(Quebec) Experts appointed by all the parties represented in Parliament in Quebec table a voluminous report which proposes 190 recommendations to improve support for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. They urge the Legault government to provide better psychosocial support for victims and to establish a specialized tribunal in matters of sexual assault and domestic violence within the Court of Quebec.
The report, which was first presented to the media behind closed doors on Tuesday, was officially tabled by the Minister responsible for the Status of Women, Isabelle Charest, accompanied in a transpartisan approach by the Liberal MP Isabelle Melançon, the MP for Québec solidaire Christine Labrie and PQ member Véronique Hivon.
The co-chairs of the expert committee, Elizabeth Corte, Chief Justice of the Court of Quebec from 2009 to 2016, and Julie Desrosiers, researcher and full professor at the Faculty of Law at Laval University, worked for a year and a half to arrive at presenting their recommendations in 15 chapters.
“Currently, victims believe that the justice system does not inspire confidence and that it does not meet their needs. The committee’s mandate was to look into the questions and solutions to better support them, better meet their needs and improve the justice system so that they feel more welcome, ”explained Mr.me Corte.
The committee recommends that Quebec set up teams made up of psychosocial workers and lawyers to support victims in their process, before, during and after a denunciation.
“When the crime is denounced, this support must be maintained throughout all legal proceedings. The interveners must therefore be available at the time of the police intervention and in the police stations as well as in the court. These interveners must be present at all times at the specialized court, ”write the experts.
They also want four hours of legal advice to be offered free of charge to victims, “regardless of their income”, so that they have access to advice in all areas of the law. “They must also have the right to be represented free of charge by a lawyer when the accused wishes to file evidence relating to their sexual past or to access one of their private files in third hands”, they specify.
The report also suggests that victims who go to a police station to file a complaint about sexual and conjugal assault first have a “pre-denunciation” meeting, set up “systematically”, where workers and police officers would explain to him “what to expect” before proceeding, in a second step, to the meeting of denunciation.
A specialized tribunal
The expert committee is of the opinion that Quebec should set up a specialized tribunal in matters of sexual assault and domestic violence.
“The principles put forward in the report – support for victims, integration of services, training of interveners and legal actors, specialization of teams of police and prosecutors, access to rooms hearing and witnessing assistance measures, coordination between instances, reduction of deadlines – are all characteristic elements of a specialized tribunal. The committee is of the opinion that the establishment of a specialized tribunal in matters of sexual assault and domestic violence within the Court of Quebec would restore the confidence of victims in the criminal justice system ”, perhaps. we read in their report.
This court, if the government goes ahead, must have a “deployment at the provincial level”, specify the experts, with “adapted physical facilities, specialized and trained legal actors, a vertical prosecution service and services integrated support. ”
“The latter must be organized in such a way as to provide separate services specialized in sexual assault, specialized services in domestic violence and holistic services for First Nations and Inuit”, it is specified.
Creation of an Ombudsman and a Secretariat
The experts also recommend that Quebec City create an Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, in order to update and consolidate the remedies provided for in the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights.
“Promulgated in 2015, the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights (CVBR) remains largely unknown to victims. It nevertheless enshrines their rights to information, protection, participation and compensation in any criminal or penal process, ”the experts write.
The committee also recommends that Quebec establish a Secretariat for the coordination and integration of actions in matters of sexual and domestic violence.
“For more than 30 years, many efforts have been made in Quebec to respond to the harmful effects of sexual and domestic violence. Despite several concrete actions, these efforts do not always seem to be effectively coordinated. Several measures emanating from policies and action plans are renewed year after year and, although considered a priority, do not materialize ”, deplore the experts.
To remedy this, the Secretariat would be an “accountable body”, placed at the “highest level” of government, ie the Executive Council. It would be “entrusted not only with the coordination, integration and evaluation of all actions carried out in matters of sexual assault and domestic violence, but also those arising from the implementation of the recommendations of this report”.
More details to come.