Two out of three people say they have experienced street harassment in Montréal*.

For both targets and witnesses, street harassment has an impact on quality of life in public spaces. The first step to fighting it is knowing how to recognize it.

What is it?

Offensive behavior from strangers including some things that you might see on a daily basis and that are often downplayed (such as whistling at someone in the street) and some things that are criminal acts (such as hitting someone). 

This kind of violence may be directed at people based on factors like gender, nationality, skin colour, disability, age, sexual orientation, language or whether they are wearing religious attire.

What does it look like?

Unsolicited comments, body language or gestures that are intrusive, demanding or disrespectful and that harm, humiliate or socially exclude someone.

Where can it happen?

In any public space.

Don’t let the name fool you—it can be confusing, but street harassment does not just happen in the street. It can happen in any public space, such as a park, bus stop, métro, bar, mall or museum.

Who is targeted?

According to a recent research report*, the people most likely to be targeted by street harassment are:

  • Women
  • The youth
  • Racialized and Indigenous people
  • Sexually diverse (gay, bi, pan, etc.) and gender-diverse (trans, non-binary, genderfluid, etc.) people
  • People with disabilities and functional limitations

When can it happen?

Any time of day.

That’s right—street harassment does not just happen in the evening or at night.

Examples of street harassment:

  • Staring or disapproving looks
  • Whistling 
  • Crude remarks or offensive sexual jokes
  • Inappropriate comments, mocking or insults 
  • Degrading, intrusive or unwanted comments
  • Taking someone’s photo without their permission
  • Following someone insistently
  • Sexual advances

Street harassment also includes criminal acts that the target can report to the police, such as:

  • Uttering threats
  • Exposing private body parts in public
  • Shoving, grabbing or spitting on someone
  • Unwanted touching 
  • Sending unsolicited photos (AirDrop, etc.)

You know what to look for. Now, here’s what to do.

*“Rapport de recherche sur le harcèlement de rue à Montréal.” UQAM/CÉAF. Courcy, Isabelle, Lavoie Mongrain, Catherine, Blais, Mélissa (2022). Back to the source #1