Bill C-46: Records Applications Post-Mills,
A Caselaw Review

3. Statistics on Sexual Assault


3.1 Data Sources and Research Studies

Data on crime in Canada are gathered and reported on by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS), which is part of Statistics Canada. The CCJS collects data from different sources such as, court data, police reported data (measuring what is reported to the police), and victimization surveys that poll the general public. [47] Data regarding sexual offences are available in various CCJS publications. [48]The report, Women in Canada, also profiles the experiences of women as victims and offenders in the criminal justice system.[49] Roberts' study for the Department of Justice entitled, Prevalence of Sexual Assault and Therapeutic Records, also provided data.[50]

3.2 Rates of police-reported sexual assault offences

The General Social Survey (GSS) found no significant change in the rates of self-reported sexual assault between 1993 and 1999. After having decreased for seven previous years, in 2000 and 2001 there were consecutive increases of 1% in police-recorded violent crimes.[51],[52] Violent offences[53] increased by 5% between 1977 and 2002,[54] accounting for 13% of all Criminal Code offences in 2001[55] and in 2002.[56] The crime rate declined slightly by 0.6% in 2002,[57] with violent crimes decreasing by 2%,[58] and all levels of sexual offences comprising 9% of violent crimes reported to the police in Canada.[59]

Amendments to the Criminal Code in 1983 replaced the crimes of rape and indecent assault with a three-tiered categorization of sexual assault offences: level one sexual assault (with minimal physical injury to the victim); level two sexual assault (with a weapon, threats to use a weapon, or causing bodily harm); and, level three aggravated sexual assault (wounds, maims, disfigures, or endangers the life of the victim).[60],[61] The CCJS report on Sexual Offences in Canada explains that "The goals of these amendments were to emphasize the violent rather than the sexual nature of such crimes, and to increase victims' confidence in the criminal justice system and willingness to report these crimes to the police."[62] After adoption of these reforms the rates of reported sexual assaults began to rise, reflecting increases in level one sexual offences.[63]

As in previous years, in 2002 the vast majority (88%) of police-reported sexual assaults were classified as level one offences.[64] Other sexual offences accounted for 10%, and the more serious levels 2 and 3 composed 2% of all sexual offences.[65] In 2002 there were 27,100 reported cases of sexual assaults.[66] This was 36% lower than in 1993, mainly due to decreases in level one sexual offences. Level 2 and level 3 sexual assaults also declined by 60% between 1993 and 2002. Other sexual offences (which are primarily offences against children) fluctuated, but overall fell by 40% during this period.[67] The fairly low rates of levels 2 and 3 and other sexual assaults account for these large changes in terms of percentages.[68] In terms of the numbers of offences, however, all levels of sexual assault have remained relatively stable since 1999, when the rate was 89 reported incidents per 100,000 population in Canada. By 2002 the national average had declined only slightly, to 86 reported sexual offences per 100,000 population.[69]

Significant variations in the rates of police-reported sexual offences were evidenced across Canada in 2002. Nunavut reported the highest rates of violent crime and sexual offences (1,017 sexual offences per 100,000 population). The Northwest Territories (473) and Yukon (261) followed in rates of sexual offences. Saskatchewan (160) and Manitoba (139) reported the highest rates among all of the provinces. Ontario (74) and Quebec (71) had the lowest rates of sexual offences, below the national average of 86 per 100,000 population. Between 2001 and 2002 increased rates were reported in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the territories. Rates in other provinces decreased during this period.

Reported cases of sexual offences in Canadian cities also varied widely. In 2002, the highest rates of sexual offences were in Saskatoon (155 incidents per 100,000 population), Sudbury (119 incidents per 100,000 population) and Regina (109 incidents per 100,000 population). The lowest rates were reported in Ottawa (46), Windsor (54) and Quebec City (59).[70],[71]

3.3 Reasons for changes in the rates of police-reported sexual offences in Canada

After a decade of increases, in 1993 police-reported sexual assaults reached a peak of 136 per 100,000 population in Canada. In addition to legislative reforms and demographic changes,[72] researchers have attributed this steady rise to several factors. They point out that victims were encouraged to come forward by significant changes in Canadian society such as reduced stigma attached to victims of sexual assault, as well as, improvements to the social economic and political status of women; a heightened focus on victims of crime and the growth in services and initiatives to support the victim, including sexual assault centres [and shelters]; special training of police to deal with victims, and; the growth of treatment teams in hospitals trained to respond to victims of sexual assault and gather evidence that could be used at trial.[73]

Thus, increasing numbers of sexual assault centres and the services they provided were among the changes which caused greater reporting of sexual offences to police to be achieved. It is possible that cutbacks in such services represent one of the factors that have contributed to the declines in reported cases of sexual offences since 1993.[74]