Judicial Treatment of Sexual Assault

  • January 18, 2018

As the Quebec government prepares to hold a forum on sexual violence, the Barreau du QuĂ©bec is issuing recommendations to improve the judicial treatment of sexual assault cases. “These recommendations are avenues for action and reflection that may improve the justice system. The Barreau believes that we must take immediate action to ensure fairer treatment for victims of sexual violence. As a society, we have to act,” said the President of the Barreau, Paul-Matthieu Grondin.

These recommendations are the result of a reflection process that began in early 2017. The Barreau du Québec set up a think tank to analyze the judicial treatment of sexual assault cases and identify best practices. This think tank, which was comprised of lawyers who serve on various advisory committees of the Barreau du Québec, collected comments from police, judicial and community representatives.

The working group’s recommendations include:

  • Implement the “Philadelphia model” in all police forces in Quebec and increase funding for organizations that review cases and support victims of sexual assault.
  • Ensure that sexual assault cases are handled by police officers from specialized units and provide all police forces with a mandatory one-hour training session on the topic.
  • Give victims access to free or low-cost legal consultations and offer collaboration with recognized legal education organizations to increase awareness of the legislation applicable in sexual assault cases and the legal issues involved, particularly among young people.
  • Create a multisector sexual assault case management agreement so that all stakeholders work in the same direction and to ensure women and men who are victims of sexual assault are better protected.
  • Suggest a legislative amendment to the Crime Victims Compensation Act to ensure that sexual assault-related compensation claims are granted regardless of the victim’s behaviour.
  • Partner with the Association quĂ©bĂ©coise des avocats et des avocates de la dĂ©fense to offer training on best practices for the cross-examination of vulnerable persons.
  • To ensure the full effectiveness of the remedies for victims, amend the Civil Code of QuĂ©bec to provide for the imprescriptibility of action for sexual assault.

The Barreau du Québec takes action against sexual harassment

As a law society, the Barreau du QuĂ©bec has taken steps to ensure that victims of sexual abuse or violence within the profession report these occurrences. Four syndics have completed specific training on sexual assault issues to receive and investigate complaints. The Barreau revised its workplace anti-harassment policy and will encourage firms of all sizes to adopt such a policy. It should also be noted that the Barreau will soon be launching an extensive consultation with its members to gather more information on potential situations involving sexual abuse or violence. Lastly, the École du Barreau played an active role in promulgating Bill 151: An Act to prevent and fight sexual violence in higher education institutions.

Read the Barreau du QuĂ©bec’s recommendations (in French only)

The Barreau du Québec

The Barreau du QuĂ©bec is the Professional Order representing over 26,500 lawyers. Its positions are adopted by its elected governing authorities following analyses and recommendations by its advisory committees. To ensure the protection of the public, the Barreau du QuĂ©bec oversees professional legal practice, promotes the rule of law, enhances the image of the profession, and supports members in their practice.