The Quebec government is seeking to answer a question many have been asking recently: how many cases of sexual assault allegations that were deemed unfounded are really unfounded?
Quebec launched a one-year pilot project Friday with a new plan to review sexual assault cases.
Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux and Helene David, minister for the status of women, spoke at Sureté du Quebec headquarters in Quebec City Friday to announce the plan based on the Philadelphia model.
David said there has been a flood of allegations made in Quebec in recent months, triggered by complaints made in the U.S.
"It doesn't stop but that means that it's a real change in culture," said David.
Unfounded sexual assault cases will be reviewed by advocacy groups alongside high-ranking police officers from the SQ to identify if there were any failures the first time around.
"From that exercise we will learn how to improve our practices, how we can better support the victims, how we can better accompany the victims, so this is a very important announcement," said Coiteux.
The model began in Philadelphia in 2000 after an investigative report uncovered that city police weren't properly investigating sex crimes.
Since the system has been put in place, the number of cases deemed unfounded has dropped significantly in Philadelphia, and since been implemented elsewhere.
Martine Asselin of the SQ hope those who have made complaints in the past that did not go anywhere will be willing to reach out again.
"The victims from the five years of files are invited to go through the Sureté du Quebec's internet portal to go give their information," said Asselin.
David pointed out that SQ officers will have to work with outside experts.
"I think it's a little bit new for the Sureté du Quebec, but it's very good. Women will feel much more secure about filing a complaint,' said David.
Quebec Solidaire has been vocal about its goal to fight sexual violence against women, and is calling for a review of sex assault cases going back five years.
QS MNA Manon Massé said that she is pleased with the government’s plan, but thinks it should go further.
“We have 29 police forces around Quebec, so the SQ is only one (doing this),” she cautioned. “It’s a good step, but at the same time, we have all the information and we know that this kind of action - the Philadelphia model - we know the result,” she said.
Massé also wants the project to be implemented permanently, and not just on a one-year basis.