8% reported they were divorced and 9.7% reported they were widowed

2.11 Relationships

When looking at marital status by sex (Figure 3, includes same-sex couples), data reveal that, in 2006, close to half of the total female (46.5%) and male (49.4%) populations reported being legally married (not separated), while another 38.2% of women and 31.8% of men reported being single (never married) [24]. Further, 7.2% of women and 8.8% of men reported being divorced, 2.7% of women and 3.2% of men reported being separated but still legally married, and 2.5% of women and 9.7% of men reported being widowed [24].

Census data reveal that married-couple families have seen a slight decrease from 70.5% in 2001 down to 68.6% in 2006, while the proportion of common-law families has seen a slight increase from 15.7% in 2001 to 15.9% in 2006 [24].

2.12 Women Involved in Sex Work

The number of women involved in sex work is hard to quantify, as statistics on sex workers are not kept. Many studies have attempted to quantify this population, but official numbers are unavailable. Canadian criminal and municipal law affects sex workers’ working conditions. Laws related to sex work limit sex workers’ choices concerning their work and drive the trade underground [33-36]. As a result, it is difficult to satisfactorily determine the exact number of women involved in sex work.

Other difficulties in estimating the number of sex workers come from the complexities of defining this population. For example, the “Venus Project”, an intervention program for female sex workers, located in Laval, Québec, includes in its definition of sex workers anyone who earns her living by providing sexual services such as street prostitution, escort services, exotic/erotic dancing, or other types of performance [37]. Given that sex services extend to many forms of activities, this definition may be expanded to include sex for money, food, alcohol and drugs [38-40].

For the purposes of this report, which looks exclusively at women involved in sex work, sex work is defined as any transaction involving money, goods or favours (including rent or protection) for sexual services, either regularly or occasionally, formally or informally, and, where individuals may or may not define the transaction as sex work. Sex work includes a variety of activities, including exotic/erotic dancing, phone sex, webcam porn/sex, acting in pornography, hustling, escorting, erotic massages and prostitution. Women involved in sex work may work in formal settings, such as brothels, nightclubs and massage parlours, or informal street-based settings. While some women freely choose sex work as their occupation, for others it is a survival strategy.

One of the limitations of this report is that peer-reviewed literature tends to focus on women involved in street-based or survival sex work and is localized. As a result, this report discusses sex workers with the strong caveat that research in this field cannot necessarily be extrapolated and applied to the various types of sex work in different regions across Canada. As described by Shannon et al [40], “sex work is a rational, economic strategy adopted by women to meet basic subsistence needs in the face of large scale social and structural inequities”. Many social and economic factors experienced by women involved in sex work contribute to these inequities and put them at a heightened risk of HIV infection.

2.13 Substance Use

Substance use entails the usage of various legal and illegal substances, including tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs (including injection and non-injection drugs), and volatile solventsFootnote 27 Regular usage of these substances over time creates dependence, resulting in harm for those who repeatedly consume them [41;42].

The Canadian Addiction Survey (2004), a study based on self-reported responses, attributes “the lifetime use of inhalants, heroin, steroids and drugs by injection [to] at about 1% or less” of the total Canadian population [43]. The survey further indicates that injection drug use varies between 1.1% to 2.2% for men and 0.4% to 0.8% for women. However, based on this survey, women are less likely than men to report the use of injection drugs, hallucinogens, cocaine, speed and ecstasy. Women are also less likely to report a lifetime usage of any of these drugs.

2.14 Women in Prison: Sentenced Custody and Custodial Remand

In Canada, persons charged with a crime can be remanded to custody prior to their case being heard by the court for the following reasons: if there is a risk they will not appear for their court date; if they are deemed to pose a danger to themselves or to others; or if detention is necessary to maintain confidence in the administration of justice (for example if the person charged is considered at risk to re-offend) [44]. Custodial remand is on the rise in various provinces and territories in CanadaFootnote 28. While fewer women are admitted to remand than men, statistics reveal that the rate at which women are remanded nevertheless increased from 10% (11,494) to 12% (15,640) between 2001/2002 and 2006/2007 [45]. Provincial and territorial correctional facilities house individuals serving sentences of less than two years. In 2006/2007, women made up 11% of the total adults admitted to sentenced custody in provincial and territorial facilities [45].

Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) reports that, in 2006, 401 (44%) women were federally incarcerated and 508 (56%) were on conditional release (N=909) [46]. Federally incarcerated women or those on conditional release were younger than the general female population [46;47]. Aboriginal women were over-represented in the federal correctional system, comprising 31% of the female incarcerated population, despite the fact that, according to 2006 Census data, Aboriginal peoples accounted for 3.7% of the overall Canadian female population. Black women were also over-represented in the federal system (comprising 5% of the female incarcerated population, despite the fact that, according to 2006 Census data, Black women accounted for 2.3% of the overall Canadian female population). In 2006, Caucasian women represented 57% of women who were federally incarcerated.

Over half (55%) of federally incarcerated women in 2006 were serving time for a violent offence, while 25% were serving time for drug-related offences (e.g., drug possession) [47].

2.15 Homeless Women and Unstable Housing

The United Nations uses the terms “homelessness” and “unstable housing” to describe certain states of living. The first term is absolute, refers to visibly unstable housing, and is used to describe people living “on the streets” with no physical shelter of their own [48]. The second term is relative, refers to hidden unstable housing, and is used to describe people living in spaces that do not meet minimum standards (minimum standards include access to clean water and sanitation, security, affordability, employment, education and health care) [48]. Unstable housing includes living in cars, sleeping in temporary beds in church basements or abandoned buildings, and sleeping on somebody's couch (“couch surfing”). People who experience unstable housing may include seniors on fixed incomes and adults with full-time jobs.

According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), in 2006 there were nearly 12 million Canadian households [49]. Of this total, 1.5 million (or 12.5%) households had core housing need for increased affordability, suitability and adequacy. This is significant because occupants of households with core housing need are at risk of homelessnessFootnote 29 In 2001, 12.7% of Canadian women lived in households with core housing need as compared to 10.3% of Canadian men [50]. The highest incidence of core housing need for women occurred in Northern areas, including Nunavut (46.6%), NWT (17.8%) and Yukon (17.8%), and in urban cities such as Toronto (18.3%), Vancouver (15.9%) and Ottawa (14.7%).

Research done by CMHC shows that women living alone (28.3%) and those living in lone-parent families (31.0%) had the highest incidence of core housing need [50]. Among those living alone, one third (33.3%) of women over the age of 65 and 39.4% of Aboriginal women had core housing need [50]. In addition, a comparison between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women living in lone-parent families reveals that the incidence of core housing need was higher among Aboriginal women (50.9%) than non-Aboriginal women (29.9%). Moreover, the study reveals that women-led households have lower incomes and spend a larger portion of their incomes on shelter costs. As a result, women from women-led households, especially those led by Aboriginal and senior females, are at increased risk of homelessness, as their core housing need is elevated.

E-SYS, an enhanced surveillance of Canadian street youth monitoring STIs, risk behaviours and determinants of health relating to Canadian street youth, reveals that between 1999 and 2003 more than one third of street-youth were female (1999: 38.3%, 2001: 43.5%, 2003: 37.1%) [51]. E-SYS data also indicate that female street youth tend to be younger than their male counterparts: in 1999,18.3 years vs. 19.3 years; in 2001, 18.6 years vs. 19.3 years; in 2003, 19.0 years vs. 20.1 years [51]. The data further indicate that female youth spend significantly less time on the streets than male youth. In addition, female youth were more likely than male youth to cite abuse as their primary reason for leaving home. E-SYS data also show that street youth’s main source of income differs by sex: more females than males report collecting social welfare, and fewer females than males reported regular or occasional work. Regarding ethnicity, E-SYS data identify one third of street youth as Aboriginal and less than two thirds as non-Aboriginal.

2.16 References

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