Quebec sexual assault victims will soon have access to free legal aid

Quebec Justice Minister Sonia LeBel said the pilot project will help sexual assault victims get the support they need. Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

Survivors of sexual assault in Quebec will soon have greater access to legal aid as part of a new pilot project in the province.

The provincial government announced Monday it is providing $2.6 million to help the Juripop legal clinic oversee the initiative and provide services to people in all areas.

Justice Minister Sonia LeBel described it as a first step and that other measures will be implemented to help victims of sexual assault.

“It is not forcing victims into a judicial process that is not convenient for them,” she said. “Not all victims want to go to court and not all victims need it.”

READ MORE: Quebec parties meet to discuss ways to better support sexual assault victims

Juripop will support clients, explain the process of contacting police and provide the necessary information to help victims make informed decisions, she added.

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The initiative comes as members of Quebec’s three main opposition parties work with Lebel to find ways to better support sexual assault victims. The pilot project, which begins in January, will last until March 31, 2021.

Juripop has already begun recruiting lawyers in the regions and it will begin accepting clients who are survivors of sexual assault starting this spring across Quebec.

As part of the program, the legal clinic will also provide interpretative services for people who do not speak English or French.

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Véronique Hivon of the Parti Québécois said it is not only important for victims to have access to services, but that the help is tailored to them.

“By this approach, the idea is to start from the needs of the victim, the person, rather than trying to get into the boxes that the system has decided for her,” said Hivon.

While the program is designed to help adults, LeBel said the legal clinic can also steer victims who are minors in the right direction.

The financial boost from the government is part of the $50 million set aside from the province’s budget to provide services to vulnerable people.

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⁠— With files from the Canadian Press

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