A Year in Review 2017-2018

Canada's Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence

Message from the Minister

Today, I am proud to report on our progress to date — and recognize the tremendous efforts of communities and individuals — as we mark the first anniversary of It’s Time: Canada’s Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence (GBV).

In 2016, our government was mandated to develop and implement a GBV strategy. I am proud to say we have done just that. My predecessor, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, spent many months travelling from coast to coast to coast listening to Canadians — from academics and experts, to front-line service workers, to survivors themselves. What resulted was a whole-of-government approach to ending GBV informed by grassroots activism and feminist action.

In 2017, we officially launched the Strategy following Budget 2017, which announced $100.9 million over five years, and $20.7 million per year thereafter, to establish the first federal strategy of its kind in Canada. Since then we have been working to implement actions under the Strategy’s three pillars: prevention, support for survivors and their families, and promotion of responsive justice and legal systems. Examples of some of these actions include 40,000 pledges to end GBV; 4,000 new and repaired shelter beds across Canada; Criminal Code changes to clarify aspects of sexual assault law relating to consent, as well as intimate partner violence offenses; and launching the first ongoing national survey on GBV in Canada.

This year, Budget 2018 announced an additional $86 million over five years, and $20 million per year ongoing, to expand the Strategy. New investments will focus on preventing teen dating violence, enhancing and developing preventative bullying and cyber bullying initiatives, equipping health professionals to provide appropriate care to victims, among other actions.

As we move forward, I wish to thank everyone who has contributed — and continues to dedicate their time and energy — to ending GBV in Canada. This includes the hard work of the members of my Advisory Council on the Strategy to Prevent and Address GBV. As we embark on the next year, I remain grateful to the many ardent activists and advocates on the frontlines and look forward to continuing to work together to put a stop to GBV in Canada.

The Honourable Maryam Monsef, P.C., M.P.

A Year in Review 2017-2018

In 2017, the Government of Canada launched It’s Time: Canada’s Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence. The Strategy became the first in Canadian history to put in place a federal action plan to end gender-based violence (GBV).

The Strategy is a whole-of-government approach to prevent and address GBV—a term used to describe violence directed at individuals because of their gender, gender identity or perceived gender—that builds on federal initiatives already underway and coordinating existing programs.

Pillar I: Prevention

GBV grows out of a culture that devalues women, girls and femininity, and holds misinformed views about other diverse populations including LGBTQ2 community members. Things such as sexist jokes, derogatory language and media messages that objectify women and girls further perpetuate these problematic beliefs.

With this in mind, adolescence is a key time to provide young people with the knowledge and skills to develop healthy relationships that are free from violence and abuse—especially when we consider that nearly half (47%) of all sexual assaults are committed against young women aged 15 to 24. Footnote 1 It starts with creating spaces for these conversations to take place, as well as raising awareness about the kinds of attitudes and behaviours that need to change.

Getting to the root of, and eliminating, GBV is a long-term process. This year, in the effort to support positive social change, discussions with youth helped to provide direction for a national conversation to raise awareness about GBV. These discussions will help to guide the priorities and actions of the GBV Strategy, and ensure that the voices of Canada’s future—its young people—are heard and respected.


In November 2017, Status of Women Canada (SWC) successfully partnered with the Canadian Football League to engage thousands of Canadians to act to end GBV. The Minister of Status of Women joined players from the League to launch the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence at a local high school in Ottawa to raise awareness about the importance of bystander intervention. Forty-thousand pledges to end GBV were collected over the course of the 16 Days.

Youth Pulse

In early 2017, members of the Prime Minister’s Youth Council provided advice to SWC on themes for and ways of engaging youth in a conversation to change attitudes on GBV.

Pillar II: Support for survivors and their families

Over the course of the last year, many survivors have come forward to share their stories about their personal experiences with GBV—including the families who participated in the community hearings/statement gatherings of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. It has been a period of change marked by the supreme courage of these individuals in telling their stories.

The families of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, as well as the MeToo movement, have highlighted the need for improved supports for survivors and their families, as well as service providers, to better meet the diverse needs of various populations who have experienced GBV. As a result of recent disclosures, some sexual assault centres and other community organizations have seen a sharp uptake in demand for services.

Experts and stakeholders have been vocal about how the increase in demand has created additional challenges in terms of capacity and resources—something the Strategy has sought to address with the latest call for concepts under SWC’s new GBV Program. The Promising Practices to Support Survivors and their Families call created a funding opportunity that is more accessible and sustainable for organizations than the traditional call for proposals. The solicitation process includes two-stages, whereby applicants who are successful in the concept stage will receive a small funding grant for the development of a full proposal. Eligible organizations can receive up to $1 million over five years for full project implementation.

Knowing that some populations living in Canada experience disproportionate levels of violence and face greater challenges to accessing services, the Strategy places survivors at its center. The Strategy is working with stakeholders to respond to and support the unique needs of survivors, including Indigenous women and their communities, and other underrepresented populations, such as those who are more at risk of GBV and/or are facing barriers to accessing services. These include, but are not limited to: children and youth, ethno-cultural women, LGBTQ2 communities and non-binary people, non-status/refugee/newcomer women, seniors, women living in an official language minority community, women living in northern, rural and remote communities, and women living with a disability.

GBV Program Call for Concepts

"We are really happy to see that our advice is being heard and changes implemented in response. This new process will have a significant impact on many organisations and their ability to access much needed funding to identify gaps in supports for Indigenous and other underserved survivors and their families."

Nneka McGregor
Executive Director of WomenatthecentrE and member of the Minister’s Advisory Council on the Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence

Indigenous women and girls

On June 5, 2018, the Government of Canada announced that the Commissioners of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls have until April 30, 2019 to submit their final report. The Government is also taking action to address the interim recommendations of the National Inquiry by increasing health support and victim services, establishing a commemoration fund, funding organizations with expertise in law enforcement and policing to lead a review of police policies and practices concerning their relations with the Indigenous peoples they serve, as well as supporting an RCMP National Investigative Standards and Practices Unit with additional funding.

In the spirit of reconciliation, the Strategy continues to put forward a range of actions to specifically address violence against Indigenous women and girls. Actions this year included:

  • Indigenous Services Canada continued to collaborate with the CMHC to support the Budget 2016 commitment to expand the network of on-reserve shelters for those fleeing domestic violence. Planning and construction activities for new shelters in five different provinces have begun. These five additional shelters, anticipated to be completed by March 31, 2019, will be integrated into the existing network of 41 shelters serving women and children living on-reserve, bringing the total to 46.
  • The Blanket Exercise—a teaching tool to share the historic and contemporary relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada—was included by the RCMP in the training academy curriculum for all new officers.
  • Beginning in spring 2018, Status of Women Canada is engaging with Indigenous stakeholders to identify gaps and priorities for research on GBV among Indigenous peoples.
  • Status of Women Canada also established an Indigenous Women’s Circle on May 23, 2018, to advise Status of Women Canada’s actions on GBV among other issues.

Additional actions, such as the RCMP’s cultural competency training and results of SWC’s GBV Program call for concepts, are expected in year two of the Strategy.

Pillar III: Promoting responsive legal and justice systems

A negative experience with police and other justice system professionals can bring more trauma to survivors, and discourage others from reporting these crimes. With rates of some forms of GBV, notably sexual assault, remaining stubbornly unchanged from 2004 to 2014Footnote 1, it is clear that more needs to be done. There is room for improvements to the ways in which the legal and justice systems respond to GBV. To help reduce the incidence of GBV and increase survivors’ confidence in these systems, it is important to take the needs and experiences of survivors into account. This requires a shift towards more support for trauma-informed and culturally appropriate practices, and training and resources for a range of service providers and criminal justice system professionals.

Low reporting rates of sexual assaults across Canada remains a serious issue. For example, it is estimated that for every 100 sexual assaults in Canada, only five are reported to police (5%).Footnote 1 The Government continues to consult with experts on best practices to improve reporting in these cases, including efforts taken by law enforcement and community groups to work together to better support survivors of sexual violence. For example, members of the Advisory Council on the Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence have worked, and continue to work, alongside the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to provide valued input on the RCMP’s sexual assault review.

Improved tracking and reporting of sexual assaults

Status of Women Canada provided nearly $500,000 in funding to OCTEVAW to adapt the “Philadelphia Model” and pilot the approach in eleven Ontario communities, as well as seven in Atlantic and Western Canada. These projects will help in the tracking and reporting of sexual assaults by law enforcement authorities. The “Philadelphia Model” is a promising practice that involves experts from outside of law enforcement agencies being given secure access to police case files for review. This type of external case review allows the external experts to draw the police service’s attention to any worrying trends in their department’s investigation of sexual assault cases. Additionally, the Department of Justice, through its Victims Fund, provided $30,000 in funding to the Amelia Rising Sexual Assault Centre in North Bay who will work in collaboration with the North Bay Police Service to adapt the Philadelphia Model in that community.

Gender-Based Violence Knowledge Centre

When the GBV Knowledge Centre (KC) is launched in the fall of 2018, it will be the focal point of the Strategy and is responsible for coordination, data and research, reporting, and knowledge mobilization on GBV-related content.

To ensure that interested individuals, organizations and communities are able to access timely, relevant information and evidence, the KC will compile resources and research into a single platform. The KC will also provide a searchable online platform, which brings together existing data and evidence from a variety of sources about experiences of GBV and ways to prevent and address it, as well as links to government funding opportunities. After the KC is launched, it will continue to evolve, based on the ongoing feedback received from its users, as well as continue to expand to include more varied sources of information and tailored knowledge mobilization tools.

We need to understand the diverse experiences of people living in Canada who are experiencing or at risk of experiencing GBV in order to prevent and address it. While important work has been done to advance knowledge on GBV, there still remains data gaps on topics such as patterns of intimate partner violence, the experiences of diverse populations, and on issues such as female genital mutilation/cutting, technology-assisted violence and dating violence. Without this information, we remain unable to fill the necessary gaps in knowledge and support.

To fill these gaps, SWC is collaborating with Statistics Canada on three national surveys, which will result in much needed data and information on sexual harassment and gender-based violence in public and private spaces, post-secondary environments and workplaces. SWC is also developing its qualitative research agenda—to delve deeper into people’s lived experiences—, as well as exploring partnerships with Indigenous research and data collection organizations to establish and implement a plan to collect GBV data on reserve.

Moving forward

As the Strategy moves forward, it’s up to all of us to take hold of the incredible momentum and cultural shift underway. This is a unique opportunity to enact real change that will make a meaningful difference in the lives of diverse populations, including women and girls, both living in Canada and abroad. Most recently, Canada’s 2018 G7 Presidency worked actively to promote the rights of women and girls and address issues related to sexual and gender-based violence, particularly by ensuring unanimous G7 support for the Charlevoix Commitment to End Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, Abuse and Harassment in Digital Contexts, which focused on prevention, protection and prosecution of technology facilitated sexual and gender-based violence. Though there is still much work to be done, it is encouraging to see that action is being taken across various industries, sectors, and levels of government at home and on the world stage.

Canada has a long history of pushing for greater gender equality. From the suffragettes to the Indigenous women who spurred action to launch the National Inquiry, feminist action has played—and continues to play—a pivotal role in shaping our history. As we enter into year two of the Strategy, the Government will continue to work in partnership with frontline advocates and activists for greater awareness, greater action, and greater momentum to end GBV.

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