Under the Criminal Code of Canada, stalking is legally referred to as criminal harassment. Stalking is:
- repeatedly following the victim or someone known to the victim;
- repeatedly communicating, either directly or indirectly, with the victim or anyone known to them;
- engaging in threatening conduct directed at the victim or any member of their family; and/or
- repeatedly watching the victim’s home, or place where the victim, or anyone known to the victim, lives, works or happens to be.
Some facts about criminal harassment in Canada
- Criminal harassment is most often perpetrated against women. In 2009, women accounted for 76% of criminal harassment victims.
- Casual acquaintances are the more common source of harassment for male victims, while women are more often harassed by former intimate partners.
- In 2009, Canadian police services reported just over 20,000 incidents of criminal harassment.
Source: Statistics Canada
Stalking is often an extension of domestic violence. Victims of stalking may experience psychological effects, including feeling intense fear, intimidation or a loss of control over one’s life. Stalking can be a precursor to violent acts, with non-violent stalking increasing to a level where it becomes life-threatening.
- If you think you are being stalked or harassed, get help. Call the police – dial 911 if you are in immediate danger or contact your local police service using their non-emergency line to discuss your situation.
- Even once you’ve reported the incident to police or obtained a restraining order, continue to take precautions, as the potential threat still exists. If you have a court order, carry a copy with you at all times.
- Don’t make contact with the perpetrator.
- Tell the perpetrator to leave you alone once and then do not respond to any further communication, regardless of the tone. Do not try and bargain or reason with the stalker, as it can encourage their behaviour.
- While it may be inconvenient, change your routines – schedules, commuter routes, and regular hangouts. This can go a long way in ensuring your safety.
- Record and keep any relevant information and details – emails, notes, gifts, phone messages, and contact information for any witnesses.
- Let others know, such as your friends, employer and child’s school. Provide a photo of your stalker. These people can not only help alert police in the event of an incident, but they can also serve as witnesses.
- Use telephone services with call tracing features, including call return and caller identification. An answering machine that uses cassettes for recording is beneficial.
- Ask local police for or seek out support agencies in your area – they can provide information and emotional support, offer referrals, or help you develop a safety plan.
- For information on personal safety plans, visit the Relationship Violence section.
- Take personal safety measures:
- Ensure your property is well lit;
- Install better locks for doors and windows;
- Carry a cell phone; and
- Consider a security system for your home.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911 or local police.