Sexual assault survivors access free legal advice through Ontario pilot project
Pilot program now running in Toronto, Ottawa and Thunder Bay
A new pilot program in Ontario gives survivors of sexual assault living in Thunder Bay, Toronto, and Ottawa up to four hours of free, confidential advice from a lawyer, regardless of how much time has passed since the incident.
"At the end of the day, at the most human level, because that's something we always have to be mindful of, we want to make sure that the survivors never feel alone or that there's nobody there to listen to them or that no one is there to give them advice," said Yasi Naqvi, Ontario's attorney general.
Female, male and transgendered survivors can access the service online by filing out a form at ontario.ca/legaladvice or through a 24/7 toll-free phone line at 1-855-226-3904.
People receive a voucher and then select one of the lawyers listed.
All the lawyers are experts in issues around criminal law, sexual violence and sexual assault.
"The interaction between the survivor and the lawyer is confidential and privileged like any relationship would be between a lawyer and their client so we as a government will not have access to that conversation," said Naqvi.
The purpose of the project is help survivors learn what they can do, or what can be done to address the violence they've suffered.
"This is a way to empower survivors and eventually our hope is that through more knowledge, through more information they will be able to make appropriate choices like laying charges or filing a complaint with the police or getting help or services that will help us collectively stop sexual violence and harassment in our society," said Naqvi.
The service is available to those living in the City of Toronto, the City of Ottawa and the District of Thunder Bay, including communities along the north shore of Lake Superior and the area around Geraldton, Longlac, Manitouwadge and Hornepayne.
The pilot project is expected to run until March 2018. During that time, the province will evaluate its effectiveness to determine whether to continue, expand or end the program.