Criminal Harassment

Criminal Harassment, commonly known as stalking, is a crime and is punishable with up to five years in jail. Generally, Criminal Harassment consists of repeated conduct that is carried out over a period of time and which causes you to reasonably fear for your safety or the safety of someone you know. Stalking does not have to result in physical injury to make it a crime. The law protects you even if the conduct of the stalker is not done with the intent to scare you; it is enough that the conduct does scare you. This conduct may be an advance warning of the possibility of future violent acts. 

Are you or someone you know being stalked? Are you afraid for your safety or the safety of someone you know because of the words or actions of another person?

If you can answer yes to any of these questions, you or someone you know may be the victim of criminal harassment:

  • Is someone repeatedly following you or someone you know from place to place? Repeatedly is more than one time and does not have to be for an extended period of time. The incidents may have occurred during the same day.
  • Is someone repeatedly communicating with you, either directly or indirectly? Directly can be by telephone, in person, leaving messages on answering machines, or sending unwanted gifts, notes, letters or emails. Indirectly can be by contacting people you know and having messages sent through them, or simply by making repeated unwanted inquiries about you.
  • Is someone persistently close by or watching your home or anyplace where you or anyone you know lives, works, carries on business or happens to be?
  • Have you or any member of your family been threatened by this person?

What to do

Break the silence by talking to the police, Security Services, Counselling Services or other resources on and off campus.

Sometimes romantic behaviour which at first seems acceptable changes, or starts to feel inappropriate, strange, or unacceptable. If someone repeatedly contacts you, follows you, waits for you, will not take "no" for an answer, and behaves in ways that you find unsettling, you should seek assistance. The unwanted behaviour may escalate; it may become threatening or frightening.  

Maintain detailed notes about the stalking conduct. Dates, times, places actions, and threats are easier to explain and remember when written down. Keep all recorded telephone messages, e-mails, gifts, letters or notes that have been sent by the individual.  Keep a list of emergency numbers posted in several locations.

Pay attention to incidents that may seem coincidental. Are you suddenly running into this person more often?  If you are not sure if you are being stalked contact the police or Security Services.

What NOT to do

Do not agree to have contact with a person who you think may be stalking you. Do not try to deal with a stalker by yourself. Each stalking situation is different. Rather than intervening with the person yourself, contact the police or Security Services. Consider that sometimes when a stalker is confronted or is met with resistance, he/she may react with violence or the conduct may escalate.

What do we know about stalkers in Canada?

Criminal Harassment is usually committed by someone whom you know; often it is someone whom you have been close to. It frequently occurs during a breakup or divorce and often goes unreported because the person whom it is directed at hopes that it will die down or that he/she can deal with it alone.

Criminal harassment is not an activity that is attributed to any one specific psychiatric diagnosis. There is no single profile of a stalker that exists. It appears that the main motivation for stalking another person is the desire to control, particularly in cases where the subject is a former partner.

Individuals who stalk may possess one or more various psychological conditions, from personality disorders to mental illness. Most individuals who stalk are engaging in obsessional behaviour. They have persistent thoughts and ideas concerning the object of their attentions.