Stalking and Criminal Harassment

What is it?

Behaviour that is commonly referred to as “stalking” is identified as “criminal harassment” (harassing behaviour that includes stalking) under Canadian law, and it is illegal. Criminal Harassment occurs when a person intentionally and repeatedly directs intrusive and intimidating behaviours towards another person causing the other person to feel harassed, threatened, and fearful. This can include being fearful for the safety of someone who you think is being harassed.

Criminal Harassment can take many forms including (but not limited to):

  • direct methods:
    • repeated phone calls/texts/e-mails/messages on social media
      • showing up unexpectedly, and uninvited, to your place of residence/work/study
      • not respecting “No”
      • not respecting boundaries you have set
      • keeping tabs on your movements and activities
      • following you
  • or indirect methods:
    • anonymous gifts
    • having others monitor and/or communicate with you.

Criminal Harassment can happen to anyone and it sometimes happens in intimate personal relationships that are ending or have recently ended. Often this type of harassment is downplayed because it can be hard to identify or because it develops slowly over time. 

Sometimes the harassing behaviour can be seen as normal, especially if it comes from someone known to you. Examples of this include an ex persistently trying to “win you back” or a friend/acquaintance who keeps pursuing you despite your refusals. 

Important questions to ask yourself if you know your harasser:

  • Am I changing my routines or behaviours to try to avoid this person?
  • Am I preoccupied with wondering if I’ll run into them?
  • Is this person not taking me seriously when I try to set boundaries with them or when I say “No”?
  • Do I find myself feeling obligated to engage with this person just to try to “calm them down” (i.e. because they have implied they may harm themselves or have shown up where I am and “caused a scene”)?

What to Do:

Set boundaries (ideally in writing). Make note of when you set the boundary and log any future contact.  Save the e-mails or take screenshots of texts that you have received and have sent.

  • In the case of someone pursuing a romantic relationship with you, make it clear that you have no interest in a romantic relationship and that you want the pursuit to stop. 
    • If you want no further contact whatsoever with this person, make that clear also. 
  • Specify that you want no direct or indirect contact (ex. mutual friends passing messages);
    • State that any further contact will be considered harassment and will be reported to authorities.  (If you state you will report further contact to authorities, it is important you follow through on this).

The Community Safety Office can help you to draft a boundary communication as a first step to addressing harassing/stalking behaviours as well as develop a plan for on-going safety in these types of situations.

Safety Tips – even if you do not know your harasser:

  • Make a log of the events that are causing you concern.
  • Keep a copy of any suspicious or concerning emails or messages.
  • Do not engage with, or respond to, suspicious messages or encounters – trust your instincts.
  • Keep your personal information private. 
    • Shred any documents with personal information before you recycle them.
  • Let others know of your concerns so that they can be vigilant about the information they are sharing about you.
  • Consider installing a home security camera.
  • Consider meeting with the Community Safety Office (416-978-1485) to make a safety plan and to discuss your options.
  • Consider making a report to the police.

Unsure if any of whether it’s criminal harassment/stalking?

If something feels not quite right, it’s worth looking into!

Give the Community Safety Office a call at 416-978-1485 to schedule an appointment to speak about your situation of concern.