The implementation in Quebec of specialized courts for sexual or conjugal violence is going well.

A new step was taken Wednesday with the launch of the pilot project in the District of Quebec, one of the courthouses that will handle the largest number of cases of spousal or sexual violence in Quebec.

"The goal of these courts, a unique formula, will be to adapt the justice system to the victims and not the other way around," said Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault at a press conference with Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette and Quebec City Mayor Bruno Marchand.

She said she wanted to "take violence against women head on."

According to various studies, barely 5 per cent of victims of sexual or spousal violence denounce their aggressor, the vast majority giving up for fear that the system will not give them justice.

To remedy this situation, the specialized courts will provide a series of facilities to reassure complainants and give them confidence in the justice system, such as screens, reserved rooms, video-conferencing, testimonial assistance services. 

"When you have been sexually assaulted, you don't want to be in the same bathroom as the person who has been accused or face-to-face," said Minister Jolin-Barrette.

The goal is to offer them a support service at every step of the process, from the moment they file a complaint with the police.

The same prosecutor will follow the file throughout the procedure, which will avoid the complainant having to repeat her story at any time.

During the judicial process, all those who are called upon to intervene with victims of sexual or conjugal violence will be invited to take a training course designed to better understand the particularities of this type of case and to take them into account.

This initiative, which will be implemented gradually over the next few years, will also require infrastructure work to redesign courthouses accordingly.

After analysis of the pilot projects, specialized courts may be implemented throughout Quebec, in each of the 36 judicial districts.

Apart from Quebec City, pilot projects will be carried out in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Granby, Drummondville, La Tuque, Laval, Sherbrooke, Lac-Mégantic, Sept-Îles and Montmagny.

The pilot projects will allow the province to find the winning formula, the one that will be chosen when the time comes to create permanent courts in the various courts of Quebec, said the justice minister. 

Jolin-Barrette was keen to point out that this process does not change anything for the accused, who retains his rights.

The creation of specialized courts was the main recommendation contained in the report "Rebuilding Trust," released in December 2020.

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 4, 2022.