Quebec government unveils sexual violence prevention strategy

After years of delays, the Quebec government has unveiled a $200-million, five-year strategy to prevent sexual violence.

Groups fighting sexual assault say they've been waiting 3 years for the government's plan

A demonstrator holds a sign that reads "No means no" during a march against rape culture in Montreal Wednesday evening. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

After years of delays, the Quebec government has unveiled a $200-million, five-year strategy to prevent sexual violence.

The strategy includes $156 million to continue funding existing measures and $44 million for new programs, including:

  • $6.4 million for a special police unit targeting sexual exploitation and pimping.
  • $1.4 million to deploy people to selected Quebec cities who would inform and help people who want to leave prostitution and help them with social reintegration.
  • $3.9 million for awareness campaigns for prevention of sexual violence aimed at the public-at-large as well as the LGBT community.
  • $500,000 to collaborate with different initiatives and campaigns such as "Sans oui, c'est non" (Without yes, it's no) and create safe spaces to prevent sexual violence at universities and colleges.
The Sans oui c'est non campaign was launched earlier this year to help fight sexual violence on Quebec university campuses. (Louis-Marie Philidor/CBC)

Status of Women Minister Lise Thériault, Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux, Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée, Public Health Minister Lucie Charlebois and Higher Education Minister Hélène David were all on hand for the announcement in Montreal.

David says she wants Quebec universities to have "most progressive attitude in North America" when it comes to preventing sexual violence.

The government had promised to unveil its strategy by last spring, but missed that deadline.

Two groups fighting sexual assault and exploitation in Quebec said recently they've been waiting in vain for a government strategy on sexual violence for three years.

The strategy is being unveiled on the heels of a number of incidents involving sexual violence in the province, including allegations MNA Gerry Sklavounos, formerly a Liberal, sexually assaulted a Quebec City woman two years ago and a string of attacks at Laval University earlier this month.

On Wednesday, protests were held in several cities across the province calling for an end to rape culture.

Helping victims of sexual violence

Among the measures announced Friday, two are designed to help victims of sexual violence who report crimes.

The government wants prosecutors to meet routinely with victims to discuss their cases and will supply more video-conference equipment so that victims don't have to face alleged attackers in court.

"Too often I hear from victims, 'It's hard, our justice system. It's difficult to speak out,'" said Vallée.

"This is hard to hear as a justice minister, because we have a good system."

There will also be a component aimed specifically at Indigenous women, though that aspect of the plan will be finalized at a later date.

'The tide has finally turned'

Freelance journalist and activist Sue Montgomery, who created the viral hashtag #BeenRapedNeverReported, said as a victim of sexual violence, she feels validated by the government's plan.

"So many men aren't aware of what our daily experience is, because we never talked about it," she said.

"I really feel like the tide has finally turned and the silence has been broken. We will be watching the government for action."

Montgomery's candid speech about her personal experience with sexual violence earned her a standing ovation from the crowd.

"We're not going to shut up. We're not going to be abused. We're not going to be treated like objects."

with files from CBC's Steve Rukavina