State of the Criminal Justice System Annual Report
2020 Report: Focus on Women

State of the Criminal Justice System Annual Report

The inaugural State of the Criminal Justice System Report (2019) provided a comprehensive analysis of Canada’s criminal justice system performance across key Framework indicators. This year’s report provides an overview of criminal justice system performance from a gender-based perspective. It situates performance on key indicators within the broader social context by drawing from social science research. The report explores gender differences in perceptions of the criminal justice system, as well as in the prevalence and nature of experiences as victims, survivors, accused and offenders. Where data are available, the report explores the unique experiences of Indigenous women and also looks at how experiences differ based on other identity characteristics such as age, sexual identity and socioeconomic status. Click the tabs below to access the various sections of the 2020 report. Previous reports can also be found below.


Minister’s message

I am very pleased to present the 2020 State of the Criminal Justice System Report: Focus on Women. This report is an important part of our efforts to report publicly on the performance of Canada’s criminal justice system. The special focus of this report is an example of how we are modernizing the use of data to inform decisions and to serve all Canadians.

This year’s report focuses on women’s perceptions of the criminal justice system, as well as their interactions with it as victims, survivors, accused and/or offenders. We know that women make up the overwhelming majority of victims of certain types of violent crimes and represent a growing proportion of the prison population. We also know that victimization plays an important role in many women’s experiences as offenders.

Indigenous women continue to face particularly high rates of violent victimization. Other groups of women are also at risk of violence, including those with disabilities, LGBTQ2 people, immigrant and refugee women, women living in Northern and rural communities, and racialized women. The Government of Canada remains committed to preventing and addressing gender-based violence in a way that is comprehensive, inclusive, and based on the lived experiences of women and gender diverse people across Canada.

As we collaborate with other departments to implement the National Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence, which will fill gaps in supports for diverse populations, the Department of Justice Canada has undertaken important initiatives to improve the experiences of victims and survivors of gender-based violence with the criminal justice system. For example, we have made funding available to the provinces and territories to pilot the provision of independent legal advice to victims of sexual violence. As Minister of Justice, I re-introduced legislation in Parliament that would work towards ensuring that judges hearing sexual assault matters have the necessary training to decide matters fairly and respectfully, without the influence of myths and stereotypes.

The Department of Justice continues its important work to help strengthen existing policies and programs and increase the safety of Indigenous women, girls and LGBTQ2 people in Canada. We also continue to collaborate with other departments as we accelerate work on the co-development of a National Action Plan in response to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ Calls for Justice, as well as implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.

Recent social movements have drawn attention to the unfair treatment of Indigenous and Black people in Canada. There is no place for racism or discrimination in Canada’s social systems and institutions. Systemic racism can have a profound impact on women, who experience multiple layers of disadvantage. The 2020 State of the Criminal Justice System Report is part of our pledge to address systemic inequalities in all phases of the criminal justice system. We must work to create a system that is more just, effective and fair, particularly for Indigenous, Black and racialized people in Canada.

All Canadians must have the confidence that the justice system is there to protect them, not harm them. Ensuring that the criminal justice system works for everyone means looking beyond overall rates of crime and victimization. It means looking through different social lenses to inform the development of responsive programs, policies and initiatives. Taking a people-centered approach to improving access to justice requires understanding how different groups of people experience the justice system. The Government will take steps to ensure that the strong hand of criminal justice is used where it is needed to keep people safe, but not where it would be discriminatory or counterproductive.

Creating change in Canada’s criminal justice system requires the collective efforts of federal, provincial, and territorial partners and stakeholders, and much work remains. Monitoring the performance of the criminal justice system will be even more crucial as we move forward and address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the criminal justice system, and in turn all Canadians.

The Honourable David Lametti, P.C., Q.C., M.P. (he/him)
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

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Learn about the methods used to create the State of the Criminal Justice System performance monitoring Framework, Dashboard and Report.