Department of Justice implementation of Canada’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security
Department of Justice and Women, Peace and Security
The Department of Justice supports the Minister of Justice in working to ensure that Canada is a just and law-abiding society with an accessible, efficient and fair system of justice; providing legal services to the government and to other federal departments and agencies; and promoting respect for rights and freedoms, the law and the Constitution.
Through its International Legal Programs Section, the department contributes to international development by providing strategic advice on law and development issues to Global Affairs Canada and other departments when so requested; and designing and implementing legal technical assistance projects when funded for that purpose by Global Affairs Canada.
Generally — and in line with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and related Women, Peace and Security (WPS) resolutions, as well as with its internal policy on Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA+) —the Department is committed to integrating gender equality considerations in every aspect of its development-related work.
The Department will, in the provision of strategic advice and throughout its policy development, make every effort to identify the potential impact of any contemplated initiative on the justice system as a whole and on the ability of vulnerable groups, including women and girls, to access justice.
In project design, it will ensure that:
- gender considerations are taken into account in the assessment of the assistance needs
- all genders are provided an opportunity to participate in the consultations
- background information on the situation of women and girls in the target country is gathered
- possible entry points to promote women's access to justice are identified
In project implementation, it will ensure that:
- the potential differential impact of the reform options considered under the project is assessed
- the information related to project activities is, whenever possible, disaggregated by sex
- gender balance in training and other activities is taken into account
- gender-related project achievements are reported on
The exact subjects on which the Department will integrate gender equality considerations will depend largely on the nature and scope of the assistance requested by a partner country, since under the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness assisted countries must remain the master of their priorities.
That said, in its advice, policy and program development, and project work, the Department of Justice will always be mindful of the fact that the various justice matters of particular importance to women include the following:
Violence within the family is a significant issue in many countries.
In the development of domestic violence policies and programs, the Department is in a position not only to help address the strictly legal aspects of the subject, but also to encourage the development of a comprehensive approach reflecting the complexity of the phenomenon.
Imprisonment is not a gender-neutral measure in terms of impact. A large majority of women in jail are mothers, most of them single mothers and primary caregivers to their children. As a result, a mother's incarceration generally affects children in a way that a father's imprisonment does not.
The Department can, on policy development matters, bring extensive expertise and a gender perspective to any reform effort that involves looking at the use of imprisonment, non-custodial measures, and criminal law more generally. More specifically, and among other things, it can encourage compliance with the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (Bangkok Rules).
Gender considerations are equally relevant in the field of juvenile justice. The treatment of female offenders under 18 years of age is a matter that generally receives even less attention than the treatment of adult women or juvenile male offenders.
With its in-depth knowledge of matters related to young offenders, the Department can help design a juvenile justice system that is gender-sensitive and complies with international requirements, including:
- the Convention on the Rights of the Child;
- the Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (Beijing Rules)
- the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (Bangkok Rules).
Access to justice
Both social and institutional barriers often inhibit women's access to justice.
The Department, through its expertise in areas such as legal aid systems, the treatment of witnesses, support to victims, and relations between the legal system and indigenous populations, can contribute to the design of reforms aimed at removing or reducing these barriers.
Law and poverty
Offences committed by women are often closely linked to poverty, and frequently a means of survival to support their family. Poverty compounds access justice challenges for marginalized and underserved populations, including women.
The Department can contribute usefully to any discussion pertaining to the intersection of law and poverty.
Sexual violence committed as an international crime
Through its Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Section, the Department supports the investigation and prosecution of acts of sexual violence that are committed as a tool of war or as an act of genocide against girls and women. One individual has been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment under Canada’s Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, S.C. 2000, c. 24, for having committed genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, including numerous acts of sexual violence against Tutsi women. [R. c. Munyaneza, 2009 QCCS 4865 - CanLII]
The department recognizes that girls and women are more vulnerable to war crimes: they are more likely to be victims of acts of sexual violence committed as a tool of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Moreover, acts of sexual violence have an enormous impact on women. They may be forcibly impregnated or be infected with different sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. Further, some cultures shun women victims of sexual assault and others do not allow them to speak out about their victimization. The Department will continue its support of the investigation and prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity cases.
In light of the fact that the Department of Justice only provides technical assistance to foreign countries at the request and with the financial support of Global Affairs Canada, the extent of this involvement in the implementation of Canada’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security will be determined by the number and scope of the projects that Global Affairs Canada funds.
Strategic advice and policy development
- Extent to which the potential impact of the contemplated measures on the whole justice system and on vulnerable groups has been taken into account.
- Number of criteria used to review gender considerations in the evaluation of assistance needs
- Extent to which all genders have been provided an opportunity to take part in consultations
- Number and relevance of sources of information consulted on the situation of women and girls in the target country
- List of potential obstacles to women's access to justice developed
- List of matters that may potentially have a differential impact developed
- Information on project activities disaggregated by sex gathered
- Gender-related project achievements are reported in the narrative reports submitted to Global Affairs Canada
The Department of Justice will seek to identify various ways of contributing as fully as possible to the implementation of the WPS agenda. This could include, among other things, developing programs for women in fragile states.
Justice Canada has supported the work of networks and women’s organizations such as Namati, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), and the Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies by promoting the realization of SDG 5 (gender equality) and SDG 16 (Peaceful Just and Inclusive Societies) on the international stage. Justice Canada has contributed to bringing international attention and potential investment to addressing inequalities against women through its support of the Justice for All task force and its High Level Working Group on Women’s Access to Justice.
It is recognized that Canada’s efforts to promote the WPS agenda on the world stage must be supported by similar endeavors at home. Justice Canada is contributing to a number of domestic initiatives that promote and protect women’s and girls’ human rights and gender equality, including the following:
- The Government of Canada, along with provincial and territorial governments, will implement a National Action Plan on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Justice Canada is the lead federal government department in 13 Calls for Justice and plays a supporting role for other federal, provincial and territorial government departments in 40 Calls for Justice. Justice Canada, together with Public Safety Canada, are leading the development of the Justice Theme component of the Federal Narrative, which will form the basis of the federal government’s contribution to the National Action Plan.
- Justice Canada has supported the establishment of the Family Information Liaison Units, which assist families in accessing all available information about their missing or murdered loved ones from multiple government sources and provide a culturally grounded and trauma-informed hub for families.
- Justice Canada is providing training on Principles respecting the government of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples (Principles), and cross-cultural dispute resolution training to its employees. The Principles guide the work required to fulfill the government’s commitment to renewed nation-to-nation, government-to-government and Inuit-Crown relationships. This training covers the history of Crown-Indigenous relationships, including discriminatory policies against Indigenous women and children.
- The Government of Canada acknowledges that gender-based violence is a serious problem that requires concerted action. Justice Canada contributes actively to the development and implementation of the National Action Plan to address gender-based violence. Through former Bill C-75, which came fully into force on December 18, 2019, the Government of Canada has strengthened criminal laws in the context of intimate partner violence to enhance victim safety. Further, it has included in the Divorce Act a broad, evidence-based definition of family violence that refers specifically to coercive and controlling behaviour. Within this definition, family violence includes physical, sexual, psychological, and financial abuse; harassment and stalking; and threats to kill or harm an animal or to damage property, or actually causing that harm. In the case of a child, it also includes direct or indirect exposure to family violence.
- As a partner in the federal Family Violence Initiative, Justice Canada administers the Justice Partnership and Innovation Program, which has an annual ongoing budget of $656,539 to support projects specific to addressing the unique needs of victims of family violence.
- The Government of Canada also launched an initiative to address workplace sexual harassment in 2019. Through this initiative, Justice Canada is making $50 million available over five years (2019/20 to 2023/24); $25 million for projects that help to increase public awareness and knowledge around sexual harassment in the workplace, and $25 million through the Legal Aid program to provide legal information and advice to complainants of workplace sexual harassment, regardless of their economic status.
- The Annual Conference of the International Association of Prosecutors was disrupted this year due to COVID-19.
Results and Progress
Justice Canada provides legal advice to client departments including those who have a mandate that involves assisting fragile or conflict-affected states during the reporting period. Justice Canada’s contribution would be reflected in the context of overall progress indicated by these departments.
The Department of Justice did not conduct any evaluations of assistance needs or develop any projects or project proposals in the context of fragile or conflict-affected states during the reporting period.
As above, progress would be measured against the indicators by client departments more directly involved in assisting fragile and conflict-affected states
The Department of Justice provides technical assistance to foreign countries at the request and with the financial support of Global Affairs Canada. At the same time, Justice Canada’s broader leadership role, exercised in concert with international partners, has resulted in important research including the Justice for All report, and the creation of key networks, such as the OGP Coalition on Justice, which serve to promote gender equality and inclusion as expressed by the UN 2030 Agenda and in particular Sustainable Development Goal 16 (Peaceful Just and Inclusive Societies).
With greater attention being placed on domestic efforts, Justice Canada has similarly worked in concert with many domestic stakeholders such as the National Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters and partners including provinces and territories to advance a people-focused approach to justice that seeks to eradicate discrimination of all types and remove barriers in order to provide greater access to justice.
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