Prominent Quebec women speak out about sexual assault

QUEBEC CITY — As Toronto police investigate former CBC host Jian Gomeshi, and Justin Trudeau suspends two of his MPs for “serious personal misconduct,” several high-profile women in Quebec are choosing to speak out.

Montreal Gazette journalist, Sue Montgomery, president of the Quebec Federation of Women, Alexa Conradi, president of the Conseil du statut de la femme, Julie Miville-Deschênes and La Presse journalist Michèle Ouimet all shared stories of rape and sexual assault in recent weeks, and that’s positive, said Quebec’s Justice Minister, Stéphanie Vallée.

READ MOREWhy don’t victims or bystanders report sexual assault?

“No matter who you are, you can still be a victim, and no matter who is the aggressor, it’s not acceptable,”Vallée said.

“Nobody is above the law and we have to denounce.” 

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The Quebec Liberals raised the issue of sexual assault during their caucus meeting on Thursday.

“We reminded our caucus that our party whip is a place to go for help for those who have to make denunciations,” said Government House Leader Jean-Marc Fournier.

READ MORELiberal MPs kicked out of caucus amid harassment allegations

There have been no incidents reported at the National Assembly, and that, according to Parti Québécois MNA Agnès Maltais, is because women from all political stripes stick together .

“Women at the National Assembly are really tight.”

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Maltais has long fought for women’s rights. She said Thursday that she’s proud the Parti Québécois amended Quebec’s Labour Code to include psychological harassment.

But what’s happening this fall, politicians said, is a stark reminder the fight is far from over.

READ MOREThousands take to social media to share their stories #BeenRapedNeverReported

“Of course this is unacceptable, and people who denounce should feel free to denounce and should feel protected as well,” said Premier Philippe Couillard.

“These are the two principles that we will follow. Ms. Vallée and Ms. Thériault are looking at those issues and we are seeing what we have, and we have resources already that exist for that, but people have to know that resources exist.”

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Politicians have help inside their parties, but other women often don’t know who to turn to.

“There are organizations, centres d’aide aux victimes d’actes criminels, that are in place everywhere in Quebec,” Vallée explained.

MNAs in the province hope more women will find the courage within themselves to break the silence.

“With all the publicity around those two events that happened in Ontario,” said Coalition Avenir Quebec MNA Gérard Deltell, “it’s a lot of publicity, and that’s good.”