The province says it has agreed to adopt the bill to ensure a specialized court is created by December
Quebec has agreed to adopt a bill that will create a special court to hear crimes involving sexual violence, two weeks after launching a province-wide effort to tackle sexual violence.
The Quebec Civil Code reform would establish a specialized court to hear certain acts, such as rape or forced oral sex, that violate local laws and the national legal system.
If passed, the court would replace the existing equivalent of a sex crimes court that Quebec has had since 1978. The proposed bill was tabled this week.
In an interview with the Canadian Press, Nathalie Roy, the Minister of Justice, said the proposal is an attempt to set aside the outdated nature of the existing court and make victims of sexual violence “mainstream” in justice systems.
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Roy, a former TV producer who is the first woman in the Quebec provincial cabinet, said that the bill “tries to put an end to the idea that [sexual violence] is a criminal offence, like a drug crime, an assault, a theft or for that matter a murder”.
The minister acknowledged the resistance that the proposed measure has encountered but added that a history of gender-based violence has existed in Quebec “since pre-colonial times”.
“I think it’s a sensitive issue but we’re right to move forward,” Roy said.
At least eight communities in Quebec have requested special courts to deal with incidents of sexual violence, but the special courts have so far not been set up.
The Quebec government will take public comments on the proposed amendment until June 13 and can choose to implement it at a later date.
The bill has faced criticism for the two-year delay since a provincial inquiry into violence against women and gender equality – known as RAPE-Qc – was launched in 2015.
“There’s an absence of urgency in making a decision,” Géraldine Hamel, the mother of a victim of sexual violence, told the Canadian Press.
“I hope that they keep that pressure. For them, it may be about creating a brave new world. For us, it is just the beginning.”