Group holds vigil outside courthouse in support of sexual assault victims, following Rozon acquittal
The group called for better support of sexual assault victims in the Quebec justice system
A group of women who organized a vigil outside the Montreal courthouse Wednesday night following the acquittal of Just For Laughs founder Gilbert Rozon say they want widespread change in how sexual assault victims are treated in Quebec's justice system.
Rozon, 66, was acquitted of charges of rape and indecent assault in Montreal court Tuesday. He was charged in December 2018 in relation to acts allegedly committed in 1980 in Saint-Sauveur, Que., when he was 25 years old.
Hours before handing down her decision, Quebec Court Judge Mélanie Hébert lifted the publication ban on the woman's identity, at her request. Her name is Annick Charette, 60.
Since the decision, Charette has received a wave of support from Quebecers indignant at Rozon's acquittal.
Alix Dufresne helped organize the gathering Wednesday evening, which about 100 people attended despite the blistering cold.
She said it was important to use the momentum from the reaction to Tuesday's decision to demand changes in the justice system so sexual assault victims are better supported.
"The judge did what she had to do within the current legal framework, but it's up to society to change those laws," Dufresne said.
She noted how moments after Rozon was acquitted, an expert committee made public 190 recommendations aimed at ensuring victims of sexual assault and domestic violence feel supported from the moment they come forward.
The committee wants services available to victims to be integrated, so they don't have to relive the trauma by repeatedly recounting the assault.
It is also recommending the creation of a tribunal specializing in sexual assault and domestic violence to help victims navigate the justice system, and for victims to receive four hours of free legal advice from experts specialized in sexual assault or domestic violence.
WATCH | A dark day for victims, says Annick Charette
Anais Barbeau-Lavalette, a mother of three, also helped organize the vigil.
"It feels like society is ahead of the system right now in terms of women's rights," Barbeau-Lavalette said. "It feels like we're behind and it makes me sad and it makes me scared."
Annick Charette joined the vigil. So did a group of women called Les Courageuses, who also levelled accusations against Rozon in 2018, but those accusations did not result in charges.