Legault government tables bill to create specialized court for sexual assault victims

A man sits on a bench outside Montreal's courthouse on June 14, 2016 (CTV Montreal/Pedro Querido)

Quebec Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette tabled a bill Wednesday that he said will make it less traumatic for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence to naviaget the justice system.

Bill 92 aims to create specialized courts to create a more welcoming environment at all stages of the process for complainants, who are too often reluctant to take legal action because they believe their abuser will get away with it or that the process will be even more traumatic than the crime.

Minister Jolin-Barrette had committed to create a specialized court in order to restore victims' confidence in the justice system.

In introducing his bill, the minister said he wanted to move quickly to adopt it.

The report of a task force created by the minister recently recommended a phased approach to implementing his reform, starting with pilot projects to test the changes before creating a permanent specialized court.

The task force emphasized the importance of preparing the complainant for what she will face in court.

In the courthouse, for example, separate waiting rooms for complainants and defendants could be set up to avoid contact between them. The group also felt it was important to ensure "continuous training" for all stakeholders, including prosecutors and judges, and to aim for the same quality of service in all judicial districts.

Last December, a group of experts produced a voluminous report to counter the reluctance of victims of sexual assault and domestic violence to file a complaint.

Entitled "Building Trust," the report's main recommendation was the creation of a specialized court.

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Sept. 15, 2021.