Sexual violence: the Chief Justice of the Court of Quebec demolishes Bill 92

Sexual violence: the Chief Justice of the Court of Quebec demolishes Bill 92
Sexual violence: the Chief Justice of the Court of Quebec demolishes Bill 92

The bill calls into question fundamental principles, including the presumption of innocence and the impartiality of the court, she said in a 16-page brief submitted to the parliamentary committee which began its consultations on the legislative text. .

Since the legislative text was tabled last month, Judge Rondeau, who is also president of the Judicial Council, has not been shy about publicly expressing her criticisms, but she would have liked to be invited to the deputies to be heard. during the consultations which will continue until Wednesday.

According to the opposition, it was the Minister of Justice, Simon Jolin-Barrette, who vetoed his inclusion among the list of invited witnesses.

The Court of Quebec recognizes without difficulty that concrete actions can and must be taken, in the short term, to better support, accompany and inform complainantswrites Justice Rondeau.

However, it categorically rejects the appellation specialized tribunal advocated by the government. Avoid mislead the public about its mission or create unrealistic expectations, she says.

In his view, the name chosen could presume that the court has already concluded that the allegation of violence is well founded before hearing the evidence and rendering judgment, thereby undermining the obligation – real and apparent – of neutrality and impartiality of the Court.

The implementation of the recommendations of the “Rebuilding confidence” report must respect the fundamental principles of our legal society, including the presumption of innocence and the guarantee that each litigant can be heard by a neutral, impartial and competent judge.

A quote from:Extract from the brief of the Chief Justice of the Court of Quebec, Lucie Rondeau

In her brief, Judge Rondeau makes several references to the report “Rebâtir la confidence”, produced by a committee of experts which examined the question, and which was co-chaired by one of her predecessors at the Court of Quebec, Élizabeth Corte. However, the main recommendation of the committee was precisely the creation of a tribunal specializing in cases of domestic and sexual violence.

The purpose of creating this specialized tribunal is to offer complainants a more secure and welcoming environment, by supporting them at all stages of the legal process, in a context where most victims do not dare to file a complaint.

We cannot use the term tribunal to designate all the measures under the authority of public bodies or ministries under the governance of the executive power, the objective of which is to provide complainants with the support they need, nonetheless argues Justice Rondeau.

In September, the latter had taken the government by surprise on its own initiative, by creating a division in the Criminal and Penal Division of the court, ACCES (Accusations in a conjugal and sexual context), intended to follow up on the recommendations of the report and to better manage this type of cause.

By calling for respect for judicial independence, she says she wants to assume her responsibilities in this regard. without hindrance or unnecessary supervision which would deprive it of all the flexibility necessary to adequately meet the needs of litigants by adjusting to the characteristics of each region.

In defense of judges

The issue of compulsory training for judges provided for in Bill 92 is also one of the elements that irritates the magistrate.

Without saying it clearly, Justice Rondeau obviously did not appreciate the appeal to the culture change repeatedly launched by Minister Jolin-Barrette in reference to the legal environment and his way of approaching cases related to sexual or domestic violence.

Judges already receive continuous training and are increasing the number of professional development sessions on various topics, including sexual or domestic violence, she explains.

By insisting on the importance of training, the legislator risks undermining the reputation of judges among the population, she adds.

The public is thus led to believe that the Court is an institution which resists change and lacks openness. This is not only an unfortunate and mistaken message, but also likely to further undermine the public’s precious trust in its judicial institutions.

A quote from:Extract from the brief of the Chief Justice of the Court of Quebec, Lucie Rondeau

Earlier this year, the Chief Justice of the Court of Quebec and the Minister of Justice had already opposed the issue of bilingualism in the judicial selection process.

Advocacy for victims and collaboration

Member of the Parti Québécois Véronique Hivon (archives)

Photo: Radio-Canada / Sylvain Roy Roussel

The spokesperson for the Parti Québécois in matters of justice, Véronique Hivon, who has collaborated with colleagues from other parties on the issue of the specialized tribunal, says she sees in this path, which other countries have taken, a means of finally adapting the justice system to the very complex, very particular and intimate reality of victims of sexual and conjugal violence.

This solution is a central recommendation of the report Rebuild trust, she argued at the microphone of the show the 15-18 from ICI Première.

The Court of Quebec has reservations, but I try to see the points of convergence, she nevertheless affirmed. We must keep in mind […] survivors of sexual or spousal assault for the bill, she insists.

I just want to make this call for collaboration, to see how everyone can put a little water in their wine in the name of the best interests of the victims.

A quote from:Véronique Hivon, Member of Parliament for Joliette

We know there are irritants, and I hope that [….] detailed study of the bill will be a way to iron them out and to clarify some things, Ms. Hivon said.

I think that, for example, we are able to slightly modify the name while keeping the generally recognized name of specialized court, she illustrates.

There is no one who expects the Court to become responsible overnight for everything that is supporting victims upstream, in the filing of the complaint. [C’est la] the same goes for respect for the rules of criminal law. It has been said from the beginning: there is no one who questions the burden of proof or the presumption of innocence. These are acquired principles, she assures, echoing another criticism of Judge Rondeau.

The Member points out that the bill, in its current form, focuses on the training of judges. It is important that the police officer who receives the complaint, that the prosecutor who deals with it and who goes so far as to bring the case to court are trained, that they are specialized and that they understand the impacts of the trauma., she explains, indicating that several interveners who appeared before the commission put this track forward.

Including other actors would reassure the Court to see that we understand that everything is not relevant of her, believes Ms. Hivon.

There are few occasions in our democratic life where we really find ourselves at a meeting of the three powers, that is to say the executive power, the legislative power via the deputies who study the bill and the judicial power. , who is himself called upon to transform his ways of doing things, she notes. I think there is room to improve [le projet de loi] and bring people together.

It recalls nature transpartisane Bill.

We were able to put our differences aside. We hope that this will be the case for the various players in the judicial system. […] I think this is an example of a time when collaboration must take place, and yes, that we must pay attention in the public square to respect for one another and also for the message that we send to victims of [leur] say: ” Yes, we continue to want to work together because it is your interest that takes precedence ”, she concludes.

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