A proposed Quebec legislative reform that recognizes and regulates surrogacy in order to protect the best interests of the child, establishes new regulations on parentage, and aims to protect children born as a result of sexual assault has been commended by notaries but drawn mixed reaction from family law experts.
Bill 12, part of an ongoing effort by the provincial government to revamp family law, allows a child born as a result of rape to challenge his filiation to the assailant, compels the aggressor to pay compensation to meet the child’s needs, amends the Civil Code of Québec to specify the various ways of establishing filiation, and puts Quebec on the same footing as several other provinces by giving legal recognition to surrogacy contracts.
Errors and omissions by defence counsel, the Crown prosecutor and even the trial judge were not “determinative” after a man who sought to withdraw his guilty plea to sexual assault failed to establish that he sustained subjective prejudice, ruled the Quebec Court of Appeal.
The unusual case has spurred at least one criminal lawyer to state that the justice system failed the appellant and his family while another held that the Quebec Court of Appeal issued a fair and reasonable decision that heeded guidance by the Supreme Court of Canada in the 2018 leading decision in R. v. Wong, 2018 SCC 25,  1 S.C.R. In Wong, the SCC held that guilty pleas must be informed.
The Quebec Court of Appeal admonished a trial judge who acquitted a father accused of incest for holding biases and stereotypes over the way a sexual assault victim should behave.
The appellate court, in a brief but unusually blunt and forceful six-page ruling, ordered a new trial against a father who allegedly assaulted his daughter for a 16-year period, from the age of nine until 25. She came forward in 2010 when she was an adult and while living with her parents.
A class action launched by 20 women who allege they were sexually assaulted or harassed by the founder of Just for Laughs was certified by Quebec Superior Court.
In a 36-page ruling, Quebec Superior Justice Donald Bisson highlighted that class actions have “shown their value” in sexual assault cases because they have allowed “hundreds of victims” access to justice.
“If the plaintiff was not authorized to file the current class action, it is highly likely that many victims would be deprived of their ability to exercise their rights,” said Justice Bisson in Les Courageuses c. Rochon 2018 QCCS 2089. A class action “like this one allows all victims to understand that they are not alone, that the assaults are not their fault and that if they have the courage to come forward to denounce the sexual abuse committed against them, they will make the versions of the other victims more likely.”
Gilbert Rozon, also the subject of a criminal investigation, has denied the allegations. He unsuccessfully argued that “the fact of being charming while using his power was not in itself a fault,” that it was necessary to question “the consent of the alleged victims which happens in their heads and for which Rozon is not responsible,” and that the class representative — Patricia Tuslane, the only one to publicly come forward – did not offer material evidence to buttress her allegations.
The class action is seeking up to $400,000 in moral damages for each individual complainant, and a total of $10 million for the group in punitive damages.
The Quebec Bar and the Quebec Ombudsman want to make it easier for alleged victims of sexual assault to gain access to the legal system and are calling on the provincial government to follow in the footsteps of the overwhelming majority of Canadian provinces and eliminate the prescription period for civil actions in cases of sexual assault.