Sexual orientation and victimization, 2004

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By Diane Beauchamp, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada

In the early 1980's, Canada adopted the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As of 1985, all Canadians, regardless of their race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability were legally given equal rights to the protection and benefit of the law without discrimination under Section 15 of the Charter. Although sexual orientation is not listed as a ground for discrimination in the Charter, it has been deemed by the Supreme Court of Canada (Egan v. Canada, [1995] 2 S.C.R. 513) to be an analogous ground on which claims of discrimination may be based (Hurley, 2007).

On September 18, 2003 the Parliament of Canada voted to amend the Criminal Code to include sexual orientation as an identifiable characteristic for protection from hate crime under the Hate Propaganda Sections 318 and 319. The amendment added gays and lesbians to a list of other groups protected by hate crime legislation.

Until recently, there were no national data on the extent to which gays, lesbians and bisexuals were victims of violent crime and discrimination, nor was there any national information about their fear of crime or their perceptions of the criminal justice system.

In 2004, for the first time, the General Social Survey (GSS) on victimization asked Canadians to identify their sexual orientation (see Text box 1). This profile examines victimization rates, perceptions of discrimination, fear of crime and attitudes towards the justice system among gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

According to the GSS, just over 362,000Canadians aged 18 years and older (1.5%) identified themselves as being gay, lesbian or bisexual.1,2

Text box 1

Sexual orientation: Sexual orientation refers to how a person perceives and defines their sexuality, which is whether he or she considers himself or herself to be heterosexual, homosexual (gay or lesbian) or bisexual. In the 2004 GSS, information on sexual orientation was collected from respondents aged 18 years and over.

Violent victimization: The 2004 GSS collected information on three types of violent offences, according to their definition in the Criminal Code. These include sexual assault, robbery and physical assault.

Sexual assault: Forced sexual activity, an attempt at forced sexual activity, or unwanted sexual touching, grabbing, kissing or fondling.

Robbery: Theft or attempted theft in which the perpetrator had a weapon or there was violence, or the threat of violence against the victim.

Physical assault: An attack (victim hit, slapped, grabbed, knocked down or beaten), a face-to-face threat of physical harm, or an incident with a weapon present.

This profile presents overall violent victimization rates, since rates by individual violent offence types were too small to make statistically reliable estimates.


  1. Ninety-four percent of Canadians aged 18 years and over identified themselves as being heterosexual while 5% did not state their sexual orientation.
  2. Comparing rates or proportions of small populations is a challenge that is related to the issue of sampling variability. As the sample size decreases, the average size of the error in estimates tends to increase. When comparing differences between small groups, there is a greater chance that these differences are a result of sampling variability. As with any estimate obtained from a sample survey, it is necessary to undertake tests of statistical significance to ensure that reported differences between estimates are actual differences and not a result of sampling error. Unless otherwise noted, all differences reported in this profile are statistically significant.

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