Of the alleged victims of pedophile priests have regained the hope of finally obtaining justice, on Thursday, thanks to the elimination next of the period of limitation to bring a civil action concerning sexual assault.
“This is historic,” says the lawyer specializing in the defense of victims of crime, Me Marc Bellemare.
The minister of Justice Sonia Lebel filed Thursday a bill that aims to make “imprescriptible” a civil action concerning sexual assault, violence experienced during childhood or domestic violence.
“Can all now have the opportunity to assert their rights”, summarized Ms. Lebel, in a press conference.
In the event of the death of the abuser, the victim will have three years to bring an action against his estate. This measure does not, however, apply to religious communities, which may be continued well after the death the assailant.
Until 2013, a victim was three years after the crime to bring a lawsuit. Under the government Marois, this period was extended to 30 years… but the measure was not retroactive.
- LISTEN to the interview with Sonia LeBel, mp caquiste Champlain and minister of Justice at QUB Radio:
66 years of nightmare
Gaétan Bégin, 79 years of age, struggled to contain his emotions Thursday before the national Assembly. “I will be able to tell my grandchildren that there is a justice system in Quebec that works,” he says. Saying he was physically assaulted by a priest in the Beauce region at the age of 13 years, he claims to live a “nightmare” for more than 66 years due to the statute of limitations, which prevented him from obtaining redress.
Upon the adoption of the draft law, which could meet by the 12th June next, Mr. Bégin intends to file a lawsuit against the religious authorities who have protected alleged abuser, now deceased.
The announcement has also been welcomed as a balm by the representatives of class actions brought against the congregation of Holy Cross, some of whose cases are still pending. “We currently have a quarantine of victims for an average award of$ 100,000,” explains Alain Arsenault. In the folder of the Oblates, 190 people are hoping for a settlement. And this is without counting all those which occur once the class action is settled.
In spite of everything, mr. Bellemare does not expect a flood of new lawsuits. “You need to understand that there is a customer aging”, says the lawyer. If he salutes the courage of Mr. Bégin, other octogenarians may have neither the strength nor the health to run in such a court process, points out the lawyer.
The diocese of Quebec, the auxiliary bishop Marc Pelchat has welcomed the announcement of Quebec. “Pope Francis has said, in 2018, that there is no statute of limitations on the injuries,” recalls Bishop Pelchat. It is “normal”, stressed the prelate, to seek to determine if the religious authorities “have sought to protect the perpetrator”.