A year in review 2018-2019
Canada's Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada (2019)
ISSN 2562-7252

Women and Gender Equality Canada works to advance gender equality through an intersectional gendered lens. Working in partnership with key stakeholders, including civil society organizations, labour groups, the private sector, other orders of government, and First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples, the Department actively promotes the inclusion of all people in Canada’s economic, social, and political life. The Department for Women and Gender Equality works to uphold its mandate to advance gender equality by performing a central coordination function within the Government of Canada by developing and implementing policies, providing major funding of grants and contributions, delivering programs, investing in research, and providing advice to achieve equality for people of all genders, including women.

Alternative Format

Minister’s message

I am pleased to present the second annual report on It’s Time: Canada’s Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-based Violence, outlining our progress and latest achievements.

Gender-based violence (GBV) is one of the most pervasive, deadly and deeply-rooted human rights violations of our time. It's also preventable. That’s why, in 2017, the Government of Canada took action by launching the first ever federal strategy of its kind on gender-based violence, which takes a whole-of-government approach informed by grassroots activism and feminist action.

We’ve done this at a time when women, men, and people of all gender identities and expressions have stood together to say, #MeToo, #TimesUp, and ultimately, “enough” of the violence and harassment that so many people experience. A time when these instances of violence can—and often do—go unreported or risk being dismissed as “unfounded” when they are brought forward.

Minister Monsef

Ending GBV is a key Government of Canada priority. With the leadership and support of a feminist Prime Minister and Government, we have made concrete gains during the last two years to end GBV and protect those who are most vulnerable to it: women, girls, and LGBTQ2 individuals. Since 2017, we have undertaken research to strengthen our understanding of GBV and made changes to our laws to better define the impacts of family violence in the Divorce Act, clarify when consent can be given, enhance victim safety, toughen criminal laws on intimate partner violence, and ensure federally regulated sectors provide equal pay for equal work.

Under the strategy, we have committed over $200 million to expand and align federal efforts against GBV. Since 2017-18, over $80 million has been invested over 80 projects to prevent GBV and support diverse survivors and their families. We’ve done this while improving the way we fund organizations by offering longer-term, predictable, reliable funding for up to five years at a time, and with the additional support of an historic $100 million investment in capacity building for women’s organizations to ensure their work can continue and grow. For the first time in history, Budget 2019 also announced $20 million over two years to help address the unique needs and persisting disparities among LGBTQ2 Canadians by investing in capacity building and community-level work of Canadian LGBTQ2 service organizations.

Additionally, by collaborating across all levels of government, including with provincial and territorial governments and between multiple departments and agencies, we have pooled our resources to enhance our ability to support those affected by GBV in communities across Canada. This coordination and shared resources has resulted in significant gains in the work to prevent GBV.

Some of these notable collaborations have led us to develop specialized training for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; target cyberviolence; find solutions to prevent harassment in the workplace; and establish the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline. We’ve also taken steps to prevent teen dating violence; break down the intersectional risks to women living with disabilities; raise awareness of online child sexual exploitation and equip health and allied professionals to respond to GBV. Safer campuses are also at the forefront, with an advisory council of experts helping to draft a Framework to Address Gender-Based Violence in Post-Secondary Institutions.

The Government of Canada is also reinvesting in research so we can better understand how GBV takes root in the places we live, work, study and play, and how the most vulnerable become targets of violence. In December 2018, we launched the GBV Knowledge Centre, which includes an innovative online community and platform where information about GBV research and projects is compiled into a searchable database. The platform facilitates collaboration between thousands of voices in research, policy and advocacy to study and understand GBV and to share resources and best practices.

We have also heard from survivors about the critical importance of shelters and housing. At least 4,000 new or repaired shelter spaces are under construction as part of the Government of Canada’s National Housing Strategy to support survivors of GBV, and 5,800 shelter spaces were created and/or renovated through Budget 2016 investments in shelters and transition houses for victims of family violence. The Government has also committed that at least 33% of the National Housing Strategy investments will support projects that specifically target the unique needs of women, girls, and their families, such as targeted research on women’s housing needs, improved affordable housing options, and increased shelter space.

Nowhere do we feel GBV’s impact more sharply than in the loss of Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ2 people, who face the highest rates of violence. In 2016, the Government of Canada launched the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Throughout this painful but necessary process, we have taken early steps to address recommendations from the Inquiry, including by creating the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Commemoration Fund to support healing by honouring lost loved ones. With the presentation of the Inquiry’s final report on June 3, 2019, we remain committed to ending this national tragedy.

Public commemoration and engagement are powerful tools to promote healing. That’s why we continue to seek culturally relevant opportunities to highlight the urgency of eliminating gender-based violence. In June 2019, Canada hosted Women Deliver, one of the largest-ever global gatherings on gender equality. At that moment, we also announced a $300 million investment in The Equality Fund to support women’s rights organizations in Canada and around the world with partners that include the Canada Women’s Foundation and Community Foundations of Canada. Together, with these partners and many others, we are working to ensure the sustainability of the women’s movement so that the gains we make become enshrined in our future. But it’s not up to governments or civil society organizations alone: parents, teachers, employers, leaders in technology, journalists, and individuals from all walks of life can help reach this goal.

We have also partnered with the Canadian Football League to promote GBV awareness at sporting events, and engaged men and boys in consultations to include them in the conversation on gender inequality and GBV. And at the end of this year, we will mark a somber commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre in Montreal, where 14 women died simply for being women. Our actions matter, including our remembrance and reflection. We are all part of the change.

This year we have made many important strides towards ending gender-based violence, and I encourage everyone to explore the full breadth of activity captured within this annual report. But there is still much work to be done. I thank everyone who has helped and continues to help us in our efforts. In particular, thank you to the members of my Advisory Council, whose expert insights have been, and continue to be, indispensable to ensuring government policies and actions reflect and address the full range of complexities posed by GBV. Thank you also to colleagues across departments and partners across the country who continue to make this a focus of their work. The Government of Canada will remain a steadfast partner in this work.

Finally, I especially want to acknowledge and thank the many survivors and advocates for their courage and determination to end gender-based violence.

We know it will take time to reach our vision and create long-lasting change. But we will continue to work together because gender-based violence has no place in our society, and it’s well past the time for change.

The Honourable Maryam Monsef, P.C., M.P.
Minister of International Development and Minister for Women and Gender Equality

A Year in Review

In 2017, the Government of Canada launched It’s Time: Canada’s Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence, the first federal strategy of its kind.

The Strategy is a whole-of-government approach to ending GBV that coordinates all federal efforts and complements the work of provincial and territorial governments. Experts, advocates, and most importantly, survivors, continue to be consulted on its implementation and monitoring to ensure the Strategy remains responsive to the distinct and diverse needs of those affected by GBV, the majority of whom are women, girls and members of the LGBTQ2 community.

Over the past year, this whole-of-government collaborative approach has helped the Government of Canada meet survivors’ needs and strengthen access to necessary resources, including access to shelter and housing, health care, counselling, support within the legal and justice systems, education, employment, and information. Understanding the unique challenges for underserved, at-risk, and distinct populations—such as Indigenous women, youth, LGBTQ2 and military personnel, to name a few—has been a priority for the Government, subsequently resulting in the provision of creative and practical solutions to best serve these diverse communities.

It’s Time to Recognize - What is Gender-Based Violence?

Everyone has the right to live a life free from violence. But many Canadians across the country continue to face violence every day because of their gender, gender expression, gender identity or perceived gender. Experiencing any of these types of violence constitutes gender-based violence, which is a violation of human rights.

GBV can take many forms: cyber, physical, sexual, societal, psychological, emotional, and economic. Neglect, discrimination, and harassment can also be forms of GBV.

GBV is preventable!

This annual report is a record of the priorities, results, and achievements of the Strategy’s second year. It also reiterates the Government of Canada's commitment to the prevention and elimination of GBV. Last year resulted in additional resources to improve the Strategy and extend its reach. Budgets 2018 and 2019 reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to gender equality with investments that include the development of a government-wide Gender Results Framework to outline goals and to record progress and results, as well as providing increased access to gender and diversity research.

Formal reporting on performance measurement indicators and outcomes can be reviewed in the 2018-19 Departmental Plan. Readers may also refer to the 2017-18 Annual Report on the Strategy, which is posted on the GBV Knowledge Centre’s online platform.

GBV remains a significant barrier to achieving gender equality. In this annual report, you are invited to follow the progress made over the past year and see how solutions have begun to take root. Although GBV is far from being eliminated, the Government of Canada has signalled, through this Strategy, a lasting promise to deliver clear results and actions for much-needed change.

It’s Time to Acknowledge - Who is affected by Gender-Based Violence?

While violence affects people of all genders, ages, religions, cultures, ethnicities, geographic locations, and socio-economic backgrounds, some populations are more at risk of experiencing violence because of historic oppressions, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and ableism. Populations more at risk of GBV include women and girls, Indigenous Peoples, LGBTQ2 and gender non-binary people, racialized people, those living in northern, rural, and remote communities, persons with disabilities, newcomers to Canada, children, youth, and seniors. The intersection of any two or more risk factors compounds a person’s risk and vulnerability to violence.

The negative effects of GBV reach far beyond the individuals who directly experience it. Violence can have long-lasting and negative health, social and economic effects that span generations, often leading to cycles of violence and abuse within families and sometimes whole communities. GBV holds us all back.

To enhance and expand the GBV Strategy, the Government also committed additional investments in 2018 that focus on:

  • Preventing teen/youth dating violence;
  • Enhancing bullying and cyberbullying prevention initiatives;
  • Equipping health and allied providers with the trauma- and violence-informed care skills they need to help those affected by GBV;
  • Enhancing support to combat child sexual exploitation on the Internet;
  • Expanding the Gender-Based Violence Program through additional funding for organizations that support those at highest risk of experiencing violence;
  • Reviewing nearly 30,000 sexual assault cases that were classified as ‘unfounded’ within Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigations; and
  • Supporting Sexual Assault Centres near Canadian Armed Forces locations.

The Family Violence Initiative has been the federal government's main collaborative forum for addressing family violence since 1988. It brings together 15 partner departments and agencies to prevent and respond to family violence. With the creation of Canada's Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence, the same departments now meet and collaborate through mechanisms led by Women and Gender Equality Canada. The Family Violence Initiative continues to work on advancing shared objectives to prevent and respond to family violence through the efforts of multiple sectors.

The Government of Canada is not only committed to ending GBV domestically, but also to supporting projects around the world, including through the following initiatives largely funded by Global Affairs Canada through the Feminist International Assistance Policy: Enhanced Prevention and Intervention in Cases of Violence Against Women in Morocco, Sexual Violence Prevention in Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan and Reducing Impunity for Crimes of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Honduras.

Addressing GBV remains a key priority for the Government of Canada. While substantial progress has been made, there are ongoing concerns with increasing rates of online child sexual exploitation and other technology-facilitated violence; human trafficking, violence against Indigenous women and girls; violence and harassment against LGBTQ2, non-binary and racialized people; and violence against older women. Furthermore, we recognize the need to address and prevent the most extreme form of GBV perpetrated against women and girls, which is gender-based homicide.

The Government has concentrated its actions under the three pillars of the Strategy, namely, (1) preventing GBV, (2) supporting survivors and their families, and (3) promoting responsive legal and justice systems.

Only by working together will we succeed in ending GBV. Through the Strategy, the Government of Canada continues to build on work already under way and help set the foundation for change—because It’s Time.

In 2020, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) will mark the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA), which calls for action in twelve areas of critical concern, including violence against women. In 2019, Canada conducted a comprehensive national review of the progress made, and challenges encountered, in its implementation of the BPfA. Canada’s National Report, and those of other UN Member States, will feed into a global synthesis report that UN Women will present during the 64th Session of the UNCSW, taking place in March 2020. This meeting will be an opportunity for a global review and appraisal of the implementation of the BPfA, and for Member States to consider trends, achievements, and remaining gaps and challenges, to accelerate implantation at the national level.

Read Canada’s report online.

Gender budgeting is a foundational element of the Government’s efforts to improve equality in Canada. Although the Government has been using Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA+) in the development of policies and programs for over two decades, it has prioritized and reinvigorated this commitment in recent years. Changes put in place since 2015 are designed to ensure an ongoing focus on gender equality. The Government will continue to strive to improve the quality of data that informs GBA+ across departments.

The Canadian Gender Budgeting Act was passed by Parliament in December 2018, enshrining the Government’s commitment to decision-making that takes into consideration the impacts of policies on all Canadians in a budgetary context.

The Gender-Based Violence Knowledge Centre

The GBV Knowledge Centre acts as the focal point of It’s Time: Canada’s Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence (the Strategy) and is responsible for the coordination of the Strategy, research, reporting on progress, and knowledge mobilization. Coordination among federal departments and agencies and alignment with the initiatives of Provincial and Territorial governments is critical to the success of this whole-of-government federal Strategy.

The goal of the GBV Knowledge Centre is to be a trusted source for reliable data and knowledge products to support the evidence-based decisions required to prevent and address GBV. To this end, Canada needs high-quality, reliable and consistently collected data on GBV. This year, Women and Gender Equality Canada and Statistics Canada continued collaborating on three national surveys that will establish baselines of the prevalence of different forms of GBV within different populations, provide a deeper understanding of GBV in Canada, and measure tangible progress towards preventing and addressing GBV over time.

The Survey on Safety in Public and Private Spaces will provide a broad view of GBV in Canada. Data were collected in 2018, and will be released in the fall 2019.

The Survey on Individual Safety in the Postsecondary Student Population examines GBV in postsecondary school-related settings. Data for this survey are being collected in the provinces between February and June of 2019; a study examining the possibility of doing the same in the territories is in progress.

The Survey on Sexual Misconduct in the Workplace is in development and will help to provide a better understanding of GBV in the workplace. The survey will begin to collect data in 2020.

To truly understand the lived experiences of survivors and how to engage individuals and communities in efforts to end GBV, qualitative and policy research is also needed. Contracts were awarded this year to address specific research needs related to engaging men in advancing gender equality, and understanding female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in the Canadian context. To address a broader range of issues, a call was also launched this year for research proposals related to gender equality and GBV, including a specific interest in Indigenous-led and co-created research to help address needs identified by Indigenous communities. The Department is committed to working with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit partners to support community-driven, distinctions-based approaches to collecting data on GBV. For example, a feasibility study is under way with the First Nations Information Governance Centre regarding GBV research in First Nations communities.

Women and Gender Equality Canada is also engaging academics and other researchers to conduct data collection, analysis and knowledge synthesis to support the Strategy. For example, Women and Gender Equality Canada is leading public opinion research related to GBV and gender equality, which will provide baseline data that can inform public awareness initiatives as well as future research. These pioneering studies are helping us learn more than ever before about how people feel toward gender equality and GBV, and this unprecedented tracked data will give us a good picture about where we are now, where we should go, and in time, where we have come from as we measure our progress.

The First Nations Information Governance Centre is undertaking a feasibility analysis, on behalf of Women and Gender Equality Canada, to explore opportunities for conducting First Nations-led and co-created research on GBV within First Nations communities. This work will continue into the next fiscal year.

Another important function and focus of the GBV Knowledge Centre is to provide opportunities for researchers, stakeholders, and service providers working to end GBV to connect, share evidence, and access relevant and up-to-date information: this is what is referred to as “knowledge mobilization.” As part of the knowledge mobilization activities being undertaken by the GBV Knowledge Centre, in December 2018 Minister Monsef unveiled the GBV Knowledge Centre’s online platform. This online tool compiles resources and research into a single platform providing information on federal funding opportunities related to GBV and searchable databases that bring together existing data, evidence, and federal initiatives on GBV. The platform also includes key information and initiatives in provinces and territories, as well as information on resources available for those affected by GBV.

From its launch on December 10, 2018 to April 30, 2019, the online platform was visited close to 9,000 times. About half of the users accessed the platform through a search engine while the other half used direct referrals from other websites or social media channels. The three most-viewed pages were:

The GBV Knowledge Centre continually works to improve its ability to provide timely, relevant, and evidence-based information to those working to end GBV. Be sure to visit the online platform for federal funding calls, project announcements, and updated GBV information and research findings, and check back as the platform evolves even further in the months to come.

Visit the online platform.

Pillar I: Preventing gender-based violence

Prevention by addressing root causes and understanding risk factors is the most effective way to end GBV and its devastating effects. There are many forms of violence that require tailored solutions, including careful research and consideration of diverse needs.

GBV is primarily rooted in gender inequality and is greatly influenced by sexism, racism, classism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, colonialism, and other forms of oppression. It is further exacerbated by social and economic power imbalances, gender inequalities and outdated societal gender roles and norms.

Having conversations about gender equality, healthy relationships, and appropriate boundaries will help lay the foundation for preventing GBV, particularly among at-risk and vulnerable populations. Raising awareness about the causes and consequences of GBV, as well as what constitutes toxic behaviours and attitudes, will also help stop perpetuating beliefs that contribute to GBV.

Early prevention

Effective programs are needed to help families, children, youth, and adults, including men and boys, form respectful relationships throughout their lives. The links between child maltreatment and adult experiences of intimate partner violence are well established. In 2014, almost half of women who reported experiencing intimate partner violence in the past also reported being physically or sexually abused in childhood. Boys exposed to this type of violence are also more likely to be arrested for violent crimes in adolescence and adulthood.

The Government of Canada investments in this area include the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Preventing Child Maltreatment through Parenting Support Programs initiative, which funds organizations to help build the evidence base of “what works” in the prevention of child maltreatment. This initiative highlights programs that teach positive parenting, suggest alternatives to harsh discipline, encourage stronger family attachments, and promote parent-child involvement. McMaster University has received funding under this initiative to lead a project entitled Promoting Healthy Families: A Canadian Evaluation of Triple P – The Positive Parenting Program. Findings from this five-year project are expected in 2023.

Engaging children and youth

Further illustrating the need to understand the roots of violence, attitudes around gender equality are often formed during adolescence. To shape positive attitudes or counteract social ‘norms’ that tolerate violence, it is important to have conversations with youth. Youth awareness campaigns have been proven to be most effective when they are co-created, led by other young people, include social media, have sophisticated messaging, and resonate with lived experiences.

To foster conversations with youth, the Government has launched National Conversations on Gender Equality with Young Canadians. The initiative will engage youth in a dialogue about behaviours and attitudes that perpetuate gender inequalities and work with youth to develop ideas, solutions and actions to support social change towards a more inclusive society. The initiative has two streams, a national stream and an Indigenous stream, both of which will co-develop engagement strategies and activities with youth.

Adolescence is also a key time to provide young people with the knowledge and skills to develop healthy relationships that are free from violence and abuse. These skills and behaviours can pave the way for healthy relationships throughout life. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, there has been an increase in police-reported cases of sexual assaults where the perpetrator was a youth.

The Public Health Agency of Canada’s Preventing Teen/Youth Dating Violence initiative supports the development, delivery and testing of innovative programs to promote healthy relationships and prevent dating violence in both school and community settings. This investment will help to build an evidence base of effective programs by investing in intervention research to measure and assess changes in knowledge, attitudes and behaviours, while also identifying what works, for whom and in which settings. Through this initiative, the Public Health Agency of Canada provided funding to support 22 projects focused on preventing teen and youth dating violence in 2018-19.

Addressing technology’s role in gender-based violence

An increase in the use of technology has also correlated with an increase in technology-facilitated violence, including cyberbullying, cyberstalking, and online child sexual exploitation. Young girls and vulnerable populations are at higher risk of experiencing these types of violence as well as all other forms of violence. While work is being done to address these threats, there is a need for national awareness campaigns and opportunities to share knowledge so that frontline service providers have the tools and resources they need to address and prevent technology-facilitated violence.

Technology-facilitated violence, also referred to as cyberviolence, is the theme being addressed by Women and Gender Equality Canada’s National Youth Awareness Campaign. The campaign will engage partner organizations in activities and work with young people to bring attention to the complexity of issues around cyberviolence. The Campaign will be launched later in 2019 and will continue for the remainder of the Strategy.

Preventing violence on campuses across Canada

Addressing radical forms of violence

Strategy to Engage Men and Boys as Partners in Advancing Gender Equality

Gender inequality harms us all. Rigid gender roles, often imposed on children and continuing into adolescence, can result in stereotyping and unrealistic expectations for people of all genders.

The Government of Canada understands that advancing gender equality requires that everyone participate in challenging and changing harmful and biased attitudes and behaviours. That’s why, in Budget 2018, the Government announced $1.8 million over two years to develop a strategy to engage men and boys in advancing gender equality. Men and boys have a vital role in creating spaces that are free of discrimination and in helping to build a society where harassment and gender-based violence are no longer tolerated.

In summer 2018, Women and Gender Equality Canada held 12 roundtables across the country, bringing together over 200 participants, including women’s and other equality-seeking organizations, academics, community leaders and representatives of groups representing persons with disabilities, LGBTQ2 and gender non-binary individuals, seniors, Indigenous Peoples, racialized communities, students, youth, faith-based organizations, the private sector, and labour. Participants shared their experiences and insights on the challenges to engaging men and boys in gender equality, and best practices to promote inclusive attitudes and behaviours.

Women and Gender Equality Canada is currently exploring ways to address key gaps or expand best practices identified through roundtable discussions and inform the development of a strategy to engage men and boys in advancing gender equality.

Additionally, on February 7, 2019, the Minister of Public Safety launched a National Expert Committee on Radicalization to Violence. The committee members bring a diverse range of experiences and expertise from across Canada – including addressing GBV.

Systemic change and intersectional considerations

In order to keep up with the ever-evolving views and values of society and to address deeply-rooted barriers, there is an ongoing need for systemic changes, such as creating new laws, amending existing laws, and reviewing the way governments and decision makers develop policies and programs.

In 2018, the Government reaffirmed its commitment to GBA+ through a number of investments, including:

The first-ever Forum on GBA+ was held November 21 and 22, 2018, in Ottawa. The Forum allowed for online participation and drew more than 1,000 participants from federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments, the private sector, civil society, think tanks, academia, research institutions, and international stakeholders. The event provided an important opportunity to raise awareness, build capacity and contribute to the development of a national network of GBA+ professionals, stakeholders and institutions. A “What We Heard” report and excerpts from the plenary events of the GBA+ Forum are expected to be released in 2019.

In December 2018, legislation was passed for the agency known as Status of Women Canada to become a full department: Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE). This transformation formalizes the important roles of the former agency and its Minister. It also expands the Department’s official mandate to include the advancement of equality, including social, economic, and political equality, with respect to sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression. With the full weight and platform of a Department dedicated to the advancement of gender equality, the Government of Canada will be better able to advance this central priority through policies, programming, funding, and research.

The Gender Results Framework was introduced in Budget 2018 and represents the Government of Canada’s vision with respect to gender equality. It is a collaborative, whole-of government approach to measuring progress toward Canada’s gender equality goals by defining what is needed as well as determining how progress will be measured going forward in order to achieve equality. The federal government has identified six key areas where changes are required to advance gender equality, including:

When understanding the root causes of GBV, an intersectional analysis can also help assess risk factors to develop prevention, intervention, and/or support programs. While anyone can experience GBV, research has shown that there is an elevated risk for certain populations, including persons with disabilities. More than one in five Canadians over the age of 15 identifies as having a disability. The rate of sexual assault against persons with physical disabilities is approximately two times higher than those with no disability whereas the rate of sexual assault against individuals with an intellectual disability is even higher.

In response to recommendations from the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities regarding the intersectionality of discrimination faced by women and girls with disabilities, the Government of Canada’s Social Development Partnership Programs – Disability Component funded two projects:

On International Women’s Day, March 8, 2019, the Minister of International Development and the Minister for Women and Gender Equality, alongside the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, announced that the Government will invest $100 million under the Capacity-Building Fund in over 250 projects across Canada from women’s organizations and Indigenous organizations serving women.

One of these organizations is DAWN Canada, who will receive funding from 2019 to 2023 to help the organization advance research, education, and advocacy for women and girls with disabilities or who are Deaf or hearing impaired. It will also help the organization work more effectively with its networks and partners by transferring knowledge about intersecting issues that affect women and girls with disabilities and Deaf women and girls (or who are hearing impaired).

Human rights for all genders

Gender expression and gender identity have been identified as intersecting factors that increase a person’s vulnerability to violence. As illustrated by the 2015 Canadian Trans Youth Health Survey, over two thirds of transgendered youth have experienced discrimination or have been treated unfairly because of their gender identity. The Survey also found that over a third of respondents have reported being physically threatened or injured while in school.

Former Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, became law on June 19, 2017. This Act amends the Canadian Human Rights Act by adding “gender identity or expression” to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination and amended the Criminal Code to include violence motivated by a person’s gender identity or expression as a hate crime.

Addressing GBV in federal workplaces

Workplace violence is also on the rise. Following #MeToo, sexual assaults involving a perpetrator with a business relationship to the survivor (i.e. coworkers, service providers, patrons, and clients of public services) saw the biggest increase in police-reported incidents.

Pillar II: Supporting survivors and their families


There is an ongoing need to develop, enhance, and expand supports for all survivors of violence. That need is even greater among those who are already underserved by existing supports and/or face barriers to accessing those supports.

Bill C-86 became law on December 13, 2018. This new legislation provides five days of paid leave for victims of family violence working in a federally regulated sector (e.g., banking, air transportation, the federal Public Service, etc.).

As part of the Strategy, Women and Gender Equality Canada created the Gender-Based Violence Program in 2017 to support organizations working in the GBV sector to develop and implement promising practices to address gaps in supports for Indigenous women and other underserved survivors in Canada. However, interest in the Program far exceeded the available funds. As a result, the Government of Canada nearly doubled its investment into the GBV Program in 2018. To date, 55 projects have been funded, 30 of which are under way. The other projects will start in 2019-20.

The Federal Victims Strategy

The Federal Victims Strategy, led by Justice Canada, brings together federal efforts to provide survivors of crime a more effective voice in the criminal justice system. Through the Federal Victims Strategy, Justice Canada chairs the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Working Group on Victims of Crime, increases public awareness of survivors’ issues, undertakes criminal law reform and policy development, and manages the Victims Fund.

The Victims Fund is a grants and contributions program administered by Justice Canada that supports projects and activities encouraging the development of new approaches, promoting access to justice, improving the capacity of service providers, fostering the establishment of referral networks, and/or increasing awareness of services available to victims of crime and their families. In 2018, the Government of Canada invested an additional $2.1 million annually into the Victims Fund to increase funding for vulnerable victims of crime, specifically victims of human trafficking, victims of sexual offences, and child victims.

Addressing housing and shelter needs

To complement Canada’s Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence, the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking, with funding provided by Public Safety Canada, has launched the Canadian National Human Trafficking Hotline, an accessible, 24/7 hotline that offers multilingual, 365-days-a-year, toll-free service, referring callers to social services, such as housing and health services, as well as law enforcement.

Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-833-900-1010

The Hotline is able to field queries in more than 200 languages, and is also accessible to the Deaf, hard-of-hearing and non-verbal. Deaf and non-verbal hotline users should dial 711 in any province or territory, then ask the relay service to connect them with the main hotline number.

The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking has also designed a website for the hotline that is accessible to blind and visually impaired individuals. This website accepts tips as well as provides resources, including a national directory of social services, education and outreach materials, and statistics and research reports.

Systemic change

Service providers have expressed a need for guidance and training to help recognize the signs of violence, to engage safely and effectively, and to provide support that does not stigmatize or re-traumatize survivors.

Canadian service providers need support, so the Public Health Agency of Canada launched an initiative for the Training of Health and Allied Professionals. PREVNet (the Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network) has received funding for a project entitled Support Educators’ Capacity to Prevent Dating Violence and Promote Healthy Relationships through a Gender-Based Lens. The project will enhance educators’ capacity and competencies to prevent dating violence and promote healthy relationships by developing new training and resources, and by evaluating the effectiveness of different methods of disseminating this training. PREVNet will also establish a Community of Practice, focused on preventing teen/youth dating violence, to build relationships and exchange learnings and expertise.

Newcomers to Canada

Everyone in Canada has a right to live free from violence. It is important to promote awareness of Canadian laws, as well as provide information on rights and where and how to access supports to newcomers.

Through Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s Settlement Program, the Government of Canada supports and empowers newcomers to fully participate in the economic, social, cultural, and political life in Canada. The Settlement Program delivers targeted services for newcomer women and youth with place-based interventions and training for frontline settlement workers to assist in identifying violence and making appropriate referrals for newcomers, including those in smaller cities and rural communities.

Funded through the Strategy, the Enhance Settlement Program initiative provided funding to develop GBV prevention programming within the settlement sector across Canada. To date, the Settlement Program has:

Children and families

Online child sexual exploitation is one of today’s most pressing public safety issues. The volume of online child sexual abuse material is increasing and almost 80% of it depicts children under 12 years old. The majority of these children appears to be even younger (under 8 years old).

In response, the Government of Canada launched the National Strategy for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation on the Internet in 2004, which is a partnership between Public Safety Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Justice Canada and the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (C3P). C3P receives funding through this National Strategy to operate Cybertip.ca, the tip line where Canadians can report suspected online sexual exploitation of children.

Through the GBV Strategy, the Government of Canada further increased funding for C3P to help it expand Cybertip.ca’s capacity, maintain Project Arachnid, and develop C3P’s Victim Support Strategy.

Canadian Armed Forces members and families

Understanding the importance of families, the Department of National Defence is committed to having “well-supported, diverse, resilient people and families,” as part of Strong, Secure, Engaged: Canada’s Defence Policy. Through the GBV Strategy, funding was provided to the Department of National Defence to enhance Family Crisis Teams at Wings and Bases across Canada and abroad, to respond to GBV and support Canadian Armed Forces members and their families who may be affected by violence.

To date, funding has been provided to 26 Military Family Resource Centres across Canada and abroad. This funding was used to raise awareness of GBV and provide information on accessing supports, supporting LGBTQ2 children and youth, and providing workshops on technology safety in relationships and the impact of gender stereotypes. Family Crisis Team members received training on responding to sexual assault and family violence calls, the barriers faced by LGBTQ2 individuals when accessing supports and services, how to engage men to promote safety and well-being, and Dealing with Men’s Trauma.

"The Ottawa Inuit Children’s Centre appreciated the two-part application process, the developmental funds provided, and the flexibility in the timeline for the creation of the Project Implementation Plan. The support and feedback received from our contact [on the Department’s Gender-Based Violence Program team] was very helpful."

Ulrike Komaksiutiksak,
Director of Programs at the Ottawa Inuit Children’s Centre

Indigenous women and girls

Indigenous women in Canada are three times more likely to experience violence than non-Indigenous women. They face increased rates of discrimination and additional barriers to seeking supports, including from law enforcement. The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (the Inquiry) is an important step towards ending this national tragedy and addressing the higher rates of GBV experienced by Indigenous women and girls as well as LGBTQ and two-spirit people.

Receipt of the Inquiry’s Final Report

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 called for transformative legal and social changes to resolve the crisis that has devastated Indigenous communities across the country. The report delivered 231 individual Calls for Justice directed at governments, institutions, social service providers, industries and all Canadians. The Government of Canada acknowledges the tremendous courage and dedication of all involved in producing Reclaiming Power and Place, particularly the truths shared by survivors and their families, and will conduct a thorough review of this report as well as develop and implement a national action plan to address violence against Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ and two-spirit people.

Early responses to recommendations

Addressing the needs of Indigenous communities

In addition to the Inquiry, the Government of Canada has taken a number of actions that address the specific needs of Indigenous women, girls and LGBTQ2 individuals in relation to GBV, including the following initiatives:

Pillar III: Promoting responsive legal and justice systems

Improved investigations and increased accountability

In 2018, the Government of Canada further invested to expand the RCMP SART, complete the expanded file review, and provide accountability across the force for investigations. The funding also provides for the establishment of an external advisory committee, better supports for victims, and the development of training.

As of April 2019, the RCMP has expanded and completed the review of over 30,000 sexual assault case files. The SART will use the lessons from the review to strengthen police training and awareness, investigative accountability, victim support, public education and communication. The SART will also provide national leadership, guidance and oversight through the creation of Divisional Sexual Assault Investigations Review Committees to establish a survivor-centred and trauma-informed approach to the RCMP’s response to sexual violence. The RCMP is also looking into how third-party reporting could be implemented into RCMP jurisdictions where it does not currently exist.

Systemic change

An effective criminal justice system needs to be trauma-informed, gender-sensitive and culturally relevant at all stages. Further, it must be consistent across Canada and between different levels of government.

To that end, the RCMP is designing and developing courses that will be offered to all RCMP employees beginning in 2019-20. The new "Cultural Awareness and Humility" and "Using a Trauma-Informed Approach" courses will reinforce an understanding of survivors’ rights, raise awareness of myths pertaining to sexual assaults, and improve capacity across the RCMP to effectively respond to those affected by violence in a culturally and gender-sensitive manner.

Legislative changes

A responsive justice system also includes amending legislation when necessary. In March 2018, the Government introduced Bill C-75, which would enhance victim safety and toughen criminal laws in the context of intimate partner violence. The new legislation would clarify that abusing a current or former partner in the commission of an offence is an aggravating factor for sentencing, and allow for higher penalties in cases involving repeat offenders of intimate partner violence. In addition, Bill C-75 includes amendments that would facilitate human trafficking prosecutions.

With Government of Canada funding through the GBV Strategy, the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre (ORCC) and the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (OCTEVAW) have launched pilot projects for reviewing police investigations into sexual assault and intimate partner violence. Based on the 'Philadelphia model' pioneered in the United States, this program is being rolled out in six Ontario pilot sites (Ottawa, Kingston, Stratford, Timmins, Peterborough and London) and in Calgary. This marks an important milestone in the movement to improve the administration of justice in violence against women cases across Canada. Events were held in 2018-2019 on improving policing accountability and community-based approaches, to feed into the development of a “survivor toolkit” and a database that would capture barriers experienced by survivors in accessing institutional supports and services.

Looking ahead

Since the launch of the Strategy, there has been significant progress made to prevent and address GBV. However, collaboratively, there is still work to be done.

As the Strategy moves into its third year, there will be new projects announced, increased opportunities for communities and organizations to apply for funding, and continued stakeholder engagement. These opportunities will all be featured on the GBV Knowledge Centre’s online platform.

The Government also continues to monitor and take action against emerging GBV issues, including the increasing rates of technology-facilitated violence, the forced and coerced sterilization of women—particularly Indigenous women and women with disabilities—and the rise of the Incel movement. These crimes require a multidisciplinary approach. Departments and agencies from across the Government are therefore coming together to prevent and address these issues.

On the international stage, Canada remains committed to a range of conventions, protocols, and Calls to Action. Canada was fortunate enough to host the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, its causes and consequences in February 2018, as well as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in April 2019. Both final reports will be provided to Canada in 2019-20. In June 2018, Canada also hosted G7 leaders in Charlevoix, Quebec, where the Charlevoix Commitment to End Sexual and Gender Based Violence, Abuse and Harassment in Digital Contexts was adopted.

Coupled with the expanded mandate of Women and Gender Equality Canada to include women, girls, LGBTQ2 and gender non-binary individuals, Canada remains committed to being an international leader in ending GBV by sharing expertise and a strong history of working toward gender equality.

It is up to all of us to maintain and propel the incredible momentum and cultural shift currently under way. The Government of Canada will continue to work collaboratively with survivors, Indigenous partners, frontline service providers, researchers, advocates, provincial and territorial governments, and internationally to improve awareness, promote greater action, and continue the momentum to end GBV in Canada and around the world – because It’s Time.

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