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Canada Prioritizing Support For International Victims Of Sex And Gender-Based Crimes

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The government has launched an investigation into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine. 

At the Ukraine Accountability Conference, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Honourable David Lametti, expressed in a speech Canada’s efforts to prioritize the interests and needs of survivors and victims of core international crimes. The focus of this initiative will begin with sex and gender-based crimes.

The Minister explicitly stated that “Canada condemns in the strongest possible terms the Russian leadership’s illegal and unjustifiable war of aggression on Ukraine.

We must provide support to meet the needs of victims and survivors of core international crimes and work quickly to gather evidence that we can use to pursue accountability in national and international courts.”

While women and men, girls and boys, face risks of sexual and gender-based violence in conflict – including rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, and trafficking – women and children, particularly girls, are the primary victims and survivors. Many of these crimes go unreported due to extreme stigma and feelings of shame and intimidation or fear. Victims and survivors may be unaware of, or lack access to, reporting mechanisms and services for those who have experienced gender-based violence (GBV) in occupied areas.

Gender-based violence is a broader umbrella term referring to any harmful act perpetrated against a person’s will, based on socially ascribed (gender) differences between males and females, which in most settings privilege men.

Conflict-related sexual violence is a particularly deadly form of sexual and gender-based violence. Its use constitutes a serious breach of international humanitarian law and may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity. States prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes.

Canada’s federal police agency, under the purview of the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Program, has initiated a national investigation into the allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine. Canada is taking a victim-centered approach to the investigation adhering to the principles outlined in the Murad Code and ensuring that victims receive adequate psychosocial support.

At the recent G7 meeting, Canada announced $9.7M in funding to improve accountability for human rights violations in Ukraine, with a particular emphasis on sexual and gender-based violence cases.

This funding will support existing international mechanisms, Ukrainian police, and judicial institutions to respond professionally to cases of sexual and gender-based violence, ensuring investigations are conducted in compliance with international law and advance justice in ways that are sensitive and responsive to the needs and interests of survivors.

Prioritizing the interests and needs of victims and survivors of core international crimes means working to address their immediate needs and not just working towards eventual paths of judicial accountability.

Inspired by Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy and Feminist Approach in Humanitarian Action, Canada is committed to supporting humanitarian assistance programming that meets the different and specific needs and priorities of all affected populations and considers gender, age, disability, and diversity.

Canada’s feminist approach recognizes and supports local capacities, systems, and structures. This means strengthening women’s leadership at every level to ensure women and girls’ participation, leadership, and empowerment in humanitarian processes.

It is equally important to continuously engage in these conversations and create awareness so that the efforts are productive, efficient, and complimentary.

Image Credit: Twitter Page of Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Honourable David Lametti