Make Sexual Harassment a Crime in Canada

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Canada's Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46 must be amended to include "Sexual Harassment".

Currently, sexual harassment is not a punishable offence under criminal law in Canada.  Survivors frequently encounter police officers, who cannot make an act of sexual harassment fit within the Criminal Code as it presently exists. None of the sections pertaining to Sexual Assault (section 271), Criminal Harassment (section 264), or Hate Crimes (section 718.2(a)(i)) allow for criminal charges in cases of sexual harassment. As a result, perpetrators go unpunished, and survivors cannot obtain justice or a sense of closure.  

The Supreme Court of Canada has held that sexual harassment in the workplace is a form of sex discrimination, thus, a human rights violation. (Janzen v. Platy Enterprises Ltd., [1989] 1 S.C.R. 1252)  However, human rights law is remedial as opposed to punitive.  Moreover, survivors must fit within a pre-determined category, such as employment, tenancy, or service, in order to be at all eligible to seek any redress from a human rights tribunal.  Any survivor having endured sexual harassment outside the enumerated areas has no recourse under human rights law.

The Criminal Code could define "sexual harassment" as, for instance, "unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that detrimentally affects the survivor of the harassment" and make it an offence.  The punishment could range from a fine to imprisonment and should reflect factors, such as the nature, seriousness, level, and duration of the sexual harassment, power imbalances, the particular circumstances, as well as the extent of the detrimental effect on the specific survivor.

Sexual harassment is a form of violence.  It is time to see sexual harassment criminalized to ensure sexual predators are publicly held accountable and sufficiently deterred from victimizing any one human being for their sexual pleasure and gratification or from abusing their power over another.

Stand up 2 Sexual Harassment.



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