JustResearch Edition no. 13

Research in Brief

Research in Brief

1. Women as Holders of University Degrees in Law and Jurisprudence

Dr. Fernando Mata, Senior Research Officer, Research and Statistics Division


Women are becoming more interested in pursuing careers in the area of law and jurisprudence in Canada. They are overcoming academic barriers that impeded their access to the legal profession in the past and are slowly changing the demographic landscape of the population holding these types of university degrees. Topic-based tabulations drawn from the 1991 and 2001 Population Census were examined to track the progress made by women in terms of the possession of university degrees in the fields of law and jurisprudence. The population examined consisted of individuals aged 20 years and older reporting the possession of university degrees in different fields of study.


Between 1991 and 2001, the number of individuals aged 20 years old and over holding university degrees in law and jurisprudence increased by 36% (from 84,295 to 114,895). Between 1991 and 2001, about 30,600 individuals entered the pool of law and jurisprudence graduates—18,480 women and 12,120 men. In 1991, men represented 70% of the pool of university graduates holding law or jurisprudence degrees, while women represented only 30%. Ten years later, 62% of degree holders were male and 38% were female. The number of female degree holders increased from 25,340 in 1991 to 43,820 in 2001, representing a 73% growth between census periods. The corresponding number of male degree holders increased from 58,995 in 1991 to 71,075 in 2001, representing a 20% growth over census periods.

University Degrees in Law and Jurisprudence: Canada 1991 and 2001

Figure 2: Vertical bar chart representing the number of men and women holding a university degree in law and jurisprudence in 1991 and 2001.

Source: Topic Based Tabulation, Field of Study, 2001 Census, Table Cat No. 970018XCBO 1002, Statistics Canada


The greater presence of women as university graduates was felt not only in terms of law and jurisprudence but also in other fields of study traditionally dominated by men (see Table 1). In Canada, these fields have been concentrated in areas such as mathematics, computer sciences, physical sciences and engineering. In 1991, women holding degrees in the mathematics, computer and physical sciences group represented 28% of graduates, and women holding degrees in the engineering and applied sciences group represented 15% of graduates. In 2001, these percentages had risen to 32% and 23% respectively.

Table 1 - Population with University Certificates By Gender and Field of Study

Fields of Study Females (%) Males (%) Total (%) Number of Degrees
Educational, recreational and counselling 68% 32% 100% 567,245
Health professions and related technologies 64% 36% 100% 294,095
Fine and applied arts 64% 36% 100% 77,085
Humanities and related fields 55% 45% 100% 339,570
Other social sciences 51% 49% 100% 390,060
Agricultural, biological, nutritional, and food sciences 48% 52% 100% 139,210
Commerce, management and business administration 35% 65% 100% 474,625
Law and Jurisprudence 30% 70% 100% 84,295
Mathematics, computer and physical sciences 28% 72% 100% 199,255
Applied science technologies and trades 15% 85% 100% 5,260
Engineering and applied sciences 8% 92% 100% 281,770
All fields 47% 53% 100% 2,852,470

Fields of Study Females (%) Males (%) Total (%) Number of Degrees
Educational, recreational and counselling 69% 31% 100% 760,310
Health professions and related technologies 67% 33% 100% 416,085
Fine and applied arts 65% 35% 100% 117,005
Humanities and related fields 59% 41% 100% 485,310
Other social sciences 57% 43% 100% 613,895
Agricultural, biological, nutritional, and food sciences 52% 48% 100% 203,400
Commerce, management and business administration 43% 57% 100% 746,715
Law and Jurisprudence 38% 62% 100% 114,895
Mathematics, computer and physical sciences 32% 68% 100% 336,935
Applied science technologies and trades 23% 77% 100% 12,245
Engineering and applied sciences 15% 85% 100% 464,550
All fields 51% 49% 100% 4,271,345
  1. Other Social Sciences includes all other non Law or Jurisprudence social science fields
  2. Source: Table Cat. No. 97F0018XCB01002-Major Fields of Study


Census data suggests that, following a general trend, women are choosing law and jurisprudence more and more often as a career in Canada. This is reflected in a greater number of women in the pool of university graduates. In 2001, two in five individuals with law and jurisprudence university degrees were women. With more women interested in the study of law, it is anticipated that female graduates may significantly contribute to the growth of the field in the next years and affect approaches to the practice of law in an innovative way.

2. A Statistical Profile on Vulnerable Canadians

Jacinthe Loubier, Statistical Officer, Research and Statistics Division


Canadians have to face many barriers in their daily lives. Economic and social barriers can have an impact on where they live and what type of job they have. Furthermore, their cultural background, level of education, and standard of living can act as barriers and make them more susceptible to discrimination and criminal victimization. The groups most affected by these barriers are considered vulnerable. These vulnerable groups include women (especially those who are widowed, divorced, separated, or are lone parents), children and youth, persons with low income, persons with disabilities, visible minorities, and aboriginal people. The following statistical profile provides demographic and victimization statistics on vulnerable groups in Canada .


Children and Youth
Persons with Low Income
Persons with Disabilities
Visible Minorities
Aboriginal People


Reported Victims of Violent Crime

Vertical bar chart representing the reported rate of victimization of violent crime among groups of vulnerable Canadians.

Violent crime includes sexual assault, assault and robbery.
Source: Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics – Profile Series June 2001 and Statistics Canada General Social Survey 1999.


3. Rights vs. Marriage: The Same-Sex Marriage Debate Continues

Allison Millar, Statistical Officer, Research and Statistics Division

According to a February 2005 EKOS poll, more than half (55%) of Canadians believe that recognizing same-sex couples is part of the positive evolutionary process where everyone receives equal rights regardless of gender, race, or sexual preference. In contrast, 39% of Canadians feel that recognizing same-sex couples violates the fundamental nature of the family and will have serious consequences for society. The numbers from both sides of the debate are unchanged since 2003.

Figure 1 - Majority (55%) View Same-Sex Couple Recognition as Positive

When Canadians were asked if same-sex couples should have the same rights as heterosexual couples, a majority (60%) feel they should have the same rights. Far fewer (28%) Canadians disagree with this statement. Over the last five years, support for same-sex equality has gradually increased by fifteen percent (15%), while opposition has declined by nearly ten percent (10%).

Figure 2 - Six in Ten Canadians Support Same-Sex Equality

While a majority (60%) believe in same-sex equality, when Canadians were directly asked whether they support same-sex marriage, significantly fewer Canadians (42%) indicate support. However, support for same-sex marriage has increased by six percentage points since 2003. Overall, Canadians appear to have firm opinions on the issue of same-sex marriage, as there are notably fewer (17%) in 2005 that are undecided about the issue. The numbers indicate that those who were undecided (23%) in 2003 have now shifted in favour of same-sex marriage.

Figure 3 - Slight Increase in Support for Same-Sex Marriage

Same-sex Rights: An International Perspective

According to an October 2004 International Gallup Poll, just over half of Canadians (51%) and Britons (52%) support the view that same-sex marriages should be recognized by the law as valid with the same rights as traditional marriages, in comparison to 35% of Americans. In all three countries, respondents are more likely to support civil unions for same-sex couples. In Canada and Britain , more than 60% favour civil unions between same-sex couples with close to a third opposing them. While Americans are more supportive of civil unions, they are equally split on the issue. Nearly half (49%) favour a law that would allow same-sex couples to legally form civil unions, while an almost equal percentage (48%) oppose the idea.

Results from the February 2005 EKOS poll indicate that Canadians have opposing views regarding the message that supporting same-sex marriage in Canada sends to the international community. When asked which statement is closest to their point of view, 50% of Canadians think that endorsing same-sex marriage rights would be a positive signal to the world about Canada's values and beliefs, while 42% think that endorsing same-sex rights would be a negative signal to the world. Eight percent (8%) of Canadians are undecided about the signal sent to the world by endorsing same-sex marriage rights.

Overall, although the trend is towards greater support for same-sex marriage and equality, the percentage that opposes same-sex marriage remains significant.