Governmental and Legislative Milestones

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Governmental and Legislative Milestones

The following timeline presents a selection of governmental responses and milestones to address the unique needs of women as both victims and survivors, and accused and offenders in the criminal justice system. This is not an exhaustive list: only a selection of those that are publicly available online over the past 30 years have been included in the timeline. There are a number of other key milestones that pre-date the timeline, which include the opening of the first Canadian Prison for Women in 1935, changes to sexual assault laws in 1983 through Bill C-127 and the addition of victim impact statements in the Criminal Code in 1988. These changes demonstrate how the criminal justice system has evolved over time respond to the unique needs of women. For more information about the milestones and responses, click on the titles below.

For governmental, legislative and judicial milestones included in the Indigenous Peoples theme, click on the link below:

  • Creating Choices
    Report Name Creating Choices: The Report of the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women
    Jurisdiction National
    Purpose/Mandate The Task Force mandate was to examine the correctional management of federally sentenced women from the commencement of sentence to the date of warrant expiry and to develop a plan, which would guide and direct the process in a manner that is responsive to the unique and special needs of this group. The report includes a number of recommendations, and identifies five key principles for change: empowerment, meaningful and responsible choices, respect and dignity, supportive environment and shared responsibility.
    Link https://www.csc-scc.gc.ca/women/toce-eng.shtml
  • Commission of Inquiry into certain events at the Prison for Women in Kingston (The Arbour Report)
    Report Name Commission of Inquiry into certain events at the Prison for Women in Kingston
    Jurisdiction National
    Purpose/Mandate In 1995, the Honourable Louise Arbour was appointed as Commissioner of Inquiry to investigate and report on the state and management of that part of the business of the Correctional Service of Canada that pertains to the incidents that occurred at the Prison for Women in Kingston, Ontario, of the Correctional Service of Canada in April 1994. The Commissioner was directed to make independent findings of fact regarding the incidents that occurred and to recommend improvements, as may be required, to the policies and practices of the Correctional Service of Canada in relation to such incidents. A total of 14 recommendations were made.
    Link http://www.justicebehindthewalls.net/resources/arbour_report/arbour_rpt.htm
  • The Closing of the Prison for Women in Kingston
    Report Name The Closing of the Prison for Women in Kingston
    Jurisdiction National
    Purpose/Mandate The closing of the Prison for Women on July 6, 2000 signified the end of an important chapter in the history of corrections for women under federal sentence in Canada. The closure was the culmination of a process that began in 1990 with the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women and its report, entitled “Creating Choices.”
    Link https://www.csc-scc.gc.ca/text/pblct/brochurep4w/index-eng.shtml
  • Report of the Auditor General into the Reintegration of Women Offenders
    Report Name Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the House of Commons. Chapter 4. Correctional Service of Canada – Reintegration of Women Offenders
    Jurisdiction National
    Purpose/Mandate The objective of this audit was to assess how well Correctional Services Canada was managing the process for reintegrating women offenders. Specifically, it assessed the extent to which: the Correctional Services Canada had established the appropriateness of the risk assessment instruments used to identify an offender’s criminogenic factors and level of security throughout the sentence for women offenders; offenders received the rehabilitative programs that the Service has determined they require in a timely manner while incarcerated; Correctional Service used mechanisms that assist in offender’s reintegration, such as temporary absences, work releases, employment programs, and legislative provisions for Aboriginal women offenders; offenders received required programs and services while in the community; and Correctional Service monitored the effectiveness of its programs and services for women offenders and reported appropriately to Parliament. A total of 11 recommendations were made.
    Link https://www1.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/docs/20030404ce.pdf
  • Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts
    Report Name 26th Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts
    Jurisdiction National
    Purpose/Mandate The Standing Committee on Public Accounts considered Chapter 4 of the April 2003 Report of the Auditor General of Canada (Correctional Service Canada — Reintegration of Women Offenders) that assessed how well Correctional Services Canada was managing the process for reintegrating women offenders. A total of 12 recommendations were made.
    Link https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/37-2/PACC/report-26/
  • Canadian Human Rights Commission Systemic Review of Human Rights in Correctional Services for Federally Sentenced Women
    Report Name Protecting Their Rights - A Systemic Review of Human Rights in Correctional Services for Federally Sentenced Women by the Canadian Human Rights Commission
    Jurisdiction National
    Purpose/Mandate The Canadian Human Rights Commission conducted a review of the treatment of federally sentenced women. The purpose of the review was to determine the extent to which federal correctional services relating to custody, supervision, rehabilitation and reintegration were responsive to the situation of all federally sentenced women, including women with cognitive and mental disabilities. The Commission’s objective was to identify ways of bringing the correctional system in line with the Canadian Human Rights Act. A total of 19 recommendations were made.
    Link https://www.chrc-ccdp.gc.ca/eng/content/protecting-their-rights-systemic-review-human-rights-correctional-services-federally
  • Moving Forward with Women's Corrections
    Report Name Moving Forward with Women's Corrections. The Expert Committee Review of the Correctional Service of Canada's Ten-Year Status Report on Women's Corrections 1996-2006
    Jurisdiction International
    Purpose/Mandate An Expert Committee undertook an independent assessment of progress achieved in women’s corrections in relation to the implementation of recommendations identified between 1996 and 2006 through four major external reviews on federal correctional services for women: Commission of Inquiry into certain events at the Prison for Women in Kingston (1996); the Report of the Auditor General into the Reintegration of Women Offenders (April 2003); the 26th Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (November 2003); and Protecting Their Rights – A Systemic Review of Human Rights in Correctional Services for Federally Sentenced Women by the Canadian Human Rights Commission (December 2003). A total of six recommendations were made.
    Link https://www.csc-scc.gc.ca/publications/fsw/wos29/wos29_e.pdf
  • United Nations General Assembly
    Report Name In-depth Study on all Forms of Violence Against Women: Report of the Secretary General
    Jurisdiction International
    Purpose/Mandate This report presents the findings of a study by the United Nations examining all forms of violence against women, such as intimate partner violence, femicide, trafficking, and forced sterilization. It discusses both the social and intergenerational impacts of violence against women as well as the economic and health consequences. A number of national and international recommendations were made in the report.
    Link https://www.refworld.org/docid/484e58702.html
  • Office of the Correctional Investigator
    Report Name A Preventable Death
    Jurisdiction National
    Purpose/Mandate The Office of the Correctional Investigator undertook a review and analysis of the operational environment and the documentation produced by the Correctional Service of Canada prior to and after the death of Ashley Smith on October 19, 2007, while she was in the care and custody of the Correctional Service of Canada. This report identifies the broader issues that contributed to the conditions and decisions that resulted in her tragic death. A total of 16 recommendations were made.
    Link https://www.oci-bec.gc.ca/cnt/rpt/pdf/oth-aut/oth-aut20080620-eng.pdf
  • United Nations General Assembly
    Report Name Intensification of Efforts to Eliminate all Forms of Violence Against Women
    Jurisdiction International
    Purpose/Mandate This report incorporates information received from member states, including Canada, on the intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women. The report is divided into four parts: section I contains the introduction; section II covers the background; section III outlines the measures reported by Member States; and section IV contains the conclusions and recommendations to further intensive efforts.
    Link https://undocs.org/en/A/65/208
  • Missing Women Commission of Inquiry
    Report Name Forsaken: The Report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry Executive Summary
    Jurisdiction British Columbia
    Purpose/Mandate The Missing Women Commission of Inquiry was ordered by the British Columbia Lieutenant Governor in Council in 2010. The Commission’s four-part mandate was to: evaluate the response of law enforcement to reports of missing and murdered women from Downtown Eastside of Vancouver; evaluate the reasons for staying charges against Robert Pickton in January 1998; recommend changes regarding the handling of cases of missing women and suspected homicides; and recommend changes to the handling of cases when they involve more than one investigating organization. A total of 63 recommendations were made.
    Link https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/law-crime-and-justice/about-bc-justice-system/inquiries/forsaken-es.pdf
  • Coroner’s Inquest Touching the Death of Ashley Smith
    Report Name Coroner’s Inquest Touching the Death of Ashley Smith
    Jurisdiction Ontario
    Purpose/Mandate A Coroner’s Inquest was held between September 20, 2012 and December 19, 2013 in Toronto, Ontario to look into the wrongful death of Ashley Smith while in custody in a federal regional facility for women. A total of 104 jury recommendations were made.
    Link https://www.csc-scc.gc.ca/publications/005007-9009-eng.shtml
  • Royal Canadian Mounted Police Review
    Report Name Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: A National Operational Overview
    Jurisdiction National
    Purpose/Mandate The Commissioner of the RCMP initiated an RCMP-led study of reported incidents of missing and murdered Aboriginal women across all police jurisdictions in Canada. The report is intended to guide police operational decision-making to support more targeted crime prevention, better community engagement and enhanced accountability for criminal investigations. Next steps were identified at the end of the report.
    Link http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/en/missing-and-murdered-aboriginal-women-national-operational-overview
  • Truth and Reconciliation Commission
    Report Name Truth and Reconciliation series of reports: Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future; The Survivors Speak; What We Have Learned; Canada’s Residential Schools: The History, Part 1 Origins to 1939; Canada’s Residential Schools: The History, Part 2: 1939 to 2000; Canada’s Residential Schools: The Inuit and Northern Experience; Canada’s Residential Schools: The Métis Experience; Canada’s Residential Schools: Missing Children and Unmarked Burials; Canada’s Residential Schools: The Legacy; Canada’s Residential Schools: Reconciliation; Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action
    Jurisdiction National
    Purpose/Mandate Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada was established as part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement to facilitate reconciliation among former students, their families, their communities and all people in Canada. The TRC spent six years travelling to all parts of Canada and heard from more than 6,500 witnesses. The TRC also hosted seven national events to engage the Canadian public, educate people about the history and legacy of the residential school system, and share and honour the experiences of former students and their families. The TRC created a historical record of the residential school system in its six volume report, which includes 94 "calls to action" (or recommendations) to further reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada.
    Link http://nctr.ca/reports2.php
  • 2015 Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
    Report Name Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) 2015, Report of the inquiry concerning Canada of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women under article 8 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
    Jurisdiction National
    Purpose/Mandate The United Nations Committee received letters and information to conduct an inquiry into a) the disproportionately high rates of missing and murdered Aboriginal women; b) the lack of the Government in investigating those cases; c) the structural issues within the criminal justice system of the State party; and d) the Government’s refusal to deal with the root causes of violence against aboriginal women. Four recommendations and 38 sub-recommendations were made.
    Link https://undocs.org/CEDAW/C/OP.8/CAN/1
  • Canadian Human Rights Commission Roundtable
    Report Name Honouring the Strength of Our Sisters: Increasing Access to Human Rights Justice For Indigenous Women and Girls
    Jurisdiction National
    Purpose/Mandate This report provides an overview of what the Canadian Human Rights Commission (the Commission) heard during a series of cross-country roundtable meetings in 2013 and 2014 with Indigenous women, representative Indigenous women’s organizations, and other organizations that provide services to First Nations, Inuit and Métis women. The roundtable process identified 21 barriers and proposed ideas on how to overcome those barriers.
    Link https://www.chrc-ccdp.gc.ca/eng/content/honouring-strength-our-sisters-increasing-access-human-rights-justice-indigenous-women-and
  • Office of the Auditor General of Canada
    Report Name Office of the Auditor General of Canada. Report 5- Preparing Women Offenders for Release – Correctional Service Canada
    Jurisdiction National
    Purpose/Mandate This audit focused on whether Correctional Service Canada delivered correctional programs, interventions, and mental health services that addressed the unique needs of female offenders in custody including those who are Indigenous and helped these offenders successfully reintegrate into the community. Ten recommendations are included in the report.
    Link https://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/English/parl_oag_201711_05_e_42670.html
  • Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence
    Report Name It’s Time: Canada’s Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence
    Jurisdiction National
    Purpose/Mandate Canada’s Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence is the Government of Canada’s response to gender-based violence (GBV). It builds on current federal initiatives, coordinates existing programs and lays the foundation for greater action on GBV. The Strategy is based on three pillars: prevention; support for survivors and their families; and promotion of responsive legal and justice systems. It is expected to fill gaps in support for diverse populations, which could include: women and girls, Indigenous Peoples, LGBTQ2 populations, gender non-binary individuals, those living in northern, rural, and remote communities, people with disabilities, newcomers, children and youth, and seniors.
    Link https://cfc-swc.gc.ca/violence/strategy-strategie/index-en.html
  • Bill C-16
    Name of Act Bill C-16, an Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code
    Jurisdiction Federal
    Purpose/Mandate This legislation made amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to protect individuals from discrimination within the sphere of federal jurisdiction and from being the targets of hate propaganda, as a consequence of their gender identity or their gender expression. The bill adds “gender identity or expression” to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act and the list of characteristics of identifiable groups protected from hate propaganda in the Criminal Code. It also adds that evidence that an offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on a person’s gender identity or expression constitutes an aggravating circumstance for a court to consider when imposing a criminal sentence.
    Link https://lop.parl.ca/sites/PublicWebsite/default/en_CA/ResearchPublications/LegislativeSummaries/421C16F?p
  • National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
    Report Name Interim Report: Our Women and Girls are Sacred
    Jurisdiction National
    Purpose/Mandate This interim report provides an overview of the vision, mission and mandate of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls; preliminary conclusions drawn from the pre-inquiry process, advisory meetings and previous reports; and information from the hearings. In addition to recognizing a number of existing recommendations from past inquiries, committees and reports, two calls for immediate action and eight recommendations were made.
    Link http://www.mmiwg-ffada.ca/files/ni-mmiwg-interim-report-en.pdf
  • Report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women
    Report Name A Call to Action: Reconciliation with Indigenous Women in the Federal Justice and Correctional Systems
    Jurisdiction National
    Purpose/Mandate The House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women (the Committee) conducted a study in 2017 on Indigenous Women in the Federal Justice and Correctional Systems. The Committee received testimony from 36 witnesses, 13 of whom appeared as individuals, with the remainder representing 18 organizations. As well, the Committee was briefed by officials from six government departments and agencies, the Office of the Auditor General of Canada, and the Office of the Correctional Investigator of Canada. The testimony was received during nine meetings held from November 28, 2017 to February 13, 2018. The Committee also received 11 written briefs from organizations and individuals. In addition to the evidence gathered over the course of its study, the Committee also considered testimony from the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security’s study on Indigenous People in the Correctional System (fall 2017). The Committee identified 96 recommendations to improve the treatment of Indigenous women in the federal justice and correctional systems.
    Link https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/42-1/FEWO/report-13/page-5
  • Bill C-51
    Name of Act Bill C-51, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code and the Department of Justice Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act
    Jurisdiction National
    Purpose/Mandate This legislation made several amendments to clarify and strengthen the sexual assault provisions in the Criminal Code relating to consent, admissibility of evidence and legal representation for the victim/survivor. Specifically the Act clarifies that: an unconscious person is incapable of consent; the defence of mistaken belief in consent is not available if the accused believed that failure to resist implied consent; the expansion of the “rape shield” provision that safeguards victim privacy to include communication for a sexual purpose; and provides that a victim/survivor has a legal right to representation in rape shield proceedings.
    Link https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/csj-sjc/pl/cuol-mgnl/c51.html
  • Bill C-75
    Name of Act An Act to Amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
    Jurisdiction National
    Purpose/Mandate In addition to a number of other amendments, the Act amends the Criminal Code to: define “intimate partner” for all Criminal Code purposes and clarify that this includes current or former spouse, common-law partner and dating partner; create a reverse onus at bail for accused charged with a violent offence involving an intimate partner if they have a prior conviction for violence against an intimate partner; require courts to consider prior intimate partner violence convictions when determining whether to release the accused or impose bail conditions; clarify that strangulation constitutes an elevated form of assault and a more serious form of sexual assault; allow a higher maximum penalty in cases involving an offender who has a prior conviction of intimate partner violence; create a new section to direct a court to give primary consideration to the objectives of denunciation and deterrence when imposing a sentence for an intimate partner violence offence where the victim is vulnerable because of personal circumstances (such as a victim who is “Aboriginal and female”); make clear that current sentencing provisions, which treat abuse against a spouse or common law partner as an aggravating factor, apply to both current and former spouses/common law partners, dating partners, and members of the victim or the offender’s family; and create a new section to direct a court imposing a sentence for an intimate partner violence offence to consider the increased vulnerability of female persons who are victims, giving particular attention to the circumstances of “Aboriginal female victims.”
    Link https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/csj-sjc/jsp-sjp/c75/p3.html
  • National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
    Report Name Final Report: Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
    Jurisdiction National
    Purpose/Mandate The Final Report includes of the accounts of more than 2,380 family members, survivors of violence, experts and Knowledge Keepers shared over two years of cross-country public hearings and evidence gathering. It delivers 231 individual Calls for Justice directed at governments, institutions, social service providers, industries and all Canadians.
    Link https://www.mmiwg-ffada.ca/final-report/

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