Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical Report
Women and the Criminal Justice System

by Tina Hotton Mahony, Joanna Jacob and Heather Hobson

Release date: June 6, 2017  Correction date: June 21, 2017

Correction Notice

On June 21, 2017, a correction was made in the first paragraph of the sub-section entitled “Immigrant women report lower rates of violent victimization.” Non-immigrant women reported 42 incidents of sexual victimization per 1,000 population, not 43 incidents as was originally stated.

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Introduction

Violence against women has a harmful impact on the lives of women, their families, and their communities throughout Canada. Victimization research has shown that violence against women is a serious and persistent problem, one with which many women liveNote 1Note 2 and one that is compounded for Aboriginal women, many of whom face multiple risk factors.Note 3 This chapter of Women in Canada explores the criminal victimization of women and girls as well as their involvement in the criminal justice system as offenders. It covers the types of criminal victimization experienced by females over time, highlighting important differences in violent crime by Aboriginal identity, immigrant status, visible-minority status, and age. The use of formal and informal support services is explored, including changes over time in the use of police services.     

Historically, females have accounted for a small proportion of offenders. This means that their offending patterns are often overshadowed by trends that reflect the larger male population. Looking at this issue from a gender-based perspective is important for assessing how the justice and social systems respond to females who offend and for developing gender-informed crime-prevention strategies. In this chapter, trends in the number and types of crimes committed by females will be explored, along with their involvement in the criminal courts and correctional systems. Wherever possible, differences between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal offenders are presented, owing to the over-representation of the former as both victims and offenders.

Female victims of violent crime

Statistics Canada collects data on crime in Canada by means of two complementary sources of information: the quinquennial General Social Survey (GSS) on Canadians’ Safety (Victimization)Note 4 (for the purposes of this report, the 2014 iteration of this survey is used; it is hereinafter referred to as the “2014 GSS”) and the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Survey.Note 5 Although both sources measure crime in Canada, there are important differences in the coverage, scope and methodology of the two surveys, which limit their direct comparability.Note 6 The GSS on Canadians’ Safety (Victimization) is a sample survey that collects data every five years from the (non-institutionalized) population aged 15 and older in the 10 provinces, while the UCR Survey is an annual census of all Criminal Code offences and some federal offences reported to police. The GSS on Canadians’ Safety (Victimization) has an important advantage in that it collects information directly from respondents, including information on crimes that were not reported to police. The GSS on Canadians’ Safety (Victimization) also collects retrospective information on different types of abuse, such as experiences of violence in childhood, emotional and financial abuse, use of social services, and the personal consequences of victimization. The UCR Survey, however, collects both broader and more detailed information on offences, and is a key source of information on criminal incidents that proceed with formal charges for possible entry into the criminal courts and correctional services. Regardless of the source used, there is a possibility of undercounting victimization as some women (and men) may be uncomfortable disclosing their victimization experiences to survey interviewers or to police authorities.Note 7

Self-reported criminal victimization

According to data from the 2014 GSS, almost 20% of Canadians (or about 5.6 million people) aged 15 and older, living in the provincesNote 8 reported that they or a member of their householdNote 9 had been a victim of at least one type of crime in the previous 12 months. The eight types of crime for which data were collected were those in the categories of violent victimization, theft of personal property, and household victimization. In the 2014 GSS,Note 10 Canadians reported 6.4 million incidentsNote 11 of victimization.

Violent victimization incidents accounted for approximately 2.2 million (or slightly more than one-third) of the victimization incidents reported by Canadians in 2014. Violent victimization offences include sexual assault, robbery, and physical assault. Sexual assault offences refer to forced sexual activity; unwanted sexual touching; unwanted grabbing, kissing or fondling; or sexual relations without the victim being able to give consent. Robbery includes theft or attempted theft in which the offender had a weapon or in which an act of violence was committed or the threat of violence was made against the victim. Physical assault includes any physical attack (the victim was hit, slapped, grabbed, knocked down, or beaten), any face-to-face threat of physical harm, and any incident where a weapon was present.

Overall in 2014, rates of self-reported violent victimization were higher among women (85 incidents per 1,000 population) than among men (67 incidents per 1,000 population). Among women, physical assault accounted for the greatest number of violent victimization incidents (43 incidents per 1,000 women), followed by sexual assault (37 incidents per 1,000 women). Robbery contributed the fewest incidents (5ENote 12 incidents per 1,000 women). Among men, physical assault also accounted for the greatest number of violent victimization incidents (54 incidents per 1,000 men), followed by robbery (8E incidents per 1,000 men). Incidents of sexual assault accounted for the smallest proportion of violent victimizations of which men were the victims (5E incidents per 1,000). Overall, rates of sexual assault were much lower among men than among women (Table 1).  

In 2014, women reported slightly more than 1.2 million violent victimization incidents, representing 56% of all violent incidents. The rate of violent victimization incidents reported by females in the 2014 GSS was 17% lower than the rate measured in the 2004 GSS (85 incidents per 1,000 women in 2014 compared with 102 incidents per 1,000 women in 2004). The decline in the overall rate of violent victimization among women during this 10-year period was mainly a result of a decrease in reported incidents of physical assault (from 59 incidents per 1,000 population in 2004, to 43 incidents per 1,000 population in 2014, Chart 1).

The 2014 GSS collected a new measure of sexual assault that had not been collected in previous surveys. In addition to being asked about forced sexual activity and unwanted sexual touching, respondents were also asked about sexual incidents in which they were not able to consent to the sexual act for reasons such as being drugged, intoxicated, manipulated, or forced in ways other than physical. Sexual touching accounted for 71% of reported sexual assaults, followed by forced sexual activity (20%) and being unable to consent (9%).Note 13Note 14 The rate of sexual assault, not including the “not able to consent” question, was 20 incidents per 1,000 population; this rate compares with the rate of 22 incidents per 1,000 population obtained when this question was included.Note 15 The sexual assault rate of women did not differ significantly between 2004 and 2014Note 16 (Chart 1).

Police-reported violent crime

Police-reported data from the 2015 UCR survey showed that approximately 52% of victims of crimesNote 17 reported to the police were female. The most common offence perpetrated against females was common assault, which represents approximately 48% of all violent incidents reported to police (Table 2). The next-most-common offences were uttering threats (12%), sexual assaults (11%), assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm (10%), and criminal harassment (6%). The most common offence perpetrated against male victims was also common assault (43%); it was followed by assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm (18%), uttering threats (15%), robbery (8%), and other assaults (6%).

Females were over-represented among victims of sexual assault (88% of total incidents) and victims of "other sexual violations”Note 18 (83% of total incidents) (Table 2). Other offences reported to police that were committed primarily against females included forcible confinement and related offences (79%), criminal harassment (76%), and making threatening and harassing phone calls (71%). All of the victims (100%) of offences under the “commodification of sexual activity” category were female. Offences under this category include purchasing sexual services or communicating for the purpose of purchasing sexual services; receiving a material benefit from the purchase of sexual services; procuring of persons for the purpose of prostitution; and advertising the sale of sexual services. New legislation concerning the commodification of sexual activity came into force in December 2014, and one of its objectives was to target the violence inherent in prostitution. In this context, several of these types of offences are considered crimes against the person under the Criminal Code.Note 19

Males, by comparison, accounted for almost three-quarters of victims of homicide, attempted murder, and aggravated assault, and for approximately two-thirds of victims of robbery. This is consistent with data from 2009.Note 20

The 2015 police-reported data show that spouses (current or former) and other intimate partners committed approximately 42% of violent incidents involving female victims. Other family members and acquaintances accounted for another 43% of violent incidents (Table 3).

Sexual assaults against females that were brought to the attention of police were more likely to be committed by an acquaintance (44%), a stranger (21%), or other family member (19%) than by either an intimate partner (11%) or a spouse (5%) (Table 3). The same is true of “other sexual violations”: acquaintances accounted for 39% of perpetrators, and other family members accounted for another 33% of perpetrators. Approximately 19% of individuals accused of “other sexual violations” were strangers to their respective victims.

Characteristics of self-reported violent victimization

Individuals’ risks of victimization differ. Many factors have been identified in past research as increasing the likelihood of victimization.Note 21Note 22 This section highlights some of these factors for women as measured in the 2014 GSS.

Aboriginal women are more likely than non-Aboriginal women in the Canadian provinces to experience violent victimization

Studies on the victimization of AboriginalNote 23 women have consistently shown that this group is more likely to be affected by all types of violent victimization.Note 24Note 25Note 26Note 27Note 28Note 29 The rate of Aboriginal people (female and male) who reported experiencing violent victimization was more than double that of non-Aboriginal people (160 incidents per 1,000 population compared with 74 incidents per 1,000 populationNote 30). 

Rates of self-reported victimization were higher for Aboriginal people for all types of violent victimizationsNote 31 (Chart 2). The reported sexual assault rate was nearly three times higher for Aboriginal people than for non-Aboriginal people (58E incidents per 1,000 population compared with 20 incidents per 1,000 population). Aboriginal people also reported experiencing higher rates of physical assault (87 incidents per 1,000 population versus 47 incidents per 1,000 population). The high rates of victimization experienced by Aboriginal people in 2014 were similar to the rates observed among this group in 2009.Note 32Note 33

Aboriginal women, in particular, are vulnerable to violent victimization (Table 4). Aboriginal females reported experiencing violent victimizations at a rate (219E incidents per 1,000 population) 2.7 times higher than that reported by non-Aboriginal females (81 incidents per 1,000 population). First Nations females (living in the provinces) experienced an incidence rate of overall violent victimization of 270E incidents per 1,000 population, and Métis females experienced violent victimizations at a rate of 177E incidents per 1,000 population.Note 34 According to a previous study of victimization among Aboriginal people in Canada,Note 35 even when other victimization risk factors were taken into account, Aboriginal women remained at a significantly higher risk for violent criminal victimization.

Immigrant women report lower rates of violent victimization

As measured in the 2014 GSS, the rates of self-reported violent victimization were lower among immigrantNote 36 women than among non-immigrant womenNote 37 (Table 4). Immigrant women reported lower rates of both sexual victimization (16E incidents per 1,000 immigrant women) and physical assault (27E incidents per 1,000 immigrant women) than non-immigrant women (42 incidents of sexual victimization per 1,000 population and 48 incidents of physical assault per 1,000 population). Among immigrant women, no statistically significant difference in rates of assault or overall victimization, between recent immigrantsNote 38 and those who immigrated prior to 2000, was found.

The rate of violent victimization observed for women who belonged to a visible minority group-and women who did not belong to a visible-minority group did not differ significantly.Note 39Note 40 The rate of self-reported sexual assault among women belonging to a visible-minority group was similar to that observed among women who did not belong to a visible-minority group. However, the rate of physical assault reported by women belonging to a visible-minority group was nearly 53% lower than that reported by women who did not belong to a visible-minority group—25E incidents per 1,000 population versus 47 incidents per 1,000 population. Immigrant men (43E incidents per 1,000 population) and men belonging to a visible-minority group (48E incidents per 1,000 population) were significantly less likely than non-immigrant men (75 incidents per 1,000 population) and men who did not belong to a visible-minority group (71 incidents per 1,000 population) to report incidents of victimization.Note 41

Homosexual and bisexual women are more likely to be victimized than heterosexual women

Research on the victimization of minority groups shows that individuals, who self-identify as homosexual or bisexual,Note 42 are much more likely than individuals who self-identify as heterosexual.Note 43Note 44Note 45 to experience victimization. As measured in the 2014 GSS, the rate of victimization of women, who identified as homosexual or bisexual, was more than 3.5 times that of women who identified as heterosexual (281E incidents per 1,000 population compared with 75Note 46 incidents per 1,000 population, Table 4). Compared with homosexual or bisexual women, the rate of victimization among homosexual or bisexual men was less than half (121E incidents per 1,000 population).Note 47 

Young women are more likely to experience violent victimization

The 2014 GSS showed that rates of victimization declined with age, with reports of victimization being highest among younger women. The rate of violent victimization was the highest among women aged 15 to 24 (215 incidents per 1,000 population); the next-highest rate was observed among women aged 25 to 34 (128 incidents per 1,000 population) (Table 4). The rate was significantly lower for women aged 35 to 44 and women aged 45 to 54 (68 incidents per 1,000 population for both groups). Women aged 55 to 64 reported being victims of violent victimization at a rate of 42E incidents per 1,000 population. Canadian women aged 65 and older reported the lowest rates of violent victimization among women of all the age groups: 14E incidents per 1,000 population. The negative relationship between the rate of victimization and age was also observed among men,Note 48 for whom rates of victimization were highest before the age of 35: 114 incidents per 1,000 population among men aged 15 to 24, and 107 incidents per 1,000 population among men aged 25 to 34. The lowest rates appeared among men aged 65 and older (11E incidents per 1,000 population).

Although the overall rates of victimization were highest among the youngest age group (15 to 24 years old) for both males and females, females reported experiences of victimization at a rate that was nearly 1.9 times higher than that observed among males. For young women, the rate of self-reported sexual assault contributed the largest proportion of incidents to the overall violent victimization rate (134 incidents per 1,000 population); physical assault contributed the next-largest proportion (71E incidents per 1,000 population). Young women aged 15 to 24 reported higher rates of sexual assault than women in any other age group (Table 4). Physical assault was the most common type of violent victimization experienced by young men aged 15 to 24 (77Note 49 incidents per 1,000 population); reported rates of sexual assault for men were too unreliable to publish given the small sample sizes.

Women report a large proportion of violent incidents occur at a private residence or in the workplace

Approximately one-third of incidents of non-spousal violenceNote 50 against women (35%) and men (32%) occurred in the victim’s home or another private residence. Commercial or institutional establishments (often places of workNote 51) were reported as the location for nearly 40%Note 52 of victimizations. By comparison, fewer incidents (21%Note 53) occurred on the street or in a public place.Note 54 Respondents reported that more than half of the robberies had occurred in their homes or in the surrounding area, or in another private residence rather than on the street or in another public area. Robberies also accounted for the highest percentage of violent victimizations in the home for both females (64%Note 55) and males (51%). About 30% of sexual assaults reported by women occurred in their homes or in another private residence.Note 56

Many incidents of violent victimization reported in the 2014 GSS occurred in individuals’ place of work. This is consistent with findings from the 2004 GSS.Note 57 In the 2014 GSS, women reported that 30% of the violent incidents of which they had been victims had occurred in the workplace, while men reported that about one-quarter of such incidents had occurred there. Women reported a large proportion of incidents of assault (38%) and incidents of sexual assault (23%E) as having occurred in the workplace. Slightly more than 25% of incidents of physical assault reported by men occurred in the workplace; the number of incidents of sexual assault in the workplace of which men reported being the victims was too unreliable to publish.

Drug use, binge drinking, and frequency of evening activities are associated with heightened risk of violent victimization for women

Research has shown that some lifestyle activities increase one’s vulnerability to victimization, including the use of drugs,Note 58 binge drinking, and the frequency of evening activities outside of the house.Note 59Note 60Note 61Note 62 Women who stated that they had used drugs during the month preceding the survey recorded a rate of victimization five times higher than that recorded for women who did not report drug use (358 incidents per 1,000 women compared with 72 incidents per 1,000 women, Table 4). Breaking this down by type of violent victimization showed that women who used drugs reported rates of sexual victimization that were about seven times higher than those reported by women who did not use drugs (196E incidents per 1,000 women compared with 29 incidents per 1,000 women). Women who reported drug use also reported assault at a rate that was about four times higher than the rate of assault reported by women who did not report drug use (144E incidents per 1,000 women compared with 38 incidents per 1,000 women). Similarly, men who reported drug use reported a higher rate of violent victimization than men who were not drug users (209 to 52 per 1,000 menNote 63). However, for men, approximately 80% of the total violent victimization rate involved incidents of physical assault (167 of 209 incidents per 1,000 men) as opposed to sexual victimization.Note 64

Binge drinking, defined as the consumption of at least five alcoholic beverages on a single occasion, at least once in the month preceding the survey, was also associated with a higher rate of victimization for women. The overall rate of victimization for women, who reported at least one instance of binge drinking, was more than double that observed among women who did not binge-drink in the previous month-174 incidents per 1,000 women versus 65 incidents per 1,000 women (Table 4). In regard to sexual assault, the rate was higher for women who reported binge drinking (89E incidents per 1,000 women) than for women who did not binge-drink (25 incidents per 1,000 women). Men who reported at least one instance of binge drinking in the month preceding the survey had a rate of violent victimization that was more than double that observed among men who reported no binge drinking (102 incidents per 1,000 men versus 50 incidents per 1,000 men). This was due mainly to the higher rate of physical assault (physical assault accounted for 85 incidents of the 102 incidents reported per 1,000 men).

The frequency of evening activitiesNote 65-which could include working; attending night classes; attending evening meetings; volunteering; going out to bars, clubs or pubs; going out to restaurants, shops, or sports events-was also associated with a higher rate of violent incidents for women. In particular, the victimization rate for women, who reported having taken part in more than 20 evening activities in an average month, was slightly more than five times higher than that of women who reported no evening activities during an average month-177 incidents per 1,000 women versus 33E incidents per 1,000 women-and nearly four times that of women who reported going out for 1 to 10 evening activities per month on average -177 incidents per 1,000 women versus 47 incidents per 1,000 women.

The rate of sexual assault for women who reported having taken part in more than 20 evening activities was six times higher than that reported by women who had taken part in 1 to 10 evening activities per month-97 incidents per 1,000 women versus 16E incidents per 1,000 women. In addition, this rate was more than double that reported by women who went out for 11 to 20 evening activities per month-97 incidents per 1,000 women versus 35E incidents per 1,000 women. Women also reported a higher rate of physical assault (73 incidents per 1,000 women) when they went out for more than 20 evening activities than when they did not go out (24E incidents per 1,000 women) or went out for 1 to 10 evening activities (28 incidents per 1,000 women). Men who went out for more than 20 evening activities had a violent victimization rate (114 incidents per 1,000 men)-three times higher than that observed for men who did not go out at all (36E incidents per 1,000 men) or men who went out for 1 to 10 evening activities (36 incidents per 1,000 men) and about double the rate observed for men who went out for 11 to 20 evening activities (63 incidents per 1,000 menNote 66). The rate of violent victimization for men by frequency of evening activities largely reflected physical assaults (93 incidents out of 114 incidents per 1,000 men for more than 20 evening activities). 

Mental health is associated with the risk of violent victimization for women

Research has demonstrated that the risk of violent victimization is higher among those with poorer mental health.Note 67Note 68 As Perreault discussed in his report,Note 69 the causal direction of this relationship cannot be determined: the mental health condition of victims of violence may have existed prior to the victimization or may be the result of their victimization. The 2014 GSS surveyed respondents on daily activity limitations related to a mental-health-related disability or a learning or developmental disability. Respondents were also asked to assess their mental health on a scale of “poor” to “excellent.”

Women who rated their mental health as “fair” or “poor” had a violent victimization rate five times higher than that of women who assessed their mental health as “good”, “very good”, or “excellent” (361 incidents per 1,000 population versus 68 incidents per 1,000 population, Table 4). Men who rated their mental health as “fair” or “poor” had a violent victimization rate slightly more than four times that of men who assessed their mental health as “good”, “very good”, or “excellent” (242E incidents per 1,000 men versus 58 incidents per 1,000 men). 

As with some of the other risk factors for victimization, examining the type of violent victimization by sex indicates differences in risks among women and men. Women who assessed their mental health as “fair” or “poor” reported being victims of sexual assault at a rate that was close to eight times higher than that of women who assessed their mental health as “good”, “very good”, or “excellent” (204E incidents per 1,000 population versus 26 incidents per 1,000 population). The rate of assault for women who assessed their mental health as “fair” or “poor” was more than three times higher than the rate of assault for women who assessed their mental health as “good”, “very good”, or “excellent” (133 incidents per 1,000 women versus 38 incidents per 1,000 women). For men, the assault rate contributed 81% of the overall violent victimization rate observed among men who assessed their mental health as “fair” or “poor” (assault accounted for 197E incidents of 242E incidents per 1,000 menNote 70).

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Victims of childhood assault

Many victimization studies provide evidence that there is a strong relationship between experiencing assault during childhood and being at a greater likelihood of experiencing incidents of victimization as an adult.Note 71Note 72 In 2014, questions were added to the GSS to measure childhood assault. These items examine incidents of victimization (including incidents of physical assault and sexual assault) that occurred before the age of 15, where the perpetrator was an adult.

Overall, 30% of Canadians (27% of women and 32% of men) reported having experienced physical or sexual assault before the age of 15. Women were more likely than men to have experienced sexual assault during childhood (5% versus 1%), and were twice as likely as men to have experienced both physical and sexual assault (6% versus 3%Note 73).

More than half of female (59%) and male (53%) victims of childhood physical or sexual assault indicated that a parentNote 74 was responsible for the abuse.Note 75 However, distinguishing between the types of assault shows that this kind of relationship applies mainly to physical assault and to a lesser extent to sexual assault.

Female victims of childhood sexual assault were more likely than male victims to report having been victimized by a relative (31% versus 4%E) or a parent (14% versus 13%). Male victims of childhood sexual assault were most often victimized by a stranger (35%), a friend, a current or ex-boyfriend or girlfriend, a neighbour, an acquaintance (24%), or someone elseNote 76 (24%).

More than 90% of victims of childhood assault did not talk to or see the police or child welfare services regarding the assault they experienced. Females were more likely than males to talk to police or child welfare services (9% versus 5%). Female victims were also more likely than male victims to talk to someone informally, such as a family member or a friend, about the abuse they experienced (37% versus 27%).

Data from the 2014 GSS support research showing a relationship between childhood abuse and adulthood victimization (Chart 3). Overall, women who experienced abuse (incidents of sexual and/or physical assault) during childhood reported violent victimizationNote 77 as adults at a rate that was more than double that observed among women who did not experience sexual and/or physical assault before the age of 15 (148 incidents per 1,000 women compared with 59 incidents per 1,000 women). Women who experienced physical and/or sexual assault during childhood reported experiences of adult sexual victimization at a rate that was nearly three times higher than that reported by women who did not experience assault during childhood-65 incidents per 1,000 women versus 24 per 1,000 women). The overall rate of violent victimization among men was just over two times higher among men who had experienced physical and / or sexual assault by an adult before the age of 15, compared with men who had not (105 incidents per 1,000 men compared with 50 incidents per 1,000 men).

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Self-reported spousal violence

Studies have shown the harmful impact of spousalNote 78 violence-a reality for many Canadians-on women, families, and communities across Canada.Note 79Note 80Note 81 The 2014 GSS calculated spousal violence for the married and common-law population and for the population that was separated or divorced, but had contact with an ex-spouse or ex common-law partner during the previous five years.Note 82 In the 2014 GSS, approximately 4% of both women (342,000) and men (418,000) in Canada reported having been a victim of spousal violence in the previous five years.

The overall proportion of self-reported spousal violence declined between 2004 and 2014 (Chart 4). The percentage of women who reported some kind of physicalNote 83 or sexualNote 84 spousal violence fell from 7% in 2004 to 4% in 2014. The percentage of men reporting some kind of physical or sexual spousal violence also decreased, from 6% in 2004 to 4% in 2014. Both women and men reported a higher percentage of violence from previous unions than from their current unions (Chart 4).

Despite similar overall proportions of females and males experiencing spousal violence, the severity and frequency of spousal violence differed between females and males. Nearly half of both women and men who reported spousal violence experienced a single such incident. However, more women (20%) than men (13%E) reported experiencing 11 or more violent incidentsNote 85 (Table 5). Women reported about twice as many incidents involving the most serious forms of physical and sexual violenceNote 86 as men did (34% versus 16%E). Women were also more likely than men to report having sustained physical injuries (40% versus 24%) and having feared for their lives (31% versus 8%E). Of those women who reported injuries, 8%E reported receiving medical attention for those injuries.

Immigrant women and men reported victimization by a spouse less frequently than non-immigrants; this is similar to what was observed with respect to the reporting of overall victimization rates by immigrants.Note 87 Approximately 3% of immigrant women and 4% of non-immigrant women reported experiencing spousal violence.Note 88 Immigrant men (3%E) were also less likely than non-immigrant men (5%) to report spousal abuse. Differences based on immigrant status were statistically significant for both women and men.

Experiencing abuse in childhood was associated with the risk of violence and of emotional and financial abuse by a spouse, regardless of the sex of the victim. Both women and men who had experienced childhood abuse reported a higher percentage of violence by a spouse (6% each) than women and men who had not experienced childhood abuse (3%Note 89 each). Women (21%) and men (20%) who experienced abuse in childhood also more frequently reported emotional and financial abuse than women (10%) and men (12%) who were not abused in childhood. Differences in terms of spousal violence and emotional and financial abuse between those who did and those who did not experience childhood abuse were statistically significant for both women and men.

The results of extensive research indicate that Aboriginal people also experience higher rates of spousal violence in Canada.Note 90Note 91Note 92Note 93Note 94Note 95 The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of CanadaNote 96 has called for an increase in the collection and publication of data on the criminal victimization of Aboriginal people, including data related to homicide and family violence victimization with the goal of reducing the high rates of family victimization.

As measured in the 2014 GSS, the likelihood of Aboriginal women reporting that they had experienced spousal violence was more than three times that of non-Aboriginal women doing so (10%E versus 3%, respectively). The difference in this regard between non-Aboriginal men (4%) and Aboriginal men (8%E) was not statistically significant.

Also according to the 2014 GSS, nearly twice as many Aboriginal women who reported spousal violence experienced the most serious forms of sexual and physical violence (61%E), whereas this was the case for 32% of non-Aboriginal women. Aboriginal women also reported that they feared for their lives at a greater frequency than did non-Aboriginal women (53%E versus 29%). 

Aboriginal women (25%) were nearly twice as likely as non-Aboriginal women (13%) to report having experienced emotional or financial abuse (Chart 5). While the proportion of non-Aboriginal women who reported emotional or financial abuse declined significantly between 2009 and 2014 (from 34% in 2009 to 25% in 2015)Note 97, no statistically significant decrease in the proportion of Aboriginal women who reported abuse was evident. Aboriginal men (20%) were not statistically more likely than non-Aboriginal men (15%) to report being victims of emotional or financial abuse.

The proportion of immigrant women who reported experiences of emotional or financial abuse (12%) was statistically comparable with that observed among non-immigrant women (14%). On the other hand, immigrant men were more likely (17%) than non-immigrant men (14%) to report being emotionally or financially abused by a spouse.

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Violence in dating relationships

Intimate-partner violence encompasses a broad range of romantic partnerships, including dating relationships and spousal relationships.Note 98 The 2014 GSS includes several questions on datingNote 99 violence that measure emotional abuse,Note 100 physical violence, and sexual violence experienced over the previous five years.

Nearly 1 in 10 (9%) individuals who reported having been in dating relationships during the previous five years reported experiencing at least one of these kinds of violence. Attempting to limit contact with family or friends, name calling, or threatening behaviours were the types most commonly reported by both women (8%) and men (6%). Slightly more women (4%) than men (3%) reported experiencing physical abuse in a dating relationship. Of those who reported having been in a dating relationship in the previous five years, 1% reported sexual violence.

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Women’s use of formal support services increased

The impact on women of violence perpetrated by their spouse is reflected in their use of informal and formal services. In the five years preceding the 2014 GSS, women who were victims of spousal violence were much more likely (80%) than male victims (58%) to discuss any such incident with someone they knew (a family member, a friend, or a neighbour; a co-worker; a doctor or a nurse; or a spiritual advisor) (Table 6). In 2014, female victims (56%) were more likely than male victims (20%) to contact or use formal services, such as a crisis centre or crisis line; a counsellor or psychologist; a community or family centre; a shelter; centres for women, men or seniors; or other victim services.Note 101 This is consistent with data for 2009.Note 102 Among women, the use of formal services also increased from 2009, when only 38% of female victims of spousal violence made use of them.Note 103 Of those who contacted formal services in the previous five years, the type of service used was most often support from a counsellor, psychologist or social worker; a larger proportion of females than males reported visiting these professionals (49% versus 17%Note 104). Women also used crisis centres or phone crisis lines (13%) or victims’ services or witness assistance programs (13%).Note 105

Increase in the percentage of violent incidents coming to the attention of police services

According to the 2014 GSS, approximately 30% of spousal violence incidents came to the attention of the police. Police were more likely to find out about incidentsNote 106 involving female victims (35%) than about incidents involving male victims (24%). With respect to incidents involving female victims, 24% were reported to police by the victim herself, and 12% were reported by someone else. Similarly, nearly 15%E of incidents involving a male victim were reported by the victim himself, and 9%E of such incidents were reported by someone else.

Since 2009,Note 107 there has been an increase in the proportion of incidents of spousal violence coming to the attention of the police that involve male victims (11 percentage point increase), while there was no statistically significant increase among women. Specifically, the proportion of male victims reporting incidents to police more than doubled between 2009 and 2014 (Chart 6). 

One in three incidents that cause women to seek shelter are reported to police 

The 2013/2014 Transition Home Survey (THS) takes a snapshot of women who sought shelter on April 16, 2014. Shelters responding to the THS reported that fewer than one in three of the incidents that motivated the stay (30%) were brought to the attention of police while 49% of these incidents were not reported to police. For the remaining 21% of incidents that motivated shelter stays, it was not known whether the incident was reported to police.Note 108

In results similar to those observed for the 2008 THS,Note 109 the most frequently reported reasons for seeking shelter on April 16, 2014, were emotional abuse (66%), physical abuse (50%), financial abuse (38%), threats (36%), harassment (27%), sexual abuse (21%), human trafficking (2%), and other abuse (12%). Other common reasons for seeking shelter were the need to protect children from witnessing abuse (26%) or from experiencing psychological abuse (18%) or physical abuse (10%).

Abuse was the primary reason for seeking shelter in most types of facilities, including transition homes, second-stage housing, and women’s emergency centres (Chart 7). Most women staying at other types of shelters (such as safe home networks, family resource centres, and interim housing) reported reasons other than abuse as having motivated their stay.

In the case of the majority of women (78%) residing in shelters on the reference date, the abuser was an intimate partner.Note 110 The largest proportion of women seeking shelter primarily because they had been the victims of abuse indicated that their abuser was their current common-law partner (38%); the second-largest proportion cited the women’s legal spouse (26%). When calculated as a rate per 100,000 population, the rate of women in a common-law relationship residing in shelters for reasons of abuse was more than six times higher than the rate for legally married women.Note 111 Other abusers reported by women residing in shelters included other family members (10%), current or former dating partners (8%), former common-law partners (9%), former spouses (5%), and individuals with whom the respondent had another type of relationship, such as friends or acquaintances, authority figures, or caregivers (5%).Note 112

Female victims of homicide

Although homicide is a rare event relative to other types of violent crime, it is an important general indicator of changes in crime over time. Unlike other violent crimes, most homicides are reported to police and are captured in official police statistics.Note 113

According to the Homicide Survey, in 2015, females accounted for 29% of all homicide victims in Canada. Calculated as a rate per 100,000 population, the homicide rate for females (0.97 per 100,000 population) was found to be approximately 2.5 times lower than the homicide rate for males (2.41 per 100,000 population). As was the case with other types of violent crime,Note 114 there was a marked decline in homicide rates between 1991 and 2015 (Chart 8). During this period, the homicide rate for females decreased by approximately 49%, from 1.91 per 100,000 population to 0.97 per 100,000 population. The rate for males decreased by 31%, from 3.48 per 100,000 population to 2.41 per 100,000 population, during this time. 

Historical trends indicate that females continue to be at an elevated risk of homicide by intimate partners. The rate of homicide perpetrated against women by intimate partners in 2015 was more than five times the rate of homicide involving male victims (0.45 per 100,000 population versus 0.09 per 100,000 population). Despite some annual fluctuation, the rate of intimate partner homicide generally declined between 1994 and 2015 (Chart 9). The number of females killed by intimate partners was 69 in 2015, down from 79 in 1994. The number of males killed by their intimate partners saw a larger decline over the same period (from 27 in 1994 to 13 in 2015).

As was observed with violent victimization, some groups are at higher risk of homicide than others.Note 115 In the 14-year period from 2001 to 2015, the homicide rate for Aboriginal females was nearly six times higher than that for non-Aboriginal females-4.82 per 100,000 population versus 0.82 per 100,000 population. The over-representation of Aboriginal women among homicide victims was observed in most provinces and in the territories, but was most notable in the territories and the provinces of Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan (Chart 10).

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Collection of information on missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls

The Homicide Survey is an administrative survey that collects police-reported data on the characteristics of all homicide incidents, victims, and accused persons in Canada.Note 116 Given Canada’s colonial history as well as the cultural and political status of Aboriginal people within Canada, collection of data on the Aboriginal identity of victims and accused persons is important, particularly in the justice field. A question on the Aboriginal identity of both victims and accused persons was introduced in the Homicide Survey in 1997. Since collection of data on Aboriginal identity began, underreporting by police services has affected the quality of data on Aboriginal identity. For example, between 2003 and 2013, Aboriginal identity was reported by police as “unknown” for about half of all victims and persons accused of homicide. This is due, in large part, to local policies followed by police services to protect the privacy of victims and persons accused of homicide.Note 117Note 118

Between 2004 and 2014, there was growing pressure from national and international organizations to monitor the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls.Note 119Note 120Note 121Note 122Note 123Note 124 One of the calls to action made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2015) is for the federal government to improve data collection on the criminal victimization of Aboriginal peoples in Canada. In response to these recommendations, in 2014, Statistics Canada and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) worked in collaboration with the policing community across Canada to update the identity of Aboriginal female homicide victims for 1980 and subsequent years. This information served for the analysis presented in this report. In 2014, police services across Canada began reporting complete information on the majority of victims and accused persons.

According to the Homicide Survey, police solved approximately 9 in 10 (89%) homicides of Aboriginal females reported between 1980 and 2014. A comparable proportion of non-Aboriginal female homicides were solved during this period.Note 125 According to data collected directly by the RCMP for its National Operational Review on Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women, RCMP jurisdictions, which police more than 40% of the Aboriginal population of Canada, had overall resolution rates of 81% for homicide cases involving Aboriginal females and 83% for homicide cases involving non-Aboriginal females with respect to homicide cases investigated in 2013/2014.Note 126  

Administered by the RCMP, the National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains (NCMPUR) provides national data sharing, coordination, and development of investigational best practices in missing-persons and unidentified-remains cases.Note 127 The RCMP also collects information on the number of missing Aboriginal females in Canada, whether foul play is expected in each case, and the outcome of any ongoing investigation. According to the 2015 operational update,Note 128 NCMPUR recorded 204 unsolved cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women. This represents a reduction of approximately 9% from the 225 unsolved cases recorded in 2014: a 12% decrease in homicides and a 7% decrease in missing-person cases. As police services solve historical homicide cases reported to Statistics Canada, this information is added to the Homicide Survey data on an annual basis for capture in national statistics.

In 2015, the Homicide Survey added a question regarding the status of homicide victims as missing persons. Approximately 17% of Aboriginal female victims and 18% of non-Aboriginal female victims were previously on record as missing persons.Note 129 In contrast, 7% of Aboriginal male victims and 8% of non-Aboriginal male victims were previously reported as missing.Note 130

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Aboriginal females account for an increasing proportion of homicide victims 

While the number of homicides for non-Aboriginal females generally declined between 1980 and 2015, the same is not true for Aboriginal females (Chart 11). The number of homicides among Aboriginal females has increased over the past several decades. As a result, Aboriginal females account for an increasing proportion of female homicide victims. For example, Aboriginal females accounted for 9% of all female homicide victims in 1980, compared with 24% in 2015.

Among solved homicides recorded in 2015, the relationships between victims and their accused were found to be similar for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal females. A slightly larger proportion of non-Aboriginal females (66%) than Aboriginal females (62%) were killed by a current or former spouse or common-law partner or by another family member. However, a dating partner or other intimate partner killed a larger proportion of Aboriginal females than non-Aboriginal females-15% compared with 10%. Similar proportions of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal females were killed by acquaintances (18%) and by strangers (6%).Note 131

Female offenders in Canada

Most information about female offenders in Canada is obtained from administrative data collected in police reports, the courts or the correctional systems. As results from the 2014 GSS have shown, not all crimes committed are brought to the attention of the police. The statistics presented below were derived from data collected by Canadian policing agencies and based on the crimes reported to the police.

Police-reported crime rates higher among female youth than adult females

Approximately 993,000 individuals were accused of committing at least one Criminal Code offence (including traffic violations) in 2015 (Table 7). Females comprised just under 24% of the total number of individuals accused of such offences. Almost 73% of the 56,000 females accused of violent crimes were involved in level I, level II, level III, or other assaults.Note 132

With respect to violent Criminal Code offences, the highest representation of females was observed for the offence of making threatening or harassing phone calls (38%). With respect to non-violent Criminal Code offences, females represented 37% of individuals accused of theft under $5,000 and 33% of individuals accused of fraud.  In 2015, as in previous years, men comprised the majority of those accused of committing violent offences: 97% of individuals accused of sexual assault (all levels); 95% of individuals accused of “other” sexual violations; 94% of individuals accused of offences involving the commodification of sexual activity; 91% of individuals accused of kidnapping / forcible confinement; and 89% of individuals accused of homicide. With respect to non-violent crimes, males accounted for 88% of those accused of fleeing from a peace officer and 87% of those accused of break-and-enter.

Table 8 presents the rate of crime by the age and sex of the accused. Results show that the rates at which adult females were accused of committing an offence was generally highest among women aged 18 to 24 and that these rates decreased as offenders’ age increased.

For some Criminal Code violations, the rates of offence among female adolescents (aged 12 to 17) were notably higher than the rates among their 18-to-24-year-old and 25-to-34-year-old counterparts. The offences included property crimes, such as theft under $5,000 (751 per 100,000 population among the 12‑to-17-year-old cohort, 548 per 100,000 population among the 18-to-24-year-old cohort, and 439 per 100,000 population among the 25-to-34-year-old cohort). As well, female adolescents were more likely to be accused of uttering threats (112 per 100,000 population) than their older cohorts (75 per 100,000 among the 18-to-24-year-old cohort and 67 per 100,000 population among the 25-to-34-year-old cohort). On the other hand, young women aged 18 to 24 had higher rates of being accused of drug offences (356 per 100,000 population) than girls aged 12 to 17 (244 per 100,000 population), and slightly higher overall rates of violent Criminal Code offences (737 per 100,000) than females aged 12 to 17 (730 per 100,000 population).            

Generally, adult males aged 18 to 24 years exhibited higher rates of being accused of crimes than male adolescents (cohort aged 12 to 17 years). The rate of male adolescents accused of committing a Criminal Code offence (7,184 per 100,000 population) was 43% lower than the rate for adult males aged 18 to 24 (10,268 per 100,000 population) and 18% lower than the rate for adult males aged 25 to 34 (8,492 per 100,000 population). However, rates for crimes involving theft under $5,000 were higher for male adolescents (1,162 per 100,000 population), break-and-enter (486 per 100,000 population), sexual assault (148 per 100,000 population), other sexual violations (47 per 100,000 population), and arson (45 per 100,000 population) than for males belonging to the older cohorts of adult males (the cohorts aged 18 to 24 and aged 25 to 34).  

Most victims of violent crime perpetrated by females were known to the offender

Earlier in this report, it is stated that the majority of female victims of violence and the individuals accused of perpetrating this violence were known to each other. Table 9 presents the analysis of the nature of the relationships between females accused of violent crimes and their victims.Note 133 In those cases, the data show that the majority of victims of violent crimes committed by females in 2015 were also individuals known or related to the offenders, whereas the accused were strangers to the victim in almost 12% of cases. The remaining 88% of female-perpetrated violent crimes involved acquaintances (35%), other family members (17%), intimate partners (20%), or current / former spouses (17%).Note 134 

AssaultNote 135 was the most common type of violent crime of which females were accused in 2015 (tables 7, 8 and 9). Among females accused of assault level 1 (common assault) 40% of victims were spouses or other intimate partners, as were 49% of victims of assault level 2 (assault with a weapon or assault causing bodily harm), and 51% of victims of assault level 3 (assault with a weapon). 

Although female perpetrated sexual assault is relatively rare compared with males, more than half (54%) of all females accused of sexual assaultNote 136 were acquaintances of their victims, as were 50% of criminal harassment offences and 47% of incidents of threatening or harassing phone calls committed by females. Crimes perpetrated by females against strangers largely involved other assaults (68%), robbery (65%), other violations causing death (60%), or extortion (23%).

Victims of females accused of homicide were most often an intimate partner or a family member

According to the Homicide Survey, females accounted for 11% of persons accused of homicide between 2001 and 2015.Note 137 Females were most likely to kill an intimate partner (32%) or a family member (32%), followed by an acquaintance (29%) or a stranger (6%) (Table 10). In contrast, males were most likely to kill an acquaintance (47%), and less likely to kill an intimate partner (18%), a stranger (17%), or family member (17%).

Aboriginal females were over-represented among female homicide victims as well as among females accused of homicide. In 2015, there were 37 Aboriginal females and 24 non-Aboriginal females accused of homicide. The rate at which Aboriginal females were accused of homicide was 31 times higher than the rate at which non-Aboriginal females were accused (4.33 per 100,000 population compared with 0.14 per 100,000 population). In comparison, the rate at which Aboriginal males were accused was eight times higher than the rate at which non-Aboriginal males were accused (16.09 per 100,000 population compared with 1.90 per 100,000 population).Note 138

Increase in the proportion of adult females charged with violent offences

Between 1998Note 139 and 2015, the percentage of adult females charged with Criminal Code offences increased by about 4 percentage points as a proportion of total Criminal Code violations. The share of adult females as a percentage of adults charged increased by nearly 5% for violent crimes and by close to 7% for property crimes. The increase in the proportion of adult females charged with property crimes is due to a significant drop in the number of males charged with property offences rather than to an actual increase in the number of adult females charged with this type of crime.

Since 1998, there has been a decline in the rates of charges for property offences brought against adult women, and an even deeper decline in such charges being brought against adult men (charts 13 and 14). The rate of adult females accused of perpetrating property crimes declined by almost 21% between 1998 and 2015 (Chart 13). Within that time, the rate of adult males charged with property crimes decreased by 45%, while adult males charged with violent crimes fell by 17% (Chart 14). However, charges against adult females for violent crimes rose between 1998 and 2001, but have been fairly stable since that time. During this time period, charges for other Criminal Code violations increased by 41%.

One in five completed criminal court cases involve a female accused

Several factors; for example, the use of pre-charge diversion programs to reduce the number and types of cases proceeding to court, as well as the use of pre-charge screening by Crown attorneys to increase the vetting of charges before prosecution, affect the number of cases heard in adult and youth criminal courts.Note 140Note 141 According to the 2014/2015 Integrated Criminal Court Survey,Note 142 one in five completed court cases involved a female accused. The percentage of cases involving a female accused disposed of in youth criminal courts was slightly higher (22%) than the percentage of cases involving a female accused disposed of in adult criminal courts (20%).

The types of offences in which females are most likely to be involved changed very little between 2004 and 2014. Of all cases involving a female accused disposed of in adult criminal court in 2014/2015, property crimes (34%), violent crimes (21%), and offences relating to the administration of justice (20%) made up the majority of cases. Among cases involving a female accused settled in youth courts, 34% were property offences, 30% were violent crimes, and 17% were violations of other federal statutes.

The most common charges in cases involving a female accused completed in adult criminal court included theft (19%), level I assault (10%), impaired driving (10%), failure to comply with a court order (9%), breach of probation (7%), major assault Note 143 (6%), and fraud (5%). Combined, these seven offences accounted for approximately two-thirds of all cases involving a female accused disposed of in adult criminal courts. Among cases completed in youth criminal court, theft (16%) and level I assault (14%) were the most common offences involving a female accused, followed by Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) offences (11%) and failure to comply with a court order (9%).

The number of cases completed in adult criminal court involving a male accused was greater than the number of cases involving a female accused in all offence categories. The highest representation of women was observed in cases of theft (35%), fraud (33%), possession of stolen property (27%), failure to appear in court (24%), other offences relating to the administration of justice (23%), and physical assault (23%). Among youth, the highest representation of females occurred in cases of prostitution (44%), failure to appear in court (37%), common assault (37%), disturbing the peace (32%), and theft (32%).

In 2014/2015, cases involving a female accused that were adjudicated in criminal courts, were less likely to result in a guilty findingNote 144-54%Note 145 in adult criminal courts and 49% of in youth criminal courtsNote 146)-than cases involving a male accused-65% and 58% of cases in adult criminal courts and youth criminal courts respectively). This is consistent with results from previous years. However, cases involving a female accused were more likely to be resolved by charges being stayed or withdrawnNote 147 (42% for adult females and 50% for female youth) than cases involving a male accused (30% for adult males and 40% for male youth).

Previous research has suggested that some of these differences can be attributed to the fact that cases involving a female accused are less likely to involve multiple charges and the fact that females are more likely than males to be first-time offenders.Note 148 Although information on the criminal history of the accused is not available from these data, a slightly lower percentage of adult males (39%) and male youth (36%) than females (45% for both adults and youth) incurred a single charge. Cases involving multiple charges were more likely to result in a guilty finding than cases involving a single charge. Approximately 73% of multiple-charge cases in adult court and 69% of such cases in youth court received a guilty finding, whereas this was the case for 49% of single-charge cases in adult court and 36% of such cases in youth court.Note 149

Consistent with previous research, in 2014/2015, adult females were less likely (26%) than adult males (39%) to receive a custodial sentence upon conviction (Chart 15). When custody was ordered, average sentence lengths were generally shorter for adult females than for adult males. The average length of incarceration in cases disposed of in adult court was 71 days for women and 109 days for men.Note 150 A smaller proportion of female youth than male youth were sentenced to custody (12% versus 16%).Note 151 Among cases completed in youth court, average custodial sentences were 61 days for females and 87 days for males.

Small increase in the number of cases involving a female accused completed in adult criminal court

Overall, the number of cases disposed of in adult criminal courts in the 10 reporting jurisdictionsNote 152 remained fairly stable between the year for which the trend data became available, 2000/2001, and 2014/2015 (Chart 16). The number of cases involving a female accused increased (from 54,831 in 2000/2001 to 59,633 in 2014/2015) during this period whereas cases involving a male accused decreased (from 296,161 in 2000/2001 to 240,525 in 2014/2015). This means that females accounted for a larger share of the accused in adult criminal court than they did 14 years earlier (approximately 16% in 2000/2001 versus 20% in 2014/2015).  

Youth criminal court caseloads continue to decline for both females and males

Youth criminal court caseloads declined to a greater extent than adult criminal court caseloads. In 2014/2015, youth court caseloads in Canada totaled fewer than half the number of cases they comprised in 2000/2001, a notable decline being observed in the two years from 2002/2003 to 2004/2005 (from 76,204 cases to 57,675 cases). Some of this decline has been attributed to the coming-into-force of the YCJA, in 2003, which encourages the diversion of youth who have committed non-violent and minor offences away from the formal court system.Note 153Note 154 During this period, the number of cases involving property crimes (such as theft, break-and-enter, and mischief) declined substantially. Female youth accounted for more than one in five (22%) of all completed cases in 2014/2015, a proportion similar to that recorded in 2000/2001, more than a decade earlier.

Females account for more than 1 in 10 admissions to adult correctional facilities 

According to data from the Adult Correctional Services surveyNote 155 (Table 12), there were more than 330,000 adult female admissionsNote 156 to correctional supervision in Canada in 2014/2015. More than 15% of admissions to provincial / territorial correctional services and 6% of admissions to federal correctional services were adult females. Approximately one in five (19%) admissions to adult community correctional supervision (e.g., probation, conditional sentences, or parole) were women. Women also accounted for 13% of admissions to provincial / territorial custody and 7% of admissions to federal custody. Four jurisdictions exceeded the provincial / territorial average for adult female admissions to provincial / territorial custody: Manitoba (18%), Prince Edward Island (17%), Saskatchewan (15%), and Yukon (14%).

Table 13 presents the distribution of admissionsNote 157 to correctional services for female youth (females aged 12 to 17 at the time of the offence) living in the three territories and six of the ten provinces in 2014/2015. Within the nine jurisdictions where data were available,Note 158 there were slightly more than 17,700 admissions to youth correctional services in 2014/2015. About one-quarter (23%) of the youth admitted were female. The proportion of female admissions to pre-trial detention, open custody, and community-based supervision was about the same as the overall average. However, the percentage of admissions of female youth to secure custody was relatively low (16%).

Characteristics of adult females involved with provincial and federal correctional custodial services

Women in provincial and federal correctional institutions tended to be younger than the overall female population in Canada (Table 14). In 2014/2015, 60% of women in provincial custody and 57% of women in federal custody were younger than 35 years of age. Among the overall female population 18 years and older, 28% of women were between the ages of 18 and 34.Note 159

The marital status of women in correctional institutions tended to differ from the marital status of women in the broader population. In 2014/2015, two-thirds (67%) of women in provincial custody and 56% of women in federal custody were “single, never married.” Meanwhile, 37% of women 18 years of age and older in the Canadian population were “single, never married.”Note 160

Aboriginal women continue to be over-represented in correctional institutions

The high representation of Aboriginal women among women under correctional supervisionNote 161 is well-documented and has been steadily increasing.Note 162Note 163 In 2014/2015, Aboriginal women accounted for 39% of admissions of women to federal custody and 38% of admissions to provincial / territorial custody.Note 164 In comparison, Aboriginal women comprised less than 5% of the total female population of Canada in 2015. The representation of Aboriginal women in admissions increased for all three types of custody (remand, sentenced, and other) during the period; the greatest change was observed in sentenced custody, whereas the proportion for the eight reporting jurisdictions doubled, increasing from 18% in 2000/2001 to 37% in 2014/2015.Note 165 Aboriginal men accounted for one in four (25%) admissions to provincial sentenced custody, while they accounted for 15% of such admissions in 2000/2001 (Chart 18). 

Differences in the representation of Aboriginal women in sentenced custody varies across Canada; the largest proportions were recorded in the western provinces and the territories. In 2014/2015, Aboriginal women comprised 86% of admissions of women to adult provincial sentenced custody in Manitoba and 85% of such admissions in Saskatchewan. In comparison, in 2011, Aboriginal females 15 years and older accounted for 14% and 15% of these provincial populations, respectively.Note 166 Although Aboriginal females comprise a larger proportion of the populations in the territories (24% in Yukon, 49% in the Northwest Territories, and 84% in Nunavut), their representation in admissions to sentenced custody in 2014/2015 was even higher (82% in Yukon, 93% in the Northwest Territories, and 100% in Nunavut) (Chart 19).

Previous researchNote 167 has shown that the younger age distribution, education and employment characteristics of the Aboriginal population can account for some of its higher representation in custody. However, even when high school graduation and employment are considered, Aboriginal adults aged 20 to 34 still have higher representation in custody than non-Aboriginal people in Canada.Note 168

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Women as a percentage of those employed in justice-related occupations

The percentage of women working in the criminal justice system increased between 1991 and 2011 within all the justice-related occupations examined. In particular, the percentage of female judges employed in the criminal justice system increased from 14% to 36%; the percentage of female correctional workers increased from 22% to 32%; and the percentage of female lawyers and notaries increased from 27% to 42%. In 1991, 50% of probation and parole officers were women. By 2011, women held almost two-thirds of probation and parole-officer positions and 85% of paralegal and related positions. 

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Large increase in the percentage of women employed in policing

According to data from the Police Administration Survey,Note 169 the percentage of women employed in policing increased substantially between 1989 and 2014 (Chart 20). In 1989, 8% of constables within Canadian police forces were women. By 2014, 22% of Canadian police constables were female. Women are also increasingly making their way into management positions in policing. In 2014, 11% of senior police officers were women, while in 1989, well below 1% of such positions were held by women.

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