Safe City & Safe Public Spaces Program

Halifax Regional Municipality's (HRM) Safe City and Safe Public Spaces program is focused on changing municipal physical and social environments to respond to and prevent sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence in HRM public spaces (such as in parks, libraries, schools, transit, on sidewalks, etc.). 

Through partnerships with municipal staff, community organizations and other partners, we aim to shift policies, programs, and practices to better support the safety of women and gender-diverse residents in public spaces.

Contact us at 

Our "Why"

Women, girls, and gender-diverse people experience and fear different forms of sexual violence in public spaces, from unwelcome sexual remarks and gestures, to assault and femicide. 

The threat of sexual and gender-based violence in public spaces greatly impacts women’s, girls’, and non-binary people’s sense of belonging in a city, shapes their behaviors and freedom of movement (e.g., having to change their routes home or not entering community spaces because of fear of violence), reduces their ability to participate in school, work, and public life,  access to essential services, their enjoyment of cultural and recreational activities, and negatively impacts their health and well-being. 

Our work addresses sexual and gender-based violence so that women, girls, and gender-diverse people, especially those most impacted by safety issues, can thrive within the municipality and feel empowered that HRM public spaces, facilities, and services are safe and inclusive with freedom from threat, fear, microaggressions, discrimination, and violence. 

Supported by a Global Network

This program benefits from guidance, support, and connection to a global network of cities prioritizing this work through the UN Women Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces Global Flagship Program Initiative. 

Please contact to learn more.

Our Approach

Community partnerships
  • We support and work alongside community partners who are doing on-the-ground work to make public spaces safer for diverse women, girls, and non-binary residents.
Capacity Building and Education
  • We provide residents with the information and resources they need to feel safer in public spaces and empower bystanders to safely recognize and respond to instances of street harassment
  • We support HRM Business Units and staff to apply an intersectional, gendered safety approach to municipal programs, initiatives, and policies
  • We deliver training and capacity-building workshops
  • We work to promote diverse women, girls' and non-binary people's rights to use public spaces free from intimidation, sexual and other forms of gender-based violence.
Community Safety Assessments 

Formerly known as Women's Safety Assessments,  the rebranded "Community Safety Assessments" (CSA), is a participatory tool that the Safe City program uses to assess safety in public spaces through the perspective of diverse women, girls, and gender-diverse people. It is used to build safer neighbourhoods, schools, campuses, workplaces, transit systems, and other public spaces. 

The assessment brings together community members and other important partners to assess the social and physical elements of a public space and to make safety recommendations grounded in people’s expertise from their daily lived experience of using, or choosing not to use, the space.

The CSA is based on the belief that the design of physical environments affects our safety. Research shows that when a diversity of women and gender-diverse people, including 2SLGBTQIA+, Black, Indigenous, and racialized women and gender-diverse people, and women and gender-diverse people with disabilities, are involved in the process of identifying safety concerns in public spaces and developing potential solutions, these spaces are made safer for everyone. 

Contact to inquire if a CSA, or another tool, would be a good fit for your community.


Major Milestones

 2019: Launch of Halifax Safe City & Safe Public Spaces Program

In August of 2019, Halifax, with Nova Scotia’s Status of Women as a supporting partner, joined a growing number of cities across the globe committed to doing more to address sexual and other forms of gender-based violence in public spaces through its acceptance into the UN Women Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces Global Flagship Program. 

2021 Scoping Study

In 2021, an HRM scoping study was completed—one of the first recommended outputs of local Safe City and Safe Public Spaces programs - to explore:

  • what the municipality knows about sexual harassment in its public spaces,
  • who is already doing work to respond to and prevent sexual harassment in public spaces,
  • what the municipality doesn’t know about the nature and extent of these issues, and, as a result,
  • what steps it needs to take to respond.

The HRM Scoping Study was guided by UN Women’s Global Guidance on Scoping Studies.

Through a review of local, provincial, and national data, interviews with several key stakeholders, and conversations with the program’s guiding committees, we have learned more about the prevalence of sexual violence in public spaces in the HRM and who is impacted by this violence. We’ve also learned about some steps we can take to respond to local priorities and what more we need to learn to better understand the role HRM can play in preventing and responding to sexual and other forms of gender-based violence in public spaces.

View the 2021 Scoping Study infographic 


2019-2023 Women's Community Safety Assessments

In 2019, the Public Safety Office hosted a train-the-trainer session during which Kathryn Travers, a global consultant on issues of gender, safety, and urban development and governance, taught a group of about 20 women how to use the Women’s Safety Assessment (WSA) tool.

We continue to facilitate safety assessments alongside community partners and residents. Learn more about safety assessments above.

Our Findings

10 WSAs were conducted from 2019-2023 in public spaces within HRM, specifically in Halifax, Dartmouth, Spryfield, and North Preston, assessing 6 parks, 4 roads or popular community areas, and 1 schoolyard.  

107 people participated in WSAs and/or provided feedback through WSA-related activities from 2019-2023.

The majority of WSAs were conducted in response to resident concerns, specifically relating to infrastructure or problematic behaviour in a public space. 30% of WSAs were conducted in response to planned changes in the area.

80% of WSAs reported a need for increased 1) lighting and 2) improving overall accessibility as the main priorities required to increase safety in the public spaces assessed.

70% of WSAs reported the need for increased overall maintenance and general upkeep (I.e. to landscaping, trimming foilage, sidewalk repair, infrastructure, litter) as a main priority to improve the safety, accessibility, and activation of the public spaces assessed.

40% of WSAs listed increased identification and wayfinding signage as a top priority (which includes accessible and consistent signage standards). Consistent accessible signage is required for the safety of visitors and residents in the area to know where they are and where they are going in case of an emergency.

40% of WSAs cited traffic calming measures and increased active transportation as a top priority so pedestrians can feel safe and be heard in case of emergencies.

In summary, through WSA participant feedback, the most recommended ways to improve public spaces were:

1) improve and equally distribute lighting throughout public spaces

2) improve overall accessibility (paths, sidewalks, playgrounds etc.) 

3) increase overall maintenance and upkeep of the space (sidewalks, litter, landscaping foilage etc.), which will increase safety, accessibility, and activation of public spaces.

Contact to inquire if a CSA would be a good fit for your community.

2022 Race and Gender-based Data Report: Safety of Asian Women & Non-Binary People

In October 2022, we completed a staff report regarding the collection of race and gender-based data and resources to support the safety of Asian women and non-binary people in public spaces in Halifax. ​​​​​​

2023: Halifax signs a Global Commitment to Accelerate Action on Gender Equality & Ending Violence Against Women

In November 2023, on behalf of HRM, Mayor Savage signed the "Global Commitment of Mayors to Accelerate Action: Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces with and for Women and Girls". This commitment reaffirms Halifax's dedication to promote gender equality and women's rights to live a life free of violence, and to accelerate these efforts. 

The commitment, launched by UN Women, highlights concrete actions that cities can take in support of gender equality and ending violence against women. It calls for increasing women’s and girls’ meaningful participation, leadership, and decision-making power in cities and communities, and for the inclusion of women’s voices throughout all processes. 

The commitment further stresses the need for accelerating the development of gender-responsive policies, strategies in areas such as climate change, urban & transportation planning, economic development, food systems, and security, to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment in cities to eliminate structural inequalities.

Learn more.

2024 Report: Combatting Islamophobia & Creating Safe Spaces for Muslim Women and Girls 

HRM partnered with consultant, Rana Zaman, to host community conversations regarding the safety of Muslim women and girls in public spaces, which will inform a report to Council. 

Nearly 100 Muslim women and girls across the municipality participated in community engagement, sharing experiences of witnessing or being targeted by Islamophobic acts, and generating ideas for action—such as training and public education efforts.

When participants were asked what safety would feel like to them, major themes included:

  • Being represented in municipal services, spaces, and programs-
  • Increasing safety and trust to alleviate the insecurity they feel in many municipal spaces such as on transit and in parks 
  • Knowing that when they share stories of their experiences of Islamophobia, they will be believed and supported.

Learn more by reading the full  "What We Heard Report"



What is sexual and gender-based violence?

Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is violence committed against a person because of their gender, gender expression, gender identity, or perceived gender.

It includes physical, sexual, verbal, cyber, societal, emotional, and psychological abuse, threats, coercion, control, and economic or educational deprivation,  occurring in public or private life. 

The threat of sexual and gender-based violence in public spaces greatly impacts diverse women, girls’, and non-binary people’s sense of belonging in a city, shapes their behaviors (e.g., having to change their routes home or not entering community spaces because of fear of violence) and often limits their ability to freely and safely access services that should be available to all people in HRM.

Sexual violence and experiences of safety in public spaces are not stand-alone issues. Historical and present-day systems of sexism, racism, colonialism, and other intersecting oppressions, such as xenophobia, ableism, homophobia, and transphobia all shape and impact how women, girls, and non-binary people access public spaces in HRM.

Community Supports

Below is a list of community supports, If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual and gender-based violence:

Halifax Regional Police Non-Emergency Line: 902-490-5020

Break the Silence Nova Scotia
TESS (Trafficking and Exploitation Services System)
Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia 
YMCA Gender-Based Violence
Avalon Sexual Assault Centre
Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission

Nova Scotia Human Rights Act