2020-2021 Department of Justice departmental progress report for Canada’s National Action Plan on 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 Plus) —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 continues to work closely with networks and organizations to advance women’s issues and promote the realization of SDG 5 (gender equality) and SDG 16 (Peaceful Just and Inclusive Societies) on the international stage. Over the course of the last year, Justice Canada has participated in various events to promote gender equality and women’s access to justice, including a panel discussion on Justice for Women and Girls organized by the International Law Development Organization in October 2020 and a High Level Advocacy Workshop on Access to Justice for Women co-hosted by Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies and The Elders in February 2021.
Justice Canada continues to contribute to several domestic initiatives that promote and protect women’s and girls’ human rights and gender equality, including the following:
- Publishing in March 2021 the 2020 State of the Criminal Justice System Report: Focus on Women and a new Women’s theme for the online interactive State of the Criminal Justice System Dashboard. Under each theme, readers can find contextual information on how different populations interact with the criminal justice system as victims, survivors, accused and offenders.
- Helping Indigenous families navigate the family justice system (Indigenous Family Courtworker Program) and access community-based family mediation services (Indigenous Justice Program)
- Ensuring families of missing or murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada have access to all the available information they are seeking from across government agencies about their missing or murdered loved one and access to community led grief and healing supports.
- Providing funding to support Community Justice Centres (CJC) pilot projects in British Columbia, Manitoba and Ontario. CJCs bring justice, health and social services together to address the root causes of crime, divert individuals accused of non-violent offences away from incarceration, and connect them with social supports. Through the integration of culturally appropriate services, CJCs can help decrease the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples and Black Canadians in the criminal justice system and provide solutions to systemic issues.
- Introducing in December 2020 implementing legislation on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which will require the Government of Canada, in consultation and collaboration with Indigenous Peoples, to develop an action plan to achieve the Declaration’s objectives and to ensure alignment of federal laws with the Declaration.
- Developing a series of online courses on amendments to the Divorce Act and other federal family law legislation, which aim to strengthen the Canadian family justice system and improve access to justice. The courses provide a detailed explanation of the new provisions, which came into force in March 2021, along with links to resources developed by Justice Canada.
- Continued providing funding to support projects that make independent legal advice available to victims of sexual offences in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Yukon.
- Worked closely with colleagues from the Department of Women and Gender Equality to implement the federal Strategy to Prevent and Address GBV, including through partnering with them on the development of public legal information material for their online GBV Knowledge Centre.
A key challenge for advancing Justice Canada’s mandate, including in relation to the Women, Peace and Security agenda, is the lack of justice sector data to support evidence-based decision making. Justice Canada is currently pursuing a number of initiatives to collect data that will help us to understand the nature of the problems people face and the pathways they seek to resolve them. One example is the Canadian Legal Problems Survey (CLPS), which went into the field in February 2021. The CLPS is collecting data on the prevalence and nature of serious legal problems across Canada, as well as whether, and how, those problems were resolved. The ability to disaggregate the data will provide a clearer picture of how different populations, including women, experience legal problems. As a complement to the quantitative survey, Justice Canada has also conducted a series of qualitative studies to enrich our understanding of the experiences of a number of minority populations, including immigrants, Black Canadians, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQ2 community.
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.
Justice Canada also works with international partners to advance important research and develop resources that promote gender equality, inclusion and access to justice. Justice Canada has contributed to the development of the OECD’s “Towards a People-Centered Justice Framework”. A draft version of the Framework was presented at the OECD Virtual Global Roundtable on People-Centered Justice, which was co-hosted by the OECD and Justice Canada in March 2021.
In addition, Justice Canada has continued to contribute to the work of justice sector stakeholders within Canada. The Department is an active supporter of the National Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters, which brings together representatives from traditional justice organizations, grassroots organizations and equity seeking groups to inspire discussion and action on access to justice issues. The Action Committee organized numerous virtual events this past year, including a series of regional colloquia and communities of practice that explored key areas of interest.
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