Gender-Based Analysis Plus

State of the Criminal Justice System Dashboard

Gender-Based Analysis Plus

Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA Plus) is an analytical process to assess how diverse groups of individuals may experience policies, programs and initiatives. The “plus” in GBA Plus highlights that individuals’ identities are complex and comprised of many characteristics such as, sex, gender, age, race, ethnicity, Indigenous identity, economic status, immigrant status, sexual orientation, disability, and geography. These identity characteristics intersect and overlap to create different lived realities.

Individuals experience multiple forms or dimensions of privilege and oppression based on how these identity factors are valued by social institutions and more broadly in society. Employing an intersectional approach helps to more fully understand and respond to multiple, and overlapping experiences of discrimination and privilege. For more information on the use of GBA Plus analysis in a government policy context, visit the Women and Gender Equality Canada website.

The information on the Dashboard provides an overview, not only of the performance of the criminal justice system as a whole, but also of its possible impacts on Canadians with unique and intersecting identity factors. All of the data has been reviewed with a GBA Plus intersectional lens in consideration of the diverse populations living in Canada. Where data are available, the indicators in the Dashboard can be broken down by various identity factors. Gaps in data availability are highlighted as areas for future development. As new data breakdowns become available (such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and disability), they will be added to highlight the experiences of different populations in contact with the criminal justice system.

In addition to the data available for the nine performance outcomes, the Dashboard includes two population-based themes: Indigenous Peoples and Women. These thematic pages were designed to facilitate GBA Plus by providing easy access to disaggregated data, analysis, and relevant research studies and reports.

Data Limitations

Currently, there are very limited national statistics available on gender and other intersecting identity factors (e.g., race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability) in the criminal justice system. Traditionally, national statistical offices, including Statistics Canada, have collected and disaggregated data by sex assigned at birth (male and female), and this data continues to be used as the basis for a large part of gender-based analysis. However, the Western concept of gender has evolved to recognize that gender exists on a continuum with individuals identifying as women, men, neither or both. In addition, an individual’s gender identity (internal sense of gender) and/or gender expression (external expression of gender) may change or shift along the continuum over time.

Concepts of gender and sexuality have been less rigidly defined by many Indigenous cultures, compared with Western cultures. The Indigenous term two-spirit is used, for example, to describe Indigenous people who identify as having both male and female spirits within them or whose gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation or spiritual identity is not limited by a binary (male/female or woman/man) classification of gender.Footnote 1

In response to evolving social contexts and data needs, statistical offices around the world have begun altering the way they collect information on sex and gender to be more inclusive of gender diversity. For the first time, in Canada’s 2016 Census, people who did not feel that they could or wanted to answer a binary question on sex, were able to skip the question and instead leave a comment.Footnote 2 Since then, Statistics Canada has begun including a gender question with three options (male, female and please specify) to better capture gender diversity in the population in surveys such as the 2018 Survey of Safety in Public and Private Spaces (SSPPS)Footnote 3 and the 2019 General Social Survey (GSS) on Canadians’ Safety – Victimization.Footnote 4 The GSS and SSPPS also collect information on sexual orientation and the Incident-based Uniform Crime Reporting SurveyFootnote 5 collects information on hate crimes targeting individual’s sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

However, given statistical requirements for confidentiality and data quality that are in part based on sample size, the small size of the transgender and gender-diverse population could present challenges for producing some official statistical estimates. It is also expected to be even more challenging to produce estimates for the various identities included under the gender-diverse umbrella. This is one reason why collecting qualitative data will continue to be important to understanding all gendered experiences within the criminal justice system.

Very little is known about the experiences of transgender and gender-diverse individuals in the courts and in correctional contexts. Even less is known about how gender intersects with other characteristics to impact individuals’ experiences with the criminal justice system. The collection of new quantitative and qualitative data is therefore essential to fully understand how intersectionality may be related to one’s experience with the criminal justice system.

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