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National action plan to end gender-based violence

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Introduction

Everyone has the right to live free from violence, however, many people in Canada continue to experience violence every day because of their sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, or perceived gender. This is gender-based violence (GBV), one of the most pervasive, deadly and deeply rooted human rights violations.

GBV is rooted in gender inequality and is further intensified by systemic inequalities, such as sexism, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, colonialism, racism, ableism, classism, poverty, and a collective history of trauma. GBV can have long-lasting negative health, social, and economic consequences, often leading to intergenerational cycles of violence and abuse.

GBV disproportionately affects women and girls. Certain populations that are at risk of GBV or underserved when they experience these forms of violence include Indigenous women and girls; Black and racialized women; immigrant and refugee women; Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and additional sexually and gender diverse (2SLGBTQI+)Footnote a people; people with disabilities, and women living in Northern, rural, and remote communities.

30% of women report experiencing a sexual assault since the age of 15.Footnote 1 44% of women report experiencing some form of intimate partner violence (IPV) in their lifetime.Footnote 2 Not only does GBV impact individuals, families, and communities, but it also places a costly burden on the health, social, and justice systems. In 2009, it was estimated that IPV has an economic cost of $7.4 billion annually and sexual violence a cost of $4.8 billion annually.Footnote 3Footnote 4

Preventing and addressing GBV in Canada requires a coordinated national approach, with federal, provincial,Footnote b and territorial governments working in close partnership with victims and survivors, Indigenous partners, direct service providers, experts, advocates, municipalities, the private sector, and researchers. The National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence (National Action Plan to End GBV) will guide this work and advance efforts across the country. Federal, provincial, and territorial governments acknowledge the urgency to address the multiple complex and deeply rooted factors that contribute to GBV and are committed to working in collaboration on this serious issue.

Governments across Canada are committed to advancing reconciliation with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples, through a renewed relationship based on the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership. Substantial, immediate, and transformational change is required by all Canadians to address the root causes of violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people. This work must be done in partnership with federal, provincial, and territorial governments, Indigenous Peoples, including families and survivors, Indigenous women and 2SLGBTQQIA+ partners, and Indigenous-led GBV organizations.

Sustained coordinated efforts across all orders of government and with Indigenous partners is necessary to ensure sustainable, equitable, and meaningful progress is made towards ending GBV against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people, no matter where they live. The 2021 Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People National Action Plan: Ending Violence Against Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People (MMIWG2S+ NAP) was a significant milestone in this response. Indigenous partners and provincial and territorial governments have also released, or are in the process of drafting, their respective responses and strategies. The Federal Pathway to Address Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People is the Government of Canada’s contribution to this national action plan.

The National Action Plan to End GBV and the MMIWG2S+ NAP are aligned and mutually reinforcing. They both aim to prevent GBV, address its root causes, and provide better supports for victims, survivors, and their families.

The evidence

GBV can take many forms, including physical, sexual, psychological, emotional, and financial abuse as well as technology-facilitated violence. It takes place in homes, in public spaces, in workplaces and online.

There are two main sources of data on GBV at the national level: administrative data – usually from police, but also from coroners, health services, shelters, social services – and surveys, or self-reported data, in which people are asked whether they have experienced specific forms of violence. No matter the source, the data understates the magnitude of the problem, as people are often reluctant to report GBV due in part to stigma, shame, fear, and systemic issues, which may lead to a lack of confidence that the justice response will be effective.

The statistics below reflect the national picture, however, instances of GBV vary across Canada. There are challenges and gaps in collecting consistent and detailed data, particularly in rural and remote contexts and among marginalized populations.

A further challenge is the lack of data to support the use of an intersectional lens, which recognizes that people often experience multiple oppressions due to the combined effects of systemic discrimination (e.g., ableism, classism, colonialism, a collective history of trauma, poverty, racism, sexism, and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression). Intersectionality takes into account historical, social, and political contexts and centres the unique experiences of the individual and/or group in relation to their identity factors. It is difficult to apply an intersectional lens to existing data, as available data only highlights specific forms of GBV on individual populations such as Indigenous Peoples or people with disabilities, for example, but not the experience of Indigenous people with disabilities. This highlights the need to collect and report on disaggregated data, wherever possible, and to invest in population-specific targeted research to address persistent gaps and challenges in data. Despite these acknowledged gaps and limitations, the data still presents a stark image of GBV in Canada. Below is a snapshot of the situation.

Specific forms of GBVFootnote c

GBV can take many forms, including physical, economic, sexual, and emotional (psychological) abuse. Data on some of the more common forms of GBV are presented below:

Sexual assault

Intimate partner violence 

Intimate partner homicide (or domestic homicide)

Unwanted sexual behaviour

Human trafficking

Online child sexual exploitation

The need for a national action plan

Ending GBV is everyone’s responsibility. It is a multi-faceted and complex issue that requires cross-sectoral approaches, with responses from education, health, justice, and social service sectors. Working in partnership across orders of government, with victims and survivors, Indigenous partners, direct service providers, experts, researchers, advocates, and the private sector is essential.

The United Nations has indicated that national action plans are crucial in addressing GBV. Multiple national and international bodies have called for a national action plan, including, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, the federal Standing Committee on the Status of Women, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ Final Report’s Calls for Justice, and the Canadian Network of Women’s Shelters and Transition Houses-led Blueprint for Canada’s National Action Plan. The National Action Plan to End GBV builds on Canada’s international commitments, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

The National Action Plan to End GBV is reflective of the perspectives shared by victims and survivors, direct service providers, experts, advocates, and academics as well as parliamentary and stakeholder reports and calls to action and existing cumulative knowledge. The National Action Plan to End GBV builds on existing federal, provincial, and territorial approaches and strategies to prevent and address GBV, including the federal strategy, It’s Time: Canada’s Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence. Furthermore, the National Action Plan complements other existing initiatives such as the National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking and the National Strategy for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation on the Internet.

The National Action Plan to End GBV is a timely and necessary step to address the root causes and persistent gaps that remain in Canada to end GBV. It is a strategic framework for action, within and across jurisdictions, to support victims, survivors and their families, no matter where they live. It provides a common vision, principles, goals, and pillars to guide efforts across the country. Governments across the country can select from priority actions identified in this document to guide their responses, based on their own specific contexts and priorities. The national action plan is evergreen, designed to adapt to evolving needs and emerging issues.

Building on strong federal, provincial, and territorial partnerships

Federal, provincial, and territorial collaboration is key to the development and implementation of a national response. All jurisdictions have different roles to play but share responsibility in changing the attitudes and behaviours that sustain GBV and for the implementation of the National Action Plan to End GBV.

To facilitate this coordinated response, it is important to understand the roles of the respective jurisdictions. Provinces and territories control the key levers to reach people experiencing GBV and to promote prevention and awareness of GBV, such as developing their own policy frameworks and funding and delivering education, health care, and social services.

The federal government provides funding and, in some cases, delivers services to specific populations under its jurisdiction: First Nations people on reserve, federal prisoners, members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), veterans, and newly arrived immigrants and refugees. The federal, provincial, and territorial governments have a shared and collective role in supporting the necessary coordination, knowledge mobilization, along with sharing and amplifying best practices essential to a national response.

Criminal law in Canada is an area of shared responsibility. The federal government is responsible for criminal law and procedure, such as that set out in the Criminal Code and the military justice system; while provinces and territories have jurisdiction over the administration of justice, such as investigating crimes, prosecuting crimes (except in the territories), and delivering the majority of victim services. There is a long-standing tradition of the federal, provincial, and territorial ministers responsible for justice and public safety working collaboratively. The federal government frequently consults the provinces and territories as part of the development of criminal law. Neither level of government can successfully carry out its mandate without the cooperation and involvement of the other.

Responsibility for correctional services is also shared, with provinces and territories administering correctional facilities for those serving sentences of two years less a day, and the federal government responsible for penitentiaries that house offenders serving longer sentences.

Significant work that reflects jurisdictional contexts and priorities is being advanced by provinces and territories and the federal government on prevention, support, and systems change to address GBV. Implementation of the National Action Plan to End GBV will be undertaken through further federal, provincial, and territorial government collaboration to enhance efforts nationally to achieve the common vision of a Canada free of GBV that supports victims, survivors, and their families, no matter where they live. Preventing and addressing GBV is a priority issue for all jurisdictions. A coordinated response between and among federal, provincial, and territorial approaches is needed to support victims, survivors, and their families.

Joint declaration and framework for action

A clear set of priorities for action has been identified through ongoing engagements with victims, survivors, their families, Indigenous partners, direct service providers, experts, advocates, and academics, along with an analysis of civil society, parliamentary, and international studies, reports and calls to action. The input and recommendations from engagements, report findings, and calls to action were reviewed and used to inform the development of this national action plan.

This document is divided into five pillars that include actions that support victims and survivors, prevent GBV, strengthen the justice system response, and address the enabling environment for GBV. While there is a separate pillar for Indigenous-led approaches, actions to support Indigenous-led responses are reflected throughout the document. The five pillars and the foundation are inter-related and complement one another. For individuals experiencing GBV, the pillars and the priority actions identified reflect the need for a continuum of responses from health, the GBV sector, housing and social services that respond to immediate and long-term needs.

In January 2021, the Joint Declaration for a Canada Free of Gender-Based Violence was endorsed by the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Ministers Responsible for the Status of Women (Annex A). It laid out the high-level framework for joint action, identifying the vision, goals, pillars, and foundation for the national action plan. Building on the high-level framework, the national action plan was developed through the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Forum of Ministers Responsible for the Status of Women, and their respective government partners and agencies.

The high-level framework for joint action

Vision

A Canada free of gender-based violence. A Canada that supports victims, survivors and their families, no matter where they live.

Timing

Ten years

Shared responsibility

Preventing and addressing gender-based violence necessitates coordinated and collaborative actions from federal, provincial, and territorial governments, each working within their respective jurisdictional authorities, in close partnership with victims/survivors, Indigenous partners, civil society, front-line service providers, municipalities, the private sector and researchers. Joint efforts in support of this national action plan will align with and complement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ Calls for Justice.

Guiding principles

Goals

Pillars

The foundation

Implementing and monitoring this plan requires collaboration within and across governments and Indigenous partners; and engagement with victims, survivors and their families, direct service providers, experts, and researchers. Federal, provincial, and territorial efforts are complemented by local/community approaches and responses. Knowledge mobilization of surveillance data, research findings, and frontline expertise will support evidence-based policy and program development.

Pillar one – Support for victims, survivors and their families

Ending GBV is an important goal of all governments, organizations, and individuals working in the sector. While Canada strives to attain this goal, it is imperative that those individuals who have experienced and continue to experience GBV are able to access competent, stable, equitable, trauma and violence-informed, and culturally appropriate supports and services in their communities.

GBV services provide critical, lifesaving supports and safe spaces; and deliver social, health, and community services that protect and empower victims and survivors including, women, girls, and 2SLGBTQI+ people experiencing violence. Organizations and individuals working in communities have in-depth knowledge about the needs of clients, the systemic barriers clients face and the solutions needed. The safety and well-being of victims and survivors are at the centre of the National Action Plan to End GBV recognizing that they are the experts in their own personal experiences, with diverse backgrounds and needs.

What remains to be done

Significant challenges remain for people who are experiencing GBV. These include: limited access to services specifically in rural, remote and Northern communities; existing health, justice, and social systems/services faced with increasing demands; feelings of stigma, shame, and fear about sharing experiences; familial and community repercussions; lack of culturally appropriate, inclusive, trauma and violence-informed services; historic and ongoing experiences of sexism, racism, colonialism, a collective history of trauma, ableism, classism, poverty, and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression that have created a lack of trust in institutions and service providers; lack of specialized supports to meet victims/survivors’ unique needs; lack of accessible spaces for people with disabilities; and lack of coordination and connection across support and service sectors.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to increased rates of some forms of GBV and has also shed light on the funding needed for GBV services.Footnote e Community partners continue to cite the importance of sustained funding for community-based programs, including adequate and predictable operational and capacity funding. Without sustained funding, organizations do not have the means to hire and retain qualified staff; increase occupational health, mental health, and safety supports to ensure staff wellness and well-being; provide ongoing professional development to support increasingly diverse and complex client needs; and meet the existing needs of communities, let alone expand programming and services to address emerging needs.

Opportunities for action

Increase sustainable operational/core funding for GBV services.

Actions could include:

Improve programs, services, and supports that impact people experiencing GBV so they may better address the intersectional needs of diverse communities and populations.

Actions could include:

Enhance the capacity of health, justice, and social services and systems to provide evidence-informed integrated GBV services and supports to meet the needs of GBV victims and survivors and their families.

Actions could include:

Improve the responsiveness of child, youth and family services.

Actions could include:

Pillar two – Prevention

Cultural and societal perceptions of gender norms, gender inequalities, and economic, political and social power imbalances perpetuate the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours that contribute to GBV in both public and private spheres. Programs and policies that address such attitudes and behaviours are needed to further prevent GBV.

The National Action Plan to End GBV emphasizes primary prevention approaches that address the root causes of GBV to stop violence before it occurs. Prevention work must occur in a range of contexts – in private spaces, public spaces, community spaces, workplaces, educational settings of all types including post-secondary institutions, and online.

Prevention cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach. These efforts must be gender-informed/sensitive and inclusive, intersectional, trauma and violence-informed, and culturally appropriate in order to best meet the needs of diverse populations. This includes producing materials in multiple languages and accessible formats that are tailored to specific populations such as people with disabilities, Indigenous Peoples, immigrant, and refugee populations.

Prevention efforts must also be geared to populations of all ages. Safe, stable and nurturing relationships between children and their caregivers, and the promotion of positive mental health in children and youth support the development of healthy, resilient individuals. This provides a strong foundation on which to base future healthy relationships from adolescence to adulthood to prevent GBV.

What remains to be done

The growing body of evidence about prevention calls for key actions to promote greater awareness of GBV including, evidence-informed awareness and education for children at a younger age on healthy relationships, gender identity and expression, sexuality and consent education; increased awareness of available supports and resources on GBV; GBV training for professionals; specific engagement with men and boys in GBV prevention; and increased awareness of GBV in the workplace. All awareness and prevention initiatives must be informed by the principles of intersectionality and ultimately address systemic power relations that amplify experiences of GBV.

Opportunities for action

Pillar three – Responsive justice system

GBV is a violation of human rights, and in many cases,Footnote f a violation of Canadian criminal law. In Canada, the justice system is comprised of criminal law and civil law, which includes family law.Footnote gFootnote hThe justice system involves multiple players, including law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, lawyers and victim service providers, all of whom work to ensure the consistent application of laws and fairness to all who are involved. Canada is internationally respected as having a robust legal framework to address GBV, yet for many victims and survivors, involvement in the justice system, including reporting their victimization to the police and testifying in court, is a traumatic experience. The experience can be even more traumatic for persons with one or more intersectional identity factors.

Over the years, changes have been made to improve the experiences of victims and survivors, such as the enactment of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights and various amendments to Criminal Code provisions related to testimonial aids and victim impact statements, as well as changes to clarify the law surrounding sexual assault. Efforts have also been made to increase awareness and training about the needs of victims and survivors of all crimes, including GBV. However, there is still room for improvement.

What remains to be done

Justice system responses related to GBV need to address underlying, intersectional factors that result in individuals experiencing bias and re-traumatization within the justice process.Footnote i

Stakeholders have called for more information to be provided to victims and survivors, and for victims and survivors to have meaningful opportunities to engage in the criminal justice process. They have also called for more effective family justice system responses to GBV. While family law legislation at the federal level and in most provinces and territories now includes provisions addressing family violence, more needs to be done to continue to increase awareness of GBV and its relevance to family law matters, encourage trauma and violence-informed approaches, and promote outcomes that protect the safety of all family members.

Given that Canada’s justice system is a shared responsibility between the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, close collaboration between them and other partners, including Indigenous partners, as well as stakeholders will remain key to creating an increasingly responsive justice system for victims and survivors of GBV and their families. Consultations with community organizations that work to strengthen justice system responses to GBV, as well as with survivors of GBV and their families will remain equally important.

Opportunities for action

Increase accessibility and improve confidence in the Canadian justice system.

Actions could include:

Facilitate change within the justice system to address GBV.

Actions could include:

Enhance justice system supports and measures to prevent re-victimization and recurring trauma.

Actions could include:

Pillar four – Implementing Indigenous-led approaches

Federal, provincial, and territorial governments and communities in Canada should continue their commitment to fostering and maintaining relationships based on respect, partnership, and recognition of rights, with Indigenous-led organizations, including GBV organizations, and with Indigenous Peoples. Working with victims/survivors and their families, Indigenous governments and partners, non-governmental organizations, provinces, and territories, as well as working horizontally across federal institutions will help ensure a coordinated approach that supports sustainable progress towards ending GBV against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people, no matter where they live.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples affirms the human rights of Indigenous Peoples and outlines the duties of each country to recognize, respect, strengthen and protect those rights. As a signatory, the Government of Canada has acknowledged a duty to take measures that prevent and address GBV and discrimination against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people. On June 21, 2021, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act received Royal Assent and immediately came into force.

Alignment of the National Action Plan to End GBV and the MMIWG2S+ NAP

On June 3, 2019, after an extensive truth-gathering process, the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls delivered its final report “Reclaiming Power and Place” which examined all forms of violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people, identified four pathways that maintain colonial violence and presented a vision for change through 231 Calls for Justice.

Launched on June 3, 2021, the MMIWG2S+ NAP further details common goals and priorities and proposes next steps from Indigenous families and survivors, First Nations, Inuit, and Métis, urban Indigenous Peoples, 2SLGBTQQIA+ people and the Government of Canada, as well as provincial and territorial government actions, in response to the Calls for Justice. 

While the National Action Plan to End GBV applies more broadly to all people in Canada, it includes at-risk or underserved populations, no matter where they live. Pillar Four of the National Action Plan to End GBV specifically reflects the importance of preventing and addressing GBV against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people through Indigenous-led approaches. This pillar is well aligned with the MMIWG2S+ NAP and highlights the synergies and complementarities between the two national action plans.

Recognizing that First Nations, Inuit, and Métis have distinct identities, cultures, traditions, languages, intersectional identities (for example, Indigenous women and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people, Indigenous women with disabilities), and experience violence differently than non-Indigenous peoples, the National Action Plan to End GBV reiterates the federal, provincial, and territorial governments’ commitment to create and promote safety and transformative systemic and systems level changes with Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people. This change is supported through the alignment of the National Action Plan to End GBV with the MMIWG2S+ NAP, ensuring that any programs, policies and/or services are complementary. Alignment of the two national action plans further ensures complementarity of actions and funding, clarity of accountability and coordination. The intent is that actions, funding, and accountability under the National Action Plan to End GBV will complement those under the MMIWG2S+ NAP.

Furthermore, the National Action Plan to End GBV responds to the MMIWG2S+ Calls for Justice and Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and recognizes that Indigenous Peoples will determine, develop, and implement initiatives, programming, and services for themselves, their families, and their communities, inclusive of urban, on reserve, rural, remote, and Northern communities.

Priorities and wise practices

Ending GBV against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people is rooted in acknowledging and respecting the inherent rights and cultures of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities and organizations. Governments, industries, institutions, and society must work to create transformative systemic and systems-level change to address the root causes of GBV. Indigenous partners, Indigenous women, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ leaders and GBV sector stakeholders have provided a clear set of directions and priorities such as the need to support Indigenous-led initiatives, and community-based holistic approaches, services, and solutions that are culturally appropriate, honour Indigenous communities, and create safe spaces. At the core there is the need to develop and support initiatives that break intergenerational cycles of trauma and violence and create pathways with Indigenous communities to share information and resources, create and support prevention initiatives, provide support to victims and survivors and their families; and promote responsive social, health, and justice systems.

Opportunities for transformational change

Ensure that Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people no matter where they live, are heard, supported, promoted and empowered when developing government policies and regulations, programs, supports and services to address social, economic, cultural and other forms of marginalization, inclusive of urban, rural, remote and Northern communities through the Federal Pathway to Address Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People and 13 provincial and territorial proposed actions/strategies/plans in the MMIWG2S+ NAP. Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people, communities and organizations have the expertise and knowledge on how to take action on GBV; federal, provincial and territorial governments must include them in the development, implementation and evaluation of government actions.

Actions could include:

Provide adequate, accessible, equitable and sustainable funding directly to Indigenous-led organizations, including grassroots organizations, for existing and new Indigenous-led GBV initiatives, programs and services focused on prevention and early intervention.

Actions could include:

Expand, provide and strengthen capacity-building opportunities for existing and new strength-based Indigenous-led GBV initiatives, programs, services, and organizations that work to provide safe spaces, and address, educate, prevent and end violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people.

Actions could include the provision of safe spaces for Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people who access services and supports.

Invest and partner with Indigenous-led organizations and communities to develop public education, create awareness and increase public and government accountability to address systemic racism and discrimination experienced by Indigenous Peoples, highlighting the significant contributions of Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people.

Actions could include leveraging the role of traditional knowledge keepers to address systemic racism and discrimination and to bring awareness to Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.

Honour, develop and invest in holistic healing approaches for and by Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people, no matter where they live; including, strength-based initiatives, programs and services; recognizing that Indigenous women are the life-givers, caregivers, educators and leaders in our society, and recognizing the unique roles of 2SLGBTQQIA+ people in Indigenous cultures and histories.

Actions could include:

Pillar five – Social infrastructure and enabling environment

While GBV occurs across all socio-economic groups, populations which already experience socio-economic inequities (for example, poverty, homelessness, inequitable access to health care and social services) are at a greater risk of experiencing GBV. Challenging the normalization of GBV and addressing systemic inequities are both important steps to addressing its root causes.

Social infrastructure refers to health and social programs, services and supports, including childcare, long-term care and GBV services. Social infrastructure investments can include, but are not limited to, supporting parents to take leave, providing care supports for children, families, seniors and communities; socio-economic benefits for those in need; providing wrap-around services, increasing culturally and socially relevant trauma and violence-informed supports and services, particularly for those living in rural, remote and Northern areas; and providing a range of housing options.

Investing in social infrastructure provides opportunities and options for those who are at risk of experiencing, experiencing or have experienced GBV to make choices, ensuring that no one is left behind, no matter where they live. Investments work to prevent and decrease the severity of GBV, by increasing gender equity and providing victims and survivors more choice, control, and agency.

What remains to be done

In Canada, women continue to be overrepresented in low-paying jobs and undervalued sectors, such as the care economy. Gender roles and stereotypes lead women to perform more unpaid work, from housekeeping to caring for children and seniors, which further affects their ability to participate fully in the paid workforce. Indigenous, Black, racialized, immigrant and refugee women, people with disabilities and/or with mental health and addiction challenges, single parents, as well as 2SLGBTQI+ individuals, experience particularly high levels of poverty, inadequate housing, unemployment, food insecurity and other economic hardships due to systemic inequities.

The COVID-19 pandemic amplified systemic inequities and underscored the urgent need to address them. Indigenous, Black and racialized women experienced increased economic insecurity, greater caregiving responsibilities, and an elevated risk of exposure to COVID-19 due to their overrepresentation in frontline jobs. Disparities highlighted during the pandemic have prompted the need for increased supports to ensure that everyone in Canada is able to have their basic needs met.

Opportunities for action

Create opportunities for equal and full participation in the economy.

Actions could include:

Strengthen gender equity in unpaid labour.

Actions could include:

Strengthen and improve access to affordable early learning and childcare.

Actions could include:

Identify opportunities to address poverty, homelessness and housing.

Actions could include:

Enhance health systems and service responses to GBV.

Actions could include:

Improve access to reliable and affordable broadband and technological tools, particularly in rural, remote and Northern communities.

Actions could include:

The foundation

Achieving the shared vision of a Canada free of GBV that supports victims, survivors and their families no matter where they live requires that federal, provincial, and territorial governments, Indigenous organizations, GBV direct service providers, researchers, the private sector, and victims, survivors and their families work together.

Implementing the National Action Plan to End GBV requires a strong foundation based on the following three components:

Coordination and engagement are key to develop a consistent, multi-sectoral approach that brings knowledge and expertise from many sectors and perspectives. This coordination is key to developing knowledge mobilization strategies which increase access to and use of products, promising practices, and research evidence. Ongoing, systematic data collection, analysis and research will provide the evidence to identify, address and prioritize gaps, develop policies and practices, monitor and report on the impact of the National Action Plan to End GBV. The Gender-Based Violence Secretariat, based at Women and Gender Equality Canada, will help support these foundational activities.

What remains to be done

Leadership, coordination and engagement

Leadership and coordination among federal, provincial, and territorial governments will build on existing federal, provincial, and territorial collaboration, and strengthen coordination with complementary strategies. Engagement with researchers, practitioners, policymakers, Indigenous partners, victims and survivors and their families will provide ongoing advice and help track progress. This coordination and engagement will facilitate information sharing and collaborative work, reduce duplication, and enhance engagement and participation of stakeholders.

Data, research and knowledge mobilization

Evidence takes many forms including victim/survivor expertise, quantitative and qualitative research, promising practices and traditional Indigenous knowledge. Federal, provincial, and territorial governments and the GBV sector rely on data and research to develop evidence-based policies and programs to address GBV. Qualitative and quantitative data are needed to provide insights for policies, programs, and funding initiatives. However, current data systems do not always allow for an intersectional analysis, and there is a need for better capacity to develop timely, disaggregated, well governed, and populations-based data.

A multi-phased and multi-pronged approach to knowledge mobilization is needed to support the sharing of research and evidence-based programming, policy, and service delivery.

Reporting and monitoring

Many sectors and jurisdictions have already established performance indicators. Building on this work, national indicators have been developed based on data that are already collected and analyzed consistently at the national, provincial, and territorial levels.

Data collected by Statistics Canada will be used to assess the progress of the National Action Plan to End GBV (Annex B). Recognizing that each jurisdiction has distinct realities, indicators will be considered within their respective contexts. Indigenous principles, practices, and evaluation mechanisms consistent with feminist and international measures will inform this intersectional framework and inform its approach to monitoring, reporting and evaluation. Whenever possible, data will be further disaggregated by gender identity or expression, Indigeneity, sexual orientation, age, race, status, disability, geography (provinces or territories; urban or rural/remote/Northern) and by any other available identify factor(s).

Moving further with an implementation plan, a mix of quantitative and qualitative indicators and data will be developed and collected to measure results associated with the National Action Plan to End GBV.

Opportunities for action

Enhance and strengthen leadership, coordination, engagement, research, and knowledge mobilization.

Actions could include:

Develop research capacity to address gaps in the evidence and analyses; and enhance data collection and governance to support intersectional populations-based analyses.

Actions could include:

Monitor and report on the progress of the National Action Plan to End GBV.

Actions could include:

Invest in the design, development and implementation of holistic performance measurement frameworks that are by, for, and accountable to Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people, no matter where they live.

Actions could include:

Conclusion

The National Action Plan to End GBV builds on the work, advice and wisdom of victims, survivors, their families, Indigenous partners, direct service providers, experts, advocates, and academics. Federal, provincial, and territorial governments recognize that GBV is a complex and multifaceted issue that requires action by all governments according to their respective responsibilities, as well as cross-sector collaboration.

The National Action Plan to End GBV provides a common vision, principles, goals, and pillars to guide efforts across the country. Governments across the country will consider the priority actions identified in this document to guide their responses, based on their own specific contexts and priorities. The National Action Plan to End GBV is evergreen, designed to adapt to evolving needs and emerging issues. As a next step, federal, provincial, and territorial governments will further discuss implementation, and develop more detailed targets and indicators. For additional information refer to Annex B.

Given the urgent need to address the multiple, complex and deeply rooted factors that contribute to GBV, federal, provincial, and territorial governments will continue to work together with Indigenous partners, stakeholders, experts, victims/survivors, families and people with lived experience to create a Canada free of GBV, where victims, survivors and their families are supported no matter where they live.

Annex A – Joint declaration for a Canada free of gender-based violence

January 2021

We, the Federal, Provincial,Footnote j and Territorial Ministers responsible for the Status of Women, share a fundamental commitment to work toward a Canada free of gender-based violence. Together, we announce our common vision, principles, goals, and pillars for a National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence, which will be an evolving approach to guide our actions in preventing and addressing gender-based violence.

Building on our ongoing work, we recognize that:

We, the Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers responsible for the Status of Women acknowledge the urgency to address the multiple, complex and deeply rooted factors that contribute to gender-based violence. We commit to continue to work together and with other departments, agencies and ministries, partners, stakeholders, experts, victims/survivors, families and people with lived experience to create a Canada free of gender-based violence, where victims, survivors and their families are supported no matter where they live. More than ever, there is a strong need to prevent and address gender-based violence in our country.

To achieve this vision, we agree that concrete efforts are required at the federal, provincial and territorial levels. We further commit to ensuring that our efforts align with and complement our responses to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ Calls for Justice.

This joint declaration represents a significant milestone and is the first step to continue, accelerate and strengthen the concrete actions that we have been carrying out for decades to end gender-based violence. We commit to continuing to collaborate closely to work towards the development of a National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence.

Annex B – Tracking results for the national action plan

The National Action Plan to End GBV contains, as a first step, national indicators based on data that is already collected by Statistics Canada and consistently assessed at the national, provincial, and territorial levels.

During the October 2018 meeting of the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Ministers Responsible for the Status of Women, Ministers agreed on the gender results framework, which includes the indicators presented in the table below.

Indicators listed in the gender results framework are based on data collected by Statistics Canada, and wherever possible disaggregated by gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age, race, status, disability, and geography (provinces or territories; urban or rural/ remote/Northern). One indicator of the gender results framework on harassment in the workplace has been excluded from this list as this issue is broader than just GBV.

As part of the development of an implementation approach for the National Action Plan to End GBV, federal, provincial, and territorial governments will work together to develop a more fulsome performance measurement framework to monitor outcomes and impacts of initiatives.

National indicators on gender-based violence: gender results framework

Objective 1: Intimate partner violence – Fewer women killed by an intimate partner

Objective 2: Intimate partner violence – Fewer women are victims of intimate partner violence and sexual assault

Objective 3: Violence against Indigenous women and girls – Fewer Indigenous women and girls are victims of violence

Objective 4: Violent crimes* – Increased police reporting of violent crimes

*Violent crime: to ensure that indicators related to violent crime are meaningful in the context of the National Action Plan to End GBV, data must be disaggregated by gender. If not disaggregated by gender, indicators related to violent crime should not be used within this context as the results will present an overly broad picture. Violent crimes, as described in the General Social Survey on Victimization, are sexual assault, robbery or physical assault. Source: Cotter, A. (2021). Definition of criminal victimization in Canada, Criminal victimization in Canada, 2019. Canadian Centre for Justice and Community Safety Statistics, Statistics Canada.

Annex C – Glossary

AbleismFootnote 27

Ableism is a set of prejudicial and discriminatory beliefs and behaviours against people who are perceived to be disabled.

Canadian Victims Bill of RightsFootnote 28

Enacted in 2015, the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights (CVBR) provides the following rights to victims of crime: the right to information; the right to protection; the right to participation; and the right to seek restitution. Under the CVBR, victims also have the right to file a complaint if they are of the opinion that their rights have been infringed or denied.

Classism

Set of negative beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours, as well as systems of practices that devalue, exploit, and exclude people viewed as being from a lower social standing or class.

Colonialism

Attempted or actual imposition of policies, laws, the economies, cultures or systems, and institutions put in place by settler governments to support and continue the occupation of Indigenous territories, the subjugation of Indigenous nations, and the resulting internalized and externalized thought patterns that support this occupation and subjugation.

Criminal lawFootnote 29

Criminal law refers to the body of law that prohibits certain kinds of conduct and imposes sanctions for unlawful behaviour. Criminal law in Canada is an area of shared jurisdiction. The federal government is responsible for criminal law and procedure, such as that set out in the Criminal Code, and provinces and territories have jurisdiction over the administration of justice, such as investigating crimes, prosecuting crimes (except in the territories), and delivering the majority of victim services.

Cultural competenceFootnote 30

In the organizational context, encompasses personal and collective abilities to function effectively in cross-cultural situations. At the system level, refers to the demonstrated capacity of an organization to work effectively with culturally diverse populations, through explicit integration of cultural diversity into all aspects of its organizational values, structures, policies and practices.

Culturally safe approaches

Approaches that recognize and challenge unequal power relations between service providers and survivors by building equitable, two-way relationships characterized by respect, shared responsibility, and cultural exchange. Survivors must have their culture, values, and preferences taken into account in the provision of services.

DisabilityFootnote 31

Any impairment, including a physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, communication or sensory impairment — or a functional limitation — whether permanent, temporary or episodic in nature, or evident or not, that, in interaction with a barrier, hinders a person’s full and equal participation in society.

DiscriminationFootnote 32Footnote 33

Treating someone unfairly by either imposing a burden on them, or denying them a privilege, benefit or opportunity enjoyed by others, because of their race, citizenship, family status, disability, sex or other personal characteristics. Systemic discrimination is the institutionalization of discrimination through policies and practices which may appear neutral on the surface, but which have an exclusionary impact on particular groups. This occurs in institutions and organizations, including government, where the policies, practices and procedures (e.g., employment systems – job requirements, hiring practices, promotion procedures, etc.) exclude and/or act as barriers to racialized groups.

Distinctions-based approachFootnote 34

The Government of Canada recognizes that a distinctions-based approach is needed to ensure that the unique rights, interests and circumstances of the First Nations, the Métis Nation and Inuit are acknowledged, affirmed, and implemented. The Government of Canada recognizes First Nations, the Métis Nation, and Inuit as the Indigenous Peoples of Canada, consisting of distinct, rights-bearing communities with their own histories, including with the Crown. The work of forming renewed relationships based on the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership must reflect the unique interests, priorities and circumstances of each People.

Emotional/psychological abuse

Use of words or actions to control or frighten a family member or intimate partner, or to lower their self-respect and self-esteem. It includes, but is not limited to insults, belittling, constant humiliation, intimidation, threats to harm, threats to take away children, harm or threats to harm pets.

EquityFootnote 35

Fairness, impartiality, even-handedness. A distinct process of recognizing differences within groups of individuals and using this understanding to achieve substantive equality in all aspects of a person's life.

Family lawFootnote 36

In Canada, family law is an area of shared responsibility. The federal government has responsibility over divorce and other matters related to divorce, such as parenting arrangements for children and child and spousal support. The provinces and territories have responsibility over matters relating to unmarried couples who separate, married couples who separate but do not divorce, and division of family property. They are also responsible for the administration of justice, which includes the administration of family courts, the delivery of family justice services, and the enforcement of family support obligations.

Family ViolenceFootnote 37

Any form of abuse or neglect that a child or adult experiences from a family member, or from someone with whom they have an intimate relationship. It is an abuse of power by one person to hurt and control someone who trusts and depends on them.

Federal-Provincial-Territorial Forum of Ministers Responsible for the Status of WomenFootnote 38

Established in 1972, the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Forum of Ministers responsible for the Status of Women meets annually at the ministerial level to share knowledge and information, explore ways to advance equality for women and girls, and undertake collaborative initiatives in priority areas, as agreed upon by consensus.

Female genital mutilation/cutting

When the labia majora, labia minora or clitoris of a girl or woman is excised, infibulated or mutilated, in whole or in part for non-medical reasons. Female genital mutilation/cutting is a form of aggravated assault and is a crime in Canada. It is also an offence to take a child out of Canada to have this procedure done in another country.

Financial abuse (also referred to as economic abuse)

Occurs when an individual uses money, assets or property to control or exploit another individual.

Gender

Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, expressions and identities of girls, women, boys, men, and gender diverse people. It influences how people perceive themselves and each other, how they act and interact, and the distribution of power and resources in society. Gender identity is not confined to a binary (girl/woman, boy/man) nor is it static; it exists along a continuum and can change over time. There is considerable diversity in how individuals and groups understand, experience and express gender through the roles they take on, the expectations placed on them, relations with others and the complex ways that gender is institutionalized in society.

Gender-based violence

Violence based on gender norms and unequal power dynamics, perpetrated against someone based on their gender, gender expression, gender identity, or perceived gender. It takes many forms, including physical, economic, sexual, as well as emotional (psychological) abuse.

Gender expression

Manner in which a person presents and communicates gender in a social context. Gender can be expressed through clothing, speech, body language, hairstyle, voice, and/or the emphasis or de-emphasis of bodily characteristics or behaviours, which are often associated with masculinity and femininity. Gender expression varies depending on culture and may change over time. May also be referred to as gender presentation or gender performance.

Gender identity

Person’s internal and individual experience of gender. This could include an internal sense of being a man, woman, both, neither or another gender entirely. A person’s gender identity may or may not correspond with social expectations associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. Since gender identity is internal, it is not necessarily visible to others. It is important to remember that gender identity is not the same as sex/assigned sex.

Gender diverseFootnote 39

Identifying with a gender or genders outside of man or woman.

Gender-informed/sensitive/responsive approachFootnote 40Footnote 41

The process by which people and organizations develop the ability to consider the demographics and histories of the [gender] populations in delivering interventions, programs, and services as well as recognize how their various life factors have impacted their overall (experiences). Gender-informed/sensitive/responsive also identifies and acknowledges the different needs, aspiration, capacities and contribution (of the gender) and carries out changes for an improvement of quality of life for all.

Human trafficking (also referred to as trafficking in persons)

Human trafficking, also referred to as trafficking in persons, involves recruiting, transporting, transferring, receiving, holding, concealing, harbouring, or exercising control, direction or influence over a person, for the purpose of exploitation, generally for sexual exploitation or forced labour.

Indigenous-led approachesFootnote 42

Approaches whose aim is restoring, respecting, upholding and promoting self-determination of Indigenous Peoples, which will support the process of decolonization and the development and implementation of Indigenous-led solutions and services. Acknowledging the decades of leadership by Indigenous women and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people, grassroots organizers, families and survivors, honouring their loved ones, and committing to continue supporting their leadership so that they remain at the heart of government action, and are partners with respect to the implementation of the National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence.

Indigenous Peoples

Refers to First Nations, Inuit and Métis and their distinct identities, cultures, and ways of life.

Intergenerational traumaFootnote 43Footnote 44

A traumatic event that began years prior to the current generation and has impacted the ways in which individuals within a family understand, cope with, and heal from trauma; colonial violence creates traumatic experiences that are passed on through generations within a family, community, or people.

Intersectionality

Approach to analyzing social relations and structures in a given society developed by Kimberlé Crenshaw. Intersectional approaches recognize that every person’s identity is made up of multiple identity categories such as (but not limited to) ability, attraction, body size, citizenship, class, creed, ethnicity, gender expression, gender identity, race, religion. The ways a person may experience systemic privilege and oppression are affected by the intersection of these identity categories, depending on how they are valued by social institutions.

Intimate partner violence (also referred to as domestic violence or spousal violence)Footnote 45Footnote 46

Physical, sexual, emotional (psychological) or financial harm done by a current or former intimate partner(s) or spouse(s). Intimate partner violence can happen in a marriage, common-law or dating relationship; in a heterosexual or 2SLGBTQI+ relationship; at any time in a relationship, including after it has ended; and, whether or not partners live together or are sexually intimate with one another. This can include coercive control, a pattern of behaviours that individually may not meet a criminal threshold, but that instill fear, entrap the victim/survivor and is a risk factor for femicide.

National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and GirlsFootnote 47

On December 8, 2015, the federal government announced the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls as a key government initiative to end the disproportionally high levels of violence against Indigenous women and girls. The goal of the Inquiry was to investigate and report on the systemic causes of all forms of violence against Indigenous women and girls and to examine the underlying social, economic, cultural, institutional and historical causes that contribute to the ongoing violence and particular vulnerabilities.

Non-binary (also ‘nonbinary’)Footnote 48

A person whose gender identity does not align with a binary understanding of gender such as man or woman. Non-binary people may redefine gender or decline to define themselves as gendered altogether.

Physical abuse

Intentional use or threatened use of physical force against a family member or intimate partner. It includes, but is not limited to, pushing, hitting, cutting, punching, slapping, shoving, and strangulation.

RacismFootnote 49

Systemic subordination, oppression, and exploitation of specific groups of people based on perceived physical (for example, skin colour) and/or cultural characteristics. Racism is rooted in beliefs and behaviours that assume the biological or cultural superiority of one racial group over others, resulting in power and privilege for the dominant group and unequal treatment and limited opportunities for oppressed groups. Consists of patterns of behaviour, policies or practices that are part of the social or administrative structures of an organization, and which create or perpetuate a position of relative disadvantage for racialized persons. These appear neutral on the surface but, nevertheless, have an exclusionary impact on racialized persons.

Rape mythFootnote 50

Prejudicial, stereotyped, or false belief about rape (referred to as sexual assault under Canadian law), rape victims, and rapists.

Sexism

Prejudice or discrimination based on sex or gender, particularly against women and girls.

Sexual assault

Any unwanted sexual activity involving physical contact (including kissing, fondling, and sexual intercourse).

Sexual harassment

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and other forms of verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment can involve an abuse of power and is often used as a way of controlling or intimidating someone.

Survivor

Term that describes someone who has experienced interpersonal violence. This term can be preferred to victim as it reflects the reality that many individuals who experience abuse cope and move on with personal strength, and resourcefulness.

Survivor-centric/survivor-centered approachFootnote 51

Approach in which all those who are engaged in (gender-based violence) programming prioritize the rights, needs, and wishes of the survivor. The approach aims to create a supportive environment in which the survivor’s rights are respected and in which (they are) treated with dignity and respect. The approach helps to promote the survivor’s recovery and(their) ability to identify and express needs and wishes, as well as to reinforce (their) capacity to make decisions about possible interventions.

Technology-facilitated violence (also referred to as cyberviolence)

Range of behaviours that use technology to facilitate virtual and/or in-person harm. The intent of technology-facilitated violence is to threaten, harass, bully, embarrass, assault, extort, coerce, torment or socially exclude another person by using technology.

Trauma and violence-informed approachFootnote 52

Approach whereby policies and practices that recognize the connections between violence, trauma, negative health outcomes and behaviours. This type of approach increases safety, control and resilience for people who are seeking services related to experiences of violence and/or have a history of experiencing violence.

Truth and Reconciliation CommissionFootnote 53

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada was created through a legal settlement between Residential Schools Survivors, the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit representatives and the parties responsible for creation and operation of the schools: the federal government and the church bodies. The Commission’s mandate was to inform all Canadians about what happened in residential schools. The Commission documented the truth of Survivors, their families, communities and anyone personally affected by the residential school experience. This included First Nations, Inuit and Métis former residential school students, their families, communities, the churches, former school employees, government officials and other Canadians. The Commission concluded its mandate in 2015.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous PeoplesFootnote 54

The Declaration is a comprehensive statement addressing the human rights of Indigenous Peoples. It was drafted and formally debated for over twenty years prior to being adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, on September 13, 2007. The document emphasizes the rights of Indigenous Peoples to live in dignity, to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions and to pursue their self-determined development, in keeping with their own needs and aspirations. In Canada, on June 21, 2021, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act received Royal Assent and immediately came into force. This legislation advances the implementation of the Declaration as a key step in renewing the Government of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous Peoples.

Unwanted sexual behaviourFootnote 55

Unwanted touching (including physical contact or getting too close in a sexual way), indecent exposure, unwanted comments that the individual does not look or act like a man or woman is supposed to act, unwanted comments regarding sexual orientation or assumed sexual orientation, as well as unwanted sexual attention (including comments, whistles, and suggestive looks, gestures or body language).

Victim

Defined in the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights and the Criminal Code as an individual who has suffered physical or emotional harm, property damage, or economic loss as a result of a crime. Some victims prefer to identify as a survivor.

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