Domestic and Family Violence in Canada

Written by Courtney Joshua |

The oppression of women is not a new concept to study as it plagues our histories both oral and written forms. Many are not surprised to hear of the years of oppressive acts which have occurred across the globe, nor the acts still experienced in today's day and age. However, many are surprised to hear about the years of resistance in Canada against those wanting to protect and obtain gender-specific rights, such as the right to vote, to employment and even to healthcare services. Moreover, many are surprised to hear that only a mere 35 years ago, did Canada first implement a law which protected women. In 1983, Bill C127 transpired to ensure that women who were both married and single, would have some measures of safety to guard them against sexual violence (1). Over the course of the years, this would prove to be somewhat effective, yet, many advocates for women's rights called for more narrow measures to safeguard acts of domestic or family violence. In 1996, the Alberta government passed a distinct law to protect those from assault which caused all other provinces to follow along with the federal government (1).

Today Canadian citizens can access a range of laws to protect themselves or their loved ones from actions of family violence. Times and attitudes have shifted from the past, allowing more supports and services to grow including women's shelters, domestic abuse hotlines, low income or free counselling supports and even education centres. All of which are working to ensure the public is more aware of what domestic violence is and how to prevent it, as well as stop it if it is already evolving (2). 

One issue these programs have in preventing and stopping domestic violence is the wide range it encompasses. There is little to no agreement on what is considered in this realm or not, however, many have agreed there are two important elements to analyze the types of violence involved and what is considered a family relationship (2). Generally speaking, domestic violence can relate to many types of abusive actions, from sexual, verbal, emotional and physical ones, which result due to a personal connection based on intimacy, kinship or dependency (3). Advocates and scholars have argued that notions or definitions of domestic violence which are limited to married couples or traditional concepts of families harm those who are in their earlier stages of a relationship or do not submit to conventional values (2). 

While there is little to no agreements on the definition, there is a significant amount of support for the classification of family or domestic violence, as a public health issue, or at least in Canada. This is partly due to the far-reaching consequences on not only the victims but also on families, communities and society as a whole, combined with the increasing rates of violence. When reviewing the information Statistic's Canada has compiled, one can analyze a rise in victims of family or domestic violence from earlier years as in 2011, there were approximately 97,500 people reported conflicts with their partners to police, 80% of these identified as female (3). While this number has largely stayed the same until this current year of 2018, family and dating violence is still a significant conflict which countless Canadian's deal with on a daily basis (4). Specifically, a significant number of Manitoba and Saskatchewan residents experience a majority of the violence reported to police, which calls for more attention to be drawn to the practices and processes in these provinces (3). However, since violence is not limited to one city, town or culture, but surpasses many stages and teachings of life, a federal level and provincial level approach to addressing this violation is needed for success. 

This plateau, rather than the drop in rates of violence against women, shows that while there have been significant improvements over the last 35 years, family violence is a concern which requires more support and research to ensure it does not grow to affect more people in our communities. This requires both an individual and communal effort, as society changes both over time and through the assistance of many inspiring people. There are many patterns highlighted in the data sets compiled by various entities which can be utilized for implementing beneficial programs, such as ones which cater to Aboriginal or Disabled females as they are more common than not the victims of violence. Studies show that even implementing aids which target teens both to support them and to create awareness and prevention, is an important tool to establish (5). 

Overall, awareness and support are just two pieces to this ever-evolving puzzle, however, what is stagnant is the fact that by creating a collective and supportive network of all community members, we are better able to ensure violence prevention is implemented at all levels, therefore becoming more effective and better able to contribute to lasting and positive results. 


General facts about Gender Based Violence in Canada:
- Approximately every six days, a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner. Out of the 83 police-reported intimate partner homicides in 2014, 67 of the victims—over 80%—were women (5).

- Children who witness 10 or more incidents of parental domestic violence before the age of 16 are at least twice as likely to attempt suicide (6).

- Aboriginal women (First Nations, Inuit and Métis) are six times more likely to be killed than non-Aboriginal women. Aboriginal women are 2.5 times more likely to be victims of violence than non-Aboriginal women (5).

- Half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16 (7).

- There are over 500 women’s shelters and transition houses for women and children fleeing violence in Canada (7).

- Immigrant, refugee and non-status women experience unique forms of abuse such as threats of reporting them to immigration authorities and potential deportation (7).


1. Stoddart, Jennifer. "Women and the Law". The Canadian Encyclopedia, 21 July 2017, Historica Canada. 

2. M. Sinha. "Overview of Family Violence." Statistic's Canada, 2012. The Government of Canada.

3. M. Sinha. "Intimate Partner Violence." Statistic's Canada, 2013. The Government of Canada.

4. Hotton-Mahony, Jacob and Hobson. "Women and the Criminal Justice System." 2018. Statistic's Canada. The Government of Canada.

5. Canadian Women's Foundation. "Violence Against Women In Canada." 2016.

6. The University of Toronto. "Link Found Between Witnessing Parental Domestic Violence During Childhood and Attempted Suicide." 2016. ScienceDaily.

7. Women's Shelter's Canada. "By The Numbers: Violence Against Women and Children in Canada." 2017.


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Author: Courtney Joshua
A university graduate and an English language instructor with a passion for human rights, specifically the right to education!


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