Women and victims and survivors of sexual assault will now have access to free, independent legal advice.
Victims of sexual assault may now access up to four hours of free legal advice thanks to federal funding of $810,000 announced today, Nov. 10, in Bridgewater, combined with on-the-ground support from Nova Scotia through a federal-provincial pilot project.
“We have heard clearly from women and support groups that we need to provide better supports for victims and survivors of sexual violence,” said Justice Minister Mark Furey. “We know most sexual assault cases do not get reported. This pilot program will provide victims with the advice they need to make informed decisions about how they want to move forward.”
The funding will also go toward the Public Prosecution Service to create a helpful guide on the court process for victims and survivors of sexual assault and provide training specific to sexual violence for Crown attorneys.
“The better we understand and meet the needs of victims of crime, the more just and fair our criminal justice system will become,” said MP Bernadette Jordan, on behalf of federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould. “If victims do not report sexual assaults because they fear they will not be believed, or they lack confidence in the criminal justice system, then the integrity of the system is called into question.”
The selected lawyers in the three-year pilot program will be provided with extensive training and will participate in a community of practice to share their experiences, lessons learned and best practices. Victims who are eligible for this program will be provided with a list of eligible lawyers and their profiles so they can choose the lawyer they want.
“We are excited that this service is in place as there is a major need for legal advice and support for survivors of sexualized violence going through the court process,” said Jackie Stevens, executive director of the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre in Halifax. “This is an important first step in providing legal and systems based advocacy for survivors and we encourage the Nova Scotia government to continue to prioritize justice reform.”
The confidential information and referral service, 211 Nova Scotia, operating independently from government, will provide intake, information and administer the certificates from the program and help clients access these legal services.
For more information please visit: novascotia.ca/sexualassaultlegaladvice.