QUEBEC -- A parent will now be able to seek health services for their abused child without the other parent's consent.

It's a new provision within the family law reform which came into effect on Thursday. It was introduced in Bill 2, which was passed in June last year.

As a result, if there is a situation involving domestic violence, including spousal violence, or sexual violence, a parent will be able to pursue health care or social services for their child without having to seek the consent of the offending parent, who might otherwise resort to blackmail.

"This is extremely important," said the minister responsible, Simon Jolin-Barrette, in an interview with The Canadian Press on Thursday afternoon.

In cases of family violence, the offending parent "often wants to keep control and will object to care being offered to his or her children," the justice minister explained.

"An abusive parent may use consent to prevent the child from reporting," he continued.

"In the past, for a psychologist to intervene with a child, both parents had to agree," Jolin-Barrette said.

In the case of a violent parent, the psychologist was stuck," he said. "And it was the same for non-emergency health care."

To act unilaterally, however, a parent seeking care for his or her child will have to obtain an attestation from a prosecutor with the Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales (DPCP) after declaring under oath that "there is a situation of violence," as stipulated by the law.

The law further provides that "the public officer shall act expeditiously."

Jolin-Barrette said the new protective measure was developed after consultation with women's groups and shelters.

The provision was to come into effect one year after the bill was passed on June 8, 2023, but that was moved up to Thursday so that it would be effective sooner to protect children, Jolin-Barrette said.

The minister's spokeswoman said she did not have data on the number of situations in which a parent could not get care and services for his or her child in a domestic violence situation because he or she could not get the other parent's consent.

This report was first published in French by The Canadian Press on Thursday, May 18, 2023.