Update — Violence Against Women in Canada: The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

(Disponible en français : Mise à jour — La violence faite aux femmes au Canada : la Journée nationale de commémoration et d’action contre la violence faite aux femmes)

Every year on 6 December, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women provides an opportunity to reflect on how violence affects women in Canada, and how our communities can take action to end violence against women. Established in 1991 by the Parliament of Canada, the day marks the anniversary of the 1989 gender-based murders of 14 young women at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal.

In Canada and around the world, violence against women and girls remains a serious challenge. Violence impedes women’s full and equal participation in public life; it causes short- and long-term damage to women’s mental and physical health; it has a negative effect on the economy; and it hurts families and society as a whole.

Violence Against Women: Overview

In Canada, according to the most recently available (2014) self-reported data, women face a higher rate of violent victimization than do men: 85 incidents per 1,000 women compared with 67 incidents per 1,000 men.

This is the first time the rate of violent victimization was notably higher for women than for men. This difference is attributable to relatively unchanging rates of sexual assault, in which most victims are women, and decreasing rates of other violent crimes, offences involving mostly male victims.

The violence faced by women in Canada is of a different scope and severity than that faced by men:

  • Women are more likely to experience violence at the hands of individuals they know, such as intimate partners or family members, whereas men are at greater risk of violence from acquaintances or strangers.
  • Women are at greater risk of certain forms of violence, including sexual assault, forcible confinement and abduction, and criminal harassment (stalking).
  • Women are more likely to experience intimate partner violence of a severe nature, which includes being sexually assaulted and beaten, living through chronic incidents of violence, and being threatened with a gun or knife.

Recent statistics on violence against women in Canada reveal that:

Recent Federal Government and Parliamentary Initiatives to Address Violence Against Women

Recent parliamentary initiatives in this area include:

Recent federal initiatives include the following:

Vulnerable Populations: Indigenous Women and Girls

Violence affects women of all social, economic and cultural groups. However, certain groups of women, such as Indigenous women, are at greater risk of victimization.

Indigenous women – First Nations, Métis and Inuit women – are more likely to be targets of violence than non-Indigenous women.  For example, the self-reported rate of sexual assault was three times higher for Indigenous women (11.5%) compared to the rate for non-Indigenous women (3.5%).

A 2014 report by the House of Commons Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls outlined some of the root causes of such violence. Recognizing that the underlying causes are varied, complex and interrelated, the Committee identified factors that contribute to Indigenous women’s risk of victimization, such as “human trafficking, substance abuse, prostitution, poverty, lack of housing and poor living conditions, lack of prevention services such as mental health services, and the ongoing legacy of residential schools,” as well as systemic racism.

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was launched in September 2016 and is currently holding community hearings across Canada. The deadline for the National Inquiry to complete its work is 31 December 2018, although a letter from the National Inquiry suggested that an extension will be requested. In November 2017, the National Inquiry released an Interim Report, Our Women and Girls are Sacred.

Related resources

Mahony, Tina Hotton et al. “Women and the Criminal Justice System.” Women in Canada: A gender-based statistical report – seventh edition. Statistics Canada, Ottawa, 6 June 2017.

World Health Organization. Violence against women: Intimate partner and sexual violence against women. Fact sheet No. 239, November 2017.

Author: Laura Munn-Rivard, Library of Parliament

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