QUEBEC CITY -- Quebec Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette got emotional Thursday at the end of a study on Bill 92, which aims to create a specialized court for victims of spousal or sexual violence.

In the Salon rouge of the National Assembly, where the proceedings were held, Jolin-Barrette broke down at the very end of the clause-by-clause study of the controversial bill he sponsored.

The incident was surprising to some because Jolin-Barrette has earned a reputation over the years in the National Assembly as a somewhat cold and insensitive person.

Thursday, when making his closing remarks on Bill 92, the minister was so overcome with emotion that he could no longer speak and had to ask the presiding officer to suspend the proceedings for a few moments to recover.

Jolin-Barrette was the last parliamentarian to speak. He said that his first thoughts were with the victims of sexual and spousal abuse who may soon have better support at all stages of the judicial process.

Tears welled up as he recounted how Bill 92 makes sense to MNAs who have welcomed people into their constituency offices who are crying out for help, saying, "I've been sexually assaulted, can you help us?"

He paused his remarks for a few seconds before resuming and saying that "when you get that kind of testimony, it touches you."

Unable to hold back his tears any longer, he had to leave the Salon rouge for a few moments.

Afterwards, the minister insisted that the justice system must modernize the way it deals with these kinds of cases.

"It must change and it will change," he promised.

Without naming Quebec Court Chief Justice Lucie Rondeau, who has expressed serious reservations about the bill, Jolin-Barrette reaffirmed that, contrary to her claims, nothing in the future law threatens judicial independence or calls into question the court's impartiality.

"This is an extremely important bill," he said, calling on the judiciary to "change its culture."

Bill 92 is a follow-up to the report "Rebuilding the Trust," produced last year by a committee of experts that studied the issue, and which was co-chaired by former Quebec Court Chief Justice Elizabeth Corte. The main recommendation of the committee was specifically the creation of a specialized court for this type of case.

The creation of a specialized court is intended to offer complainants a safer, more welcoming environment by accompanying them through all stages of the judicial process. This solution aims to counter the fact that most victims never dare file a complaint.

The three critics of the opposition parties noted the minister's openness to the many amendments proposed to improve the bill and congratulated him for his work and his determination, despite some moments of tension between elected officials during the process.

Liberal critic Isabelle Melançon expressed her satisfaction with the work accomplished, saying she was convinced that "we will make a real difference in the lives of victims."

Bill 92 is expected to go to a final vote in the coming weeks.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Nov. 11, 2021.