The Quebec government has decided to establish a committee of “experts” to discuss the possibility of creating a special tribunal for allegations or sexual or domestic violence. Minister of Justice Sonia LeBel cited a lack of confidence in the legal system as the justification for this committee but says that reversing the burden of proof for the accused is not on the table.
LeBel’s office has not replied to The Post Millennial’s request to discover the names of the 13 people selected to sit on the committee, though actress Patricia Tulasne has announced herself as one of the members of the panel. Tulasne hardly qualifies as an expert.
Spearheading a class action lawsuit against Gilbert Rozon, founder of the Just For Laughs festival, Tulasne’s criminal complaint was declined by prosecutors last December. She denounced the criminal justice system, saying “the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt is almost impossible!”
Other committee members are variously reported to be a former judge, a law professor, a social worker, and front line victim support workers. Thus far, LeBel’s recurring use of the word “victim” does not bode well for maintaining a presumption of innocence.
The choice to take a new approach to sexual assault trials is curiously timed. New federal changes were just passed by the Senate in December 2018 that, among other things, now grant complainants standing in applications to admit any evidence of a sexual nature. Nova Scotia courts have since ruled that the complainants are entitled to free legal representation in those hearings.
Bill C-51, which included dramatic and dangerous changes to rules of evidence in sexual assault trials, has barely had time to stretch its legs and yet Quebec is taking dramatic steps to go even further over the precipice toward unfair hearings. One type of person notably missing from LeBel’s committee so far is an expert on wrongful convictions.
The question of who qualifies as an “expert” has yet to be answered though, presumably, the members of the committee will be compensated for their time with government funding. It is possible that, like Patricia Tulasne, these experts are mostly advocates for “victims” and a year will be spent debating how to get more convictions at the expense of fair trials.
Parti Québécois politician Véronique Hivon has been pushing for these special tribunals claiming the #MeToo movement has shown that “victims” are more comfortable going to the media instead of making a formal report. Neither Hivon nor LeBel have shown concern about whether or not allegations made through the media are engaged in to avoid a proper investigation.
The high standard of proof in criminal court is designed to respect the fact that the accused is facing a loss of liberty and the possibility of lengthy incarceration, but in the #MeToo era a mere accusation is enough to destroy a person’s life forever. Allegations in the media have ended the careers of many men practically overnight. Any attempt to deny the accusation is met with further condemnation. The accused often become the walking dead, forced to live in the shadows and banned from all social interactions.
Yet no politicians in Quebec have mentioned concerns about the risk of an accused committing suicide. There is no discussion about the fact that not all complainants are actually “victims” and it is unlikely there will be any contemplation about how to compensate someone who is falsely accused.
One thing I do expect is that the committee of “experts” will resolve that more “experts” should be hired to testify in court in order to bolster the credibility of complainants. Until there is more transparency this whole committee just looks like a government funded way to get more government funding for sexual assault activists and “justice” is the farthest thing from their minds.
More convictions do not equal justice and until Quebec figures that out it may well become the most dangerous province in Canada for men.