Women and the Criminal Justice System

By Tina Hotton Mahony

Data on annual admissions to shelters are under revision due to incorrect reporting by a survey respondent. Revised data will be released when available.

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Introduction
Female victims of violent crime
Female offenders in Canada

Introduction

The involvement of women and girls in the criminal justice system has largely been as crime victims rather than as perpetrators. While females make up about half of violent crime victims, they represent a minority of offenders. However, in order to understand the scope of issues related to women and the criminal justice system it is important to look at the incidence and experience of crime against women, as well as women as offenders. It is because of the relatively small number of females committing crimes that it is crucial to closely monitor female offending patterns. Otherwise, differences in the experiences of women and girls in the criminal justice system may be masked by trends that reflect the larger male offender population. This information is necessary to assess responses by the justice and social systems to females who offend and in the development of gender-informed crime prevention strategies.1 The following chapter explores the prevalence and nature of female victimization, female criminality as well as the processing of female offenders through the criminal justice system in Canada.

Female victims of violent crime

In Canada, there are two main sources of information on victims of crime: the General Social Survey (GSS) on Victimization and the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Survey. There are advantages and disadvantages with both sources of data for estimating crime. Victim-reported survey data, such as the GSS, are advantageous because they capture information on criminal incidents that do not come to the attention of police. According to past research, for many reasons2 people do not always disclose their victimization experiences to formal authorities.3,4 On the other hand, administrative police data such as the UCR allow one to track changes over time in many types of crime5 reported to and substantiated by police. It is also a key source of information on criminal incidents that proceed with formal charges, for possible entry into the judicial and correctional systems.

Self-reported criminal victimization

According to the 2009 GSS, approximately 7.4 million people living in the ten provinces, or just over one quarter of the population aged 15 years and older, reported being a victim of one of the eight crime types as measured in the GSS. While most of these incidents were property related crimes, approximately 1.6 million violent crimes involved a female victim and 1.7 million involved a male victim.6 In 2009, females were most likely to report being a victim of physical assault, followed by sexual assault and robbery (Chart 1).

Chart 1 Rate of female's self-reported victimization, 1999, 2004 and 2009

Overall, females reported similar rates of physical assault and sexual assault in 2009 as reported in 1999. Rates of sexual assault were approximately half those of physical assault, at 33 and 34 incidents per 1,000 population in 1999 and 2009 respectively. Females were slightly more likely to report being a victim of a robbery in 2009 than they were ten years earlier (with rates increasing from 7 per 1,000 to 10 per 1,000 population). Among female victims of violent crime in 2009, only one-third reported the incident to police.

Police-reported violent crime

Similar to GSS estimates of violent crime, police-reported data as reported through the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey show that female victims accounted for half of all victims of violent crimes7 reported to police in 2009. The most common offence perpetrated against females was assault level 18, accounting for 46% of all incidents reported to police. Other offences perpetrated against females included uttering threats (13%), assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm (9%), sexual assault (9%), and criminal harassment (7%). Offences perpetrated against males were similar, with assault level 1 (42%) and assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm (17%) accounting for the majority of incidents (Table 1).

Table 1 Victims of police-reported violent crimes, by type of crime, 2009

Females are the most common victims of sexual assault and "other sexual violations"9 (representing 87% and 80% of incidents, respectively). Other offences reported to police that are committed primarily against females include forcible confinement and related offences (76%), criminal harassment (76%), as well as threatening and harassing phone calls (68%). Males, on the other hand, accounted for three quarters of victims of homicide, attempted murder, aggravated assault, and approximately two thirds of victims of robbery (Table 1).

Consistent with self-reported victimization data10, police statistics show that females are most likely to be victimized by someone they know. According to 2009 police-reported data, spouses (current or former) and other intimate partners committed more than 41% of violent incidents involving female victims. Other family members and acquaintances account for another 42% of violent incidents (Table 2).

Table 2 Female victims of violent crime, by relationship of the accused to the victim, 2009

Sexual assaults against females that are brought to the attention of police are more likely to be committed by an acquaintance (46%), a family member (24%), or a stranger (18%) than either a spouse or other intimate partner (5% and 8%, respectively). The same is true of "other sexual violations", with a family member (39%) or an acquaintance (38%) accounting for the majority of perpetrators. According to a 2008 study (see Text Box 1), rates of sexual assault reported to police are highest among female youth 12 to 14 years of age and decline with age.11

Text Box 1: Child and youth victims of police-reported violent crime, 2008

Focusing exclusively on child and youth victims of violent crime12, a 2008 study found that rates of violent crime among children and youth peaked at age 17 for both girls and boys. Among these victims, reported rates of violence were slightly higher for girls than boys across age categories, with the exception of adolescents 9 to 12 years of age, where rates of violence reported to police were higher for boys than for girls. The higher rates of violent crime perpetrated against girls is primarily due to their higher rates of sexual violence. Rates of sexual assault were highest among female youth 12 to 14 years of age (623 incidents per 100,000 population) declining thereafter with age (from 552 for 15 to 17 years old to 246 for young adults 18 to 24 years of age). Sexual violence against girls is most commonly perpetrated by someone known to the victim (75%), such as a male acquaintance or relative.

Rates of police reported violence against girls have remained relatively stable over the five-year reference period (2004 to 2008) but did vary across Canada. Rates were highest in the northern territories of Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon (ranging from 5,401 to 2,444 per 100,000) and lowest in Ontario (909) and Quebec (970).13

End of text box

Self-reported spousal violence

Overall rates of self-reported spousal violence have decreased over the past decade from 7.4% in 1999 to 6.2% in 2009. According to the 2009 GSS, women and men were equally likely to report some form of physical or sexual violence by a current or former common-law or marital partner. In 2009, approximately 600,600 women and 585,100 men aged 15 and over reported spousal violence in the five years prior to the survey. This estimate is similar to what was found in 2004 and 1999.

While the percentage of women assaulted by a current spouse has changed little from 1999 to 2009, the number of women reporting spousal violence by a former spouse has declined. In 2009, 20% of women in contact with a previous spouse or common-law partner reported some form of physical or sexual violence, down from 28% in 1999 (Chart 2).

Chart 2 Victims of self-reported spousal violence within the past 5 years, 1999, 2004, and 2009

Although incidence rates of spousal violence are similar, the scope and severity of the violence experienced by women and men differ. Women were more likely than men to report a physical injury (42% versus 18%) or fearing for their lives as a result of the spousal violence (33% versus 5%E), and were more likely to report chronic violence defined as 11 or more incidents of violence (20% of women, compared to 7%E of men) (Table 3).

Table 3 Severity of spousal violence reported by female and male victims, 2009

While spousal violence crosses social, economic and cultural groups, research has suggested that some people are at higher risk than others.14 According to the 2009 GSS, the proportion of Aboriginal women living in the ten provinces who reported spousal violence was double that of non-Aboriginal women. Approximately 15%15 of Aboriginal women reported spousal violence by a current or former marital or common-law partner in the past five years, compared to 6% of non-Aboriginal women. Aboriginal women were also two times more likely (34%) to report having experienced emotional or financial abuse than non-Aboriginal women (17%) (Chart 3). GSS data also suggest that Aboriginal women experience more serious forms of spousal violence than their non-Aboriginal counterparts (refer to the chapter entitled "First Nations, Métis and Inuit Women in Canada" for more discussion).

Chart 3 Proportion of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women reporting spousal violence, emotional and financial abuse, 2009

Help seeking behaviour

Given that female victims of spousal violence were more likely than male victims to report suffering physical and emotional consequences as a result of the violence, it is not surprising that women are also more likely to seek the help of formal and informal services. According to the 2009 GSS, approximately 30% of spousal violence incidents involving female victims and 13% involving male victims were reported to police (Table 4).16 Among female victims, the incident was reported by the victim herself in 24% of cases and by someone else in less than 7% of cases. Incidents involving male victims were equally likely to be reported by the victim (7%) as by someone else (7%). Consistent with studies of police charging in intimate partner violence incidents17,18, those involving female victims are more likely to lead to formal charges than those involving male victims (44% versus 18%).

According to the 2009 GSS, more women than men reported relying on informal or formal supports other than the police. In 2009, 80% of female victims and 56% of male victims of spousal violence told informal sources about the violence, such as family, a friend or neighbour, a co-worker, a doctor or nurse, or spiritual advisor. Approximately 38% of female victims of spousal violence contacted formal services such as a crisis centre or crisis line, counselor or psychologist, community or family centre, women's centre, victim services program, or shelter compared to 18% of men (Table 4).

Table 4 Victims of spousal violence within the past 5 years, by sex and service contacted or used, 2009

Use of transition homes

The establishment of shelters as a refuge for women fleeing abusive situations dates back to the 1970s and has increased in recent years from fewer than 20 known facilities in 1975 to 569 in 2007. In 2007 there were approximately 101,000 admissions of women and dependent children to shelters across Canada between April 1, 2007 and March 31, 2008.19

A one-day snapshot of shelters indicates that the vast majority (80%) of women and children staying in shelters on April 16, 2008 were there to escape an abusive situation.20 Most abused women (76%) were fleeing the abuse of a current or former spouse or common-law partner while 7% were seeking protection from a dating or ex-dating partner (Table 5).

Table 5 Selected characteristics of abused women residing in shelters on April 16, 2008, Canada

Almost half of women residing in shelters (48%) were admitted with children. Many of these women reported that the protection of their children from the physical and/or emotional trauma of violence was a factor in deciding to seek refuge. One in four women reported seeking shelter to protect their children from witnessing the abuse. Women also reported the need to protect their children from psychological abuse (20%), physical abuse (12%), threats (10%), neglect (7%), or sexual violence (4%) (Table 6).

Table 6 Reasons for seeking shelters, Canada, April 16, 2008

Female victims of homicide

Although homicide accounts for less than 1% of violent incidents reported to police, it is a critical marker for identifying changes in crime over time. Unlike non-lethal violence, most homicides are reported to police and as such are captured in official statistics.

According to Statistics Canada's Homicide Survey data for 1991 to 2009, overall rates of homicide against females were approximately half those of men (11 per million females compared to 21 per million males). Similar to non-lethal violence, females are most likely to be killed by a spouse or other intimate partner. In 2009, females accounted for 71% of victims of homicides perpetrated by a current spouse, 88% by a former spouse, and 78% involving other intimate partners. Females represent a smaller proportion of persons killed by other family members (37%), strangers (17%), and acquaintances (9%). Female victims also accounted for 19% of unsolved homicides in 2009.

Rates of homicide have declined substantially over the past 30 years, particularly for females.21 Much of this decrease can be attributed to a drop in homicides perpetrated by spouses. In 2009 female rates of spousal homicide were one third of those seen for women in 1979. A significant decline was also seen for men, with rates decreasing by more than half over this period (Chart 4). Some of the decline in rates of spousal homicide may be attributed to, among other factors, an increase in resources available to abused women, increased public awareness, and improvements in women's social and economic status that may enable them to leave abusive relationships at earlier stages.22, 23, 24 However, despite these marked improvements, the likelihood of being killed by a spouse remained more than double for females than for males in 2009 (with .46 per million females killed compared to .17 per million males).

Chart 4 Spousal homicide rates, by sex of the victim, 1979 to 2009

A decline in the homicide rate was also seen for other victim-offender relationships, particularly among women. From 1991 to 2009, the rate of females killed by an acquaintance declined 73%, homicides perpetrated by other intimate partners declined 53%, and those perpetrated by strangers declined 39% (Chart 5). Females killed by other family members such as a parent, step-parent, sibling, or other extended family also saw some decline, but the variation in rates across time makes the trends more difficult to interpret.25 Similar declines were not observed for men, with the exception of homicides by acquaintances, which decreased by 34% over the 1990's (Chart 6).

(Refer to the chapter "First Nations, Métis and Inuit Women in Canada" for discussion on Aboriginal female victims of homicide).

Chart 5 Female homicide rate by relationship of the accused to the victim, 1991 to 2009

Chart 6 Male homicide rate by relationship of the accused to the victim, 1991 to 2009

Female offenders in Canada

Much of our knowledge of female offenders in Canada is taken from administrative data sources, which record criminal incidents that are reported to police, or are processed through the courts and correctional systems. However these data sources may underestimate the incidents of female offending due to the fact that not all incidents are brought to the attention of the police. According to a youth self-reported delinquency study, only a small fraction of crimes perpetrated by both boys and girls were reported to police.26

In 2009, approximately 233,000 females and 776,000 males (adult and youth) were accused by police of having committed a Criminal Code offence in Canada. Females accounted for more than one quarter (28%) of youth (under 18 years of age) accused by police and more than one fifth (22%) of adult accused. The most common offences for which females were accused were theft under $5,000, assault level 1, and administration of justice violations (e.g. failure to appear in court, breach of probation, etc.).

Female youth crime rates were, on average, triple those of adult women. For example, rates of assault level 1 were 579 per 100,000 female youth compared to 190 per 100,000 adult females. Rates of female youth offending exceeded those of female adults across all offence categories, with the exception of homicide or other violations causing death, fraud, traffic violations, and prostitution (Table 7).

Table 7 Number and rate of youth and adults accused by police, by sex and type of crime, 2009

Similar to their victimization, females are most likely to commit acts of violence against their spouses or other intimate partners. In 2009, among those females accused of a violent offence, the most common victim was a spouse or other intimate partner (46%), followed by an acquaintance (29%), a stranger (14%), and lastly other family members (12%) (Table 8).

Table 8 Violent crimes perpetrated by females, by relationship of the accused to the victim, 2009

This pattern is considerably different than that of male offenders, wherein most violent offences are perpetrated against acquaintances. For example, looking specifically at homicide offences, we see that in the period between 1997 to 2009, females were most likely to kill another member of their family (35%) or an intimate partner (33%), whereas men were most likely to kill an acquaintance (46%), followed by an intimate partner (19%), stranger (17%) or other family member (17%) (Table 9).

Table 9 Females and males accused of homicide, by relationship of the accused to the victim, 1997 to 2009

Trends in female perpetrated crime

The proportion of women charged with criminal activity has increased over the past three decades. In 2009, women made up just over one-fifth (21%) of all adults charged with a Criminal Code offence, up from 15% in 1979. A similar increase can be found across offence categories (Chart 7). However, trends that focus on the relative proportion of female offenders should be interpreted with caution.

Chart 7 Women as a percentage of adults charged with Criminal Code offences, 1979 to 2009

For example, the increase in the proportion of female offenders charged with property crime can be attributed to a substantial decline in property offences by males. Male rates of property crime decreased by 37% from 1979 to 1997, and again by 34% from 1998 to 2009 (Chart 9). In fact, during this same time period female rates of property crime also declined, but to a lesser degree, falling 30% for the first part of the trend and 13% between 1998 and 2009 (Chart 8).

Chart 8 Rate of adult females charged by police by offence category, 1979 to 2009

Chart 9 Rate of adult males charged by police by offence category, 1979 to 2009

Despite these declines in property crime, there have been increases in violent crime rates particularly among adult females. The rate at which women have been charged with violent offences has increased over the past 30 years. Rates almost tripled between 1979 and 1997, and continued to increase until 2001 after which time they have remained fairly stable. Rates among men increased 71% between 1979 and 1997, but have remained fairly stable after 1998. Most of the increase in female rates of violent crime can be attributed to an increase in the charge rate for assault level 1. While rates of men charged with assault level 1 have decreased since the early 1990s, women's rates have more than doubled, narrowing the gap between the number of females charged with violent crimes and the number of males charged.27

Despite the rise in police-reported violent crimes perpetrated by adult females, we do not see these trends in homicide. According to results of the Homicide Survey, while the number of men accused of homicide has remained stable, the number of women accused of homicide decreased over the 1997 to 2009 reference period. Whether the rise in adult female rates of police-reported violent crime reflects an actual increase in female offending or a change in enforcement practices cannot be determined from the data presented here.

Female offenders in the courts28

Since females are less likely than males to be charged with criminal offences, they also account for a smaller proportion of those dealt with by adult and youth courts. In 2008/2009, as in previous years, less than one quarter of completed court cases involved a female accused. Approximately 18% of cases disposed of in adult criminal courts involved a female accused, as did 23% completed in youth courts.

The types of offences for which females had the highest involvement were similar for adults and youth, and have changed very little over the past five years.29 Most adult court cases with a female accused involved property offences (32%), crimes against the person (22%) and administration of justice offences (20%). Of all completed youth court cases involving a female accused in 2008/2009, property crimes and crimes against the person made up a higher proportion of cases (40% and 28% respectively). The next highest category, at 16% of cases, was "other" federal statutes, a group that includes offences under the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) (Table 10).

Table 10 Cases completed in adult and youth court, 2008/2009

As one might expect, the most serious charge30 for which women and girls were in court closely resembles the offences commonly reported to police. The most serious charge in adult court cases involving a female accused included theft (17%), assault level 1 (11%), impaired driving (10%), failure to comply with a court order (9%), breach of probation (7%) and fraud (7%). Combined, these 6 offences accounted for more than 60% of all cases disposed of in adult criminal courts. Theft and assault level 1 were also the most common offences for which females were in youth court (accounting for 21% and 14% of completed cases respectively), followed by Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) offences (11%) and failure to comply with a court order (8%).

The number of completed adult court cases involving a male accused exceeded those involving a female accused across all offence categories. The highest representation of females was found in cases of prostitution (31%), fraud (31%) and theft (30%). Females also accounted for one in five cases involving the charges of failure to appear in court or other administration of justice offences, drug trafficking, possession of stolen property, and assault level 1 and major assault.31

In 2008/2009, adult court cases involving a female accused were less likely to lead to a guilty finding32, and when there was a finding of guilt, were less likely to receive a sentence of custody. For example, in 2008/2009, 59% of all completed cases involving women ended in a guilty finding, compared to 68% for men. A further 37% of cases involving a female accused were resolved by being stayed or withdrawn, compared to 28% for males.

There are several possible factors that influence the proportion of cases found guilty. Compared to males, cases involving a female accused were also less likely to involve multiple charges (62% versus 55%). Past research suggests that an accused is generally more likely to plead guilty to at least one charge when faced with multiple charges. Further, some cases are stayed or withdrawn pending the completion of diversion programs for first time offenders, and prior research suggests that females are more likely than males to be one-time offenders.33

Upon conviction, women were less likely than men to receive a prison sentence (26% versus 37%) (Chart 10) and when custody was ordered, median sentence lengths were generally shorter for adult females than adult males. The lower incarceration rates for women held true across offences with the exception of being unlawfully at large, prostitution, disturbing the peace, drug possession, and YCJA offences34 (where women found guilty were equally or more likely than men to receive an order of custody).

Chart 10 Guilty cases by sex and type of sentence, adult criminal court, Canada, 2008/2009

Trends in adult and youth criminal courts

There has been a small increase in the number of adult criminal court cases disposed of in the 10 reporting jurisdictions between 2000/2001 and 2008/2009. Some of this increase can be attributed to a steady rise in cases involving a female accused. The number of cases involving a female accused increased 18% from 2000/2001 to 2008/2009 (Chart 11). Following a 4-year downward trend in the number of cases disposed beginning in 2003/2004; the number of cases involving a male accused increased by 3% in 2007/2008 and dropped slightly the following year. An increase in the number of cases involving a female accused was found across all provinces for which adult court data were available35, with the exception of Newfoundland and Labrador, which saw a small decline.

Chart 11 Completed cases in adult court by sex of the accused, 10 jurisdictions, 2000/2001 to 2008/2009

Trends in youth court caseload differ from those observed for adult court with a steady decline in the number of cases disposed involving both female and male accused. The number of cases involving a female accused decreased by 24% and the number of cases involving a male accused decreased by 42% since the trend data became available in 1991/1992 (Chart 12). This decline was fuelled by a steady decrease in the number of crimes against property cases (such as theft, break and enter and mischief). Some of this decline has also been attributed to the introduction of the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) in 2003, which encourages the diversion of youth who have committed non-violent and minor crimes away from the formal court system. The number of cases completed in youth court has stabilized since 2004/2005, although there has been a small increase (5%) in the number of cases disposed involving female youth.

Chart 12 Substantial declines in youth court caseload

Female offenders under correctional supervision

According to data from the Adult Correctional Services (ACS) Survey, approximately 9,425 adult women were admitted to sentenced custody in 2008/2009, representing 11% of all provincial/territorial admissions and 6% of federal admissions.36 Women also represented 13% of the remand population (a court-ordered detention of a person while waiting for further court appearances). Furthermore, 18% of intakes to probation and 19% of intakes to conditional sentences were women (Table 11). Some provincial/territorial systems reported lower representation of adult females in sentenced custody than others, with a low of 6% in Nunavut to a high of 14% in Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Table 11 Adults admitted to correctional services, 2008/2009

Consistent with findings from police and court surveys, data from the Youth Custody and Community Services (YCCS) Survey show that the relative proportion of females admitted to correctional services is notably higher among youth than adults. In 2008/2009, young females comprised 17% of youth admitted to sentenced custody. Further, among the youth under correctional supervision 21% of female youth were admitted to remand and 24% were admitted to probation (Table 12). Females as a proportion of youth admitted to sentenced custody varied by province, with female youth accounting for 38% of admissions in the Northwest Territories, 23% in New Brunswick, 20% in British Columbia and 19% in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Table 12 Youth admitted to correctional services, 2008/2009

According to data from the provincial correctional systems37 in Ontario, British Columbia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador, female youth were more likely to be serving time in custody for "other" Criminal Code and federal offences (54%) than for violent offences (27%) or property offences (20%). Male youth, on the other hand, were almost equally likely to be serving time in custody for a violent crime (36%) as "other" Criminal Code offences (35%). The other offences for which female youth were in custody were primarily offences under federal legislation including the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) (37%) as well as offences against the administration of justice (12%).

Trends in female admissions to custody

The number and proportion of adult female admissions to provincial/territorial custody and federal custody has increased between 1999/2000 and 2008/2009. Among the 9 reporting provincial and territorial jurisdictions38, females represented 12% of admissions to remand, sentenced custody and other temporary detentions in 2008/2009, up from 10% in 1999/2000. Adult female admissions to federal custody have also increased, with females representing 6% of admissions in 2008/2009, up from 5% in 1999/2000.

The percentage of female youth admitted to sentenced custody has also increased in recent years. According to trend data from the Youth Custody and Community Services (YCCS) Survey, females represented 21% of youth admissions in the reporting provincial and territorial jurisdictions39 in 2008/2009, up from 18% in 2003/2004.

Characteristics of women in custody

A 2008/2009 snapshot of women in provincial and federal custody suggest that incarcerated women are on average younger, more likely to be single, less likely to have a high school diploma, and more likely to be unemployed than women in the Canadian population. More than half of women in the reporting provincial institutions (56%) and in federal custody (53%) were between the ages of 18 and 35 compared to 28% in the general population in 2009. Similarly, more than half of females in custody were single and never married at the time of admission compared to 32% in the population.

Among female inmates in the reporting provincial institutions, 50% did not complete secondary school, whereas 43% had a high school diploma and 12% had completed some post-secondary education. In contrast, 2006 Census data show that less than 15% of women over the age of 25 did not complete secondary school, 25% had a high school diploma, and 61% reported having completed some post-secondary education. Among the reporting jurisdictions, less than one quarter of women (24%) reported being employed full or part-time at the time of their admission to provincial custody compared to 58% in the general population in 2006 (Table 13).

Table 13 Characteristics of adult women involved in provincial and federal correctional custodial services, 2008/2009

The needs of offenders are evaluated for rehabilitative purposes upon entering custody. Almost all female offenders in provincial custody had multiple needs identified, particularly in the areas of substance abuse (94%), employment (81%) and community functioning (79%). The needs most commonly identified among female federal inmates include: personal/emotional problems (82%), employment, substance use, and social interactions (74%).

Representation of Aboriginal women under correctional supervision40

The representation of Aboriginal women and men under correctional supervision has been well documented in recent years, and has steadily increased.41 In 2008/2009, 35% of women and 23% of men admitted to adult sentenced custody identified as an Aboriginal person, while 2006 Census data show that Aboriginal women and men made up only 3% of the adult Canadian population. The representation of Aboriginal people in custody is even greater for women than men. This is apparent across Canada, albeit more pronounced in the western provinces and in the territories.

In 2008/2009, Aboriginal women comprised more than 85% of admissions of women to adult provincial sentenced custody in Saskatchewan and Manitoba and just over half in Alberta. Yet in 2006 Aboriginal adults represented only 11%, 12%, and 5% of these provincial populations respectively. Although Aboriginal people make up a larger proportion of the populations in the territories42, they remain over- represented in territorial correctional facilities. In 2008/2009 Aboriginal women accounted for 89%, 93% and 98% of admissions to custody in Yukon, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories (Chart 13).

Chart 13 Proportion of adults admitted to sentenced custody who were Aboriginal, 2008/2009

Similar to Aboriginal adults, data from the Youth Custody and Community Services Survey (YCCS) show that Aboriginal youth were highly represented in admissions to all types of correctional services in 2008/2009. Among the nine reporting provinces and territories, Aboriginal females accounted for 44% of admissions to open or secure custody, 34% of admissions to remand, and 31% of admissions or intakes to probation. As seen for adult admissions, the representation of Aboriginal youth is greatest in the Yukon and Northwest Territories (100%), Saskatchewan (93%) and Manitoba (91%) (Chart 14).

Chart 14 Proportion of youth admitted to sentenced custody who were Aboriginal, 2008/2009

Previous research43, 44 has found that the number of admissions to sentenced custody has decreased since the mid-1990's for both the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal population. However, this decrease has been more substantial for non-Aboriginal adults, resulting in an increase in the proportional representation of Aboriginal people among sentenced custody admissions over the same time period.

Upon entering custody, offenders are evaluated for rehabilitative purposes. A higher proportion of Aboriginal women than non-Aboriginal women entering federal custody were assessed as having rehabilitative needs in a number of areas, including substance use, marital and family relationships, employment, and social interaction. Aboriginal women in federal custody were also more likely than non-Aboriginal women to be assessed as having needs in multiple areas. Approximately 66% of Aboriginal women in federal custody were assessed as having 5 or more rehabilitative needs compared to 38% of non-Aboriginal women. Previous research found the same to be true for Aboriginal men in custody.45 The needs assessments suggest that a higher proportion of Aboriginal women and men could be at risk of re-offending and possibly returning to corrections services. This could be a contributing factor to the high representation of Aboriginal offenders in custody.46

Text Box 2: Women in justice-related occupations

The number of women working in the criminal justice field has seen considerable growth over the past two decades (Table 14). According to Census data, women accounted for 25% of judges in 2006, almost double the proportion found in 1991 (14%). In addition, a larger share of lawyers and notaries (39%) were women in 2006 relative to 1991 (27%). In 2006, 59% of probation and parole officers and 32% of correctional service officers were women, up from 50% and 22% 15 years earlier. Women have long been prominent in paralegal and related occupations, representing 87% in 2006, up from 76% in 1991.

Box Table 2 Women as a percentage of those employed in justice-related occupations, 1991 to 2006

Although the representation of women in policing is proportionately lower than most other justice occupations, it too has seen real growth in recent years. In 2006, approximately 18% of sworn officers were women,47 up from 14% in 2001 and 7% a decade earlier. According to results from the Police Administration Survey (PAS), women have also made inroads in the senior ranks. From 2005 to 2009, while the proportion of female constables has remained relatively stable (21%), the proportion of women employed as senior officers increased from 5.5% to 8.3% and those employed as non-commissioned officers grew from 10% to 14% (Chart box 2).

Chart box 2 Women as a percentage of police officers, by level, 1989 to 2009

End of text box


Notes

E  use with caution

  1. Bottos, S. 2007. Women and Violence: Theory, Risk, and Treatment Implications. Ottawa. Research Branch Correctional Service Canada. (Accessed December 13, 2010).
  2. For example, the most common reasons for not reporting incidents of spousal violence to the police included the belief that it was a personal matter that did not concern the police (82%), the situation was being dealt with another way (81%), and feeling that the incident was not important enough (70%).
  3. Mihorean, K. 2005. "Trends in self-reported spousal violence." Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile, 2005. AuCoin, K. (ed.). Statistics Canada Catalogue no.85-224-X. Ottawa. (Accessed March 31, 2010).
  4. Perreault, S. and S. Brennan. 2010. "Criminal Victimization in Canada, 2009". Juristat. Vol. 30, no. 2. Statistics Canada Catalogue no.85-002-X. Ottawa. (Accessed December 10, 2010).
  5. The General Social Survey on Victimization collects information on criminal victimization for eight crime types: sexual assault, robbery, physical assault, break and enter, motor vehicle/parts theft, theft of household property, vandalism, and theft of personal property.
  6. Violent crime in the General Social Survey is measured using three broad index offence categories: physical assault, sexual and robbery.
  7. For incidents involving multiple violations, counts are based on the most serious offence in an incident.
  8. Assault level 1, or common assault, is the least serious form of assault and includes pushing, slapping, punching and face-to-face verbal threats. Assault level 2 involves carrying, using or threatening to use a weapon against someone or causing someone bodily harm. Assault level 3 (aggravated assault) involves wounding, maiming, disfiguring or endangering the life of someone.
  9. Other sexual violations primarily include sexual offences against children such as sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching, sexual exploitation, incest, corrupting children, luring a child via the computer, as well as other sexual offences involving adults.
  10. Perreault, S. and S. Brennan. 2010. "Criminal Victimization in Canada, 2009". Juristat. Vol. 30, no. 2. Statistics Canada Catalogue no.85-002-X. Ottawa. (Accessed December 10, 2010).
  11. As we do not have self-reported victimization data for persons less than 15 years of age, it is not possible to determine if girls 12 to 14 years of age are at greater risk of sexual assault or if a greater proportion of these cases are reported to police, and lead to formal charges.
  12. This analysis is based on children and youth 0 to 17 years of age.
  13. Ogrodnik, L. 2009. "Child and Youth Victims of Police-reported Violent Crime, 2008". Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics Profile Series. Statistics Canada Catalogue no.85F0033M, no. 23. Ottawa. (Accessed December 10, 2010).
  14. Most research on race and ethnicity and intimate partner violence in Canada has focused on comparisons between the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal population. Although the General Social Survey does collect information on the cultural origins of respondents, the sample size is not large enough to calculate reliable estimates by race or cultural background. However, those who identified themselves as a visible minority or an immigrant were not found to be associated with increased levels of spousal violence. Similar findings have been found for victimization in general. There have been improvements in the methodology used for interviewing women about violence, however, surveys are only conducted in Canada's two official languages which may present a barrier to the collection of data from Aboriginal and immigrant women.
  15. This estimate has a high coefficient of variation and should be used with caution.
  16. The proportion of spousal violence victims that stated that the police found out about the incident decreased from 2004 to 2009. This decline occurred primarily among female victims.
  17. Hotton Mahony, T. 2010. "Police-reported dating violence in Canada, 2008". Juristat. Vol. 29, no. 3. Statistics Canada Catalogue no.85-002-X. Ottawa. (Accessed December 10, 2010).
  18. Taylor-Butts, A. 2009. "Fact sheet–Police-reported spousal violence in Canada". Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile, 2009. Statistics Canada Catalogue no.85-224-XIE. Ottawa. (Accessed March 31, 2010).
  19. Sauvé, J. and M. Burns. 2009. "Residents of Canada's shelters for abused women, 2008". Juristat. Vol. 29, no. 2. Statistics Canada Catalogue no.85-002-X. Ottawa. (Accessed January 3, 2011).
  20. Other reasons for using shelters included an inability to find affordable or available housing, mental health problems, and drug or alcohol addiction.
  21. Beattie, S. and A. Cotter. 2010. "Homicide in Canada, 2009. Juristat. Vol. 30, no. 3. Statistics Canada Catalogue no.85-002-X. Ottawa. (Accessed December 10, 2010).
  22. Dawson, M., V. Pottie Bunge and T. Baldé. 2009. "National Trends in intimate partner homicides: Explaining declines in Canada, 1976 to 2001." Violence Against Women. Vol. 15, no. 3. P. 276-306.
  23. Johnson, H. 2006. Measuring Violence Against Women: Statistical Trends 2006. Statistics Canada Catalogue no.85-570-XIE. Ottawa. (Accessed February 6, 2011).
  24. Dawson. M. 2001. "Examination of Declining Intimate Partner Homicide Rates: A Literature Review." Research Report, 2001-10. Ottawa: Department of Justice Canada, Research and Statistics Division.
  25. When interpreting homicide trends it is important to be mindful of the fact that small changes in the number of homicides in a given year can have considerable impact on annual rates. Consequently, it is important to consider more than percentage changes over time but at variability in rates, as well as the base rates from which the trend begins.
  26. Savoie, J. 2007. "Youth self-reported delinquency, Toronto, 2006". Juristat. Vol. 27, no. 6. Statistics Canada Catalogue no.85-002-X. Ottawa. (Accessed December 10, 2010).
  27. Kong, R. and K. AuCoin. 2008. "Female Offenders in Canada". Juristat. Vol. 28, no. 1. Statistics Canada Catalogue no.85-002-X. Ottawa. (Accessed December 10, 2010).
  28. Cases where the sex of the accused was unknown have been removed from this analysis, as have cases in which a company was the accused. Manitoba is excluded, as it does not report on the sex of the accused. This analysis is based on cases completed in adult and youth court.
  29. Kong, R. and K. AuCoin. 2008. "Female Offenders in Canada". Juristat. Vol. 28, no. 1. Statistics Canada Catalogue no.85-002-X. Ottawa. (Accessed December 10, 2010).
  30. When a case has more than one charge, the most serious offence is selected to represent the case. For a description of the methodology used to determine the most serious offence, see J. Thomas, "Adult Criminal Court Statistics, 2008/2009." Juristat. Statistics Canada Catalogue no.85-002-X. Vol. 30, no.2. Ottawa.
  31. Major assault is an offence category that includes the higher levels of assault in the Criminal Code: assault with a weapon (Assault Level II, section 267), aggravated assault (Assault Level III, section 268) and other assaults (assaulting a police officer, and unlawfully causing bodily harm).
  32. However, these differences do vary by province. The percentage of women found guilty was comparable to those of men in Newfoundland and Labrador as well as Yukon Territory.
  33. Kong, R. and K. AuCoin. 2008. "Female Offenders in Canada". Juristat. Vol. 28, no. 1. Statistics Canada Catalogue no.85-002-X. Ottawa. (Accessed December 10, 2010).
  34. Although the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) is legislation governing criminal justice of young persons, there are several offences in the Act under which an adult can be charged such as: s. 136(a) inducing a young person to leave unlawfully a place of custody, s. 136(c) harbouring a young person who has left a place of custody, s. 136(d) inducing or assisting a young person to breach or disobey a term or condition of a youth sentence, etc. See J. Thomas, "Adult Criminal Court Statistics, 2008/2009." Juristat. Statistics Canada Catalogue no.85-002-X. Vol. 30, no.2. Ottawa.
  35. The trend analysis does not include data from Manitoba, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
  36. The administration of correctional services in Canada is a shared responsibility of the federal, provincial and territorial governments. Which adult offenders are placed in the federal system and which are placed in the provincial/territorial system depend on decisions taken by the judiciary. Adult offenders sentenced to custody terms of two years or more fall under the federal penitentiary system. Sentences of less than two years and community-based sanctions, such as probation and conditional sentences, are the responsibility of the provinces and territories.
  37. The composition of the provincial correctional system data reported here is taken from the Integrated Correctional Services Survey, and is based primarily on admissions to custody in Ontario (80.2%), followed by British Columbia (13.1%), New Brunswick (5.4%), and Newfoundland and Labrador (1.3%).
  38. The Adult Correctional Services (ACS) Survey trend data exclude admissions to custody in Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Alberta and Nunavut for all years. For this reason, estimates of the relative proportion of females in custody in 2008/2009 will differ from those presented in Table 11.
  39. Trend data for the Youth Custody and Community Services Survey is only currently available for a six-year period from 2003/2004 to 2008/2009. These trend data exclude admissions to custody in Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Nunavut for all years. For this reason, estimates of the relative proportion of female youth in custody in 2008/2009 will differ from those presented in Table 12.
  40. The definition of Aboriginal identity used in the Industry Classification Coding System (ICCS) was modeled after the definition within the Census. The concept of the Aboriginal population within the Census refers to those persons who reported identifying with at least one Aboriginal group (North American Indian, Métis, or Inuit). Also included are individuals who did not report an Aboriginal identity, but who reported being a Registered or Treaty Indian, and/or those who reported they were members of an Indian Band or First Nation. The Industry Classification Coding System (ICCS) collects Aboriginal identity information at admission to correctional services through self-identification.
  41. Perreault, S. 2009. "The incarceration of Aboriginal people in adult correctional services". Juristat. Vol. 29, no. 3. Statistics Canada Catalogue no.85-002-X. Ottawa. (Accessed December 10, 2010).
  42. According to the most recent population estimates from the 2006 Census of Canada, approximately 22% of persons living in Yukon Territory, 45% in the Northwest Territories, and 78% in Nunavut self-identify themselves as an Aboriginal person.
  43. Perreault, S. 2009. "The incarceration of Aboriginal people in adult correctional services". Juristat. Vol. 29, no. 3. Statistics Canada Catalogue no.85-002-X. Ottawa. (Accessed December 10, 2010).
  44. Brzozowski, J., A. Taylor-Butts, and S. Johnson. 2006. "Victimization and offending among the Aboriginal population in Canada." Juristat. Vol. 26, no. 3. Statistics Canada Catalogue no.85-002-X. Ottawa. (Accessed December 10, 2010).
  45. Perreault, S. 2009. "The incarceration of Aboriginal people in adult correctional services". Juristat. Vol. 29, no. 3. Statistics Canada Catalogue no.85-002-X. Ottawa. (Accessed December 10, 2010).
  46. Perreault, S. 2009. "The incarceration of Aboriginal people in adult correctional services". Juristat. Vol. 29, no. 3. Statistics Canada Catalogue no.85-002-X. Ottawa. (Accessed December 10, 2010).
  47. This proportion is similar to that of the United States, where 20% of officers were reported to be female in 2008.