Quebec announces pilot projects for domestic and sexual violence specialized tribunal

The Quebec government is forging ahead with the deployment of a series of specialized sexual and domestic violence court pilot projects in spite of forceful opposition by the Chief Justice of the Court of Quebec, the tribunal that will manage and operate the new endeavour.

The Quebec government is launching five pilot projects in Quebec City, and the regions of Montérégie, Centre-du-Québec and Mauricie. The government selected districts based on a number of criteria, including “territorial and population realities”, the size of courthouses, the presence of community agencies working on sexual and domestic violence, and the presence of Aboriginal communities.

“The pilot projects will help to develop best practice and also to assess the impact of our specialised court model in different contexts,” said Quebec Minister of Justice Simon Jolin-Barrette in a press release.

Bill 92, An Act to create a court specialized in sexual violence and domestic violence and respecting training of judges in these matters, was unanimously adopted by the Quebec National Assembly in November 2022.

Bill 92, widely lauded by by family law experts and advocates against family and sexual violence, follows recommendations made by a report penned by former Court of Quebec Chief Justice Élizabeth Corte and Université Laval law professor Julie Desrosiers. The report, entitled “Rebuilding Trust,” called for a specialized tribunal that would take a different approach to deal with such cases.

Judicial institutions, such as specialized police units and specially trained teams of jurists, would work in tandem with social and community services to foster a victim-centered approach, without compromising the tenets of fundamental justice, told me Corte.

But current Chief Justice Louise Rondeau wants no part of the initiative. Instead, Justice Rondeau announced last fall the creation of a new divisional court dealing with conjugal and sexual complaints that is expected to be deployed early 2022.

“All these organizations do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Court,” said Justice Rondeau. “One must veer away from this perception that is emerging in society of a specialized tribunal that may have links with the way that police intervene, with the way that the Crown organizes the work of its prosecutors, with the way that community organizations provide psycho-social assistance. These measures have nothing to do with the courts. The Court is a different organization, independent.”

The government did not however announce when the pilot projects will be launched.

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