The safety and security of Canadians are of paramount importance to our Government, and public confidence in the criminal justice system is essential. The under-reporting of sexual assault incidents is a serious problem across Canada. Victims of sexual assault are often fearful of reporting, of not being believed or supported, or of being subject to traumatizing cross-examination in court. Understanding the laws and the process of reporting and prosecuting crimes is essential to building public confidence in the criminal justice system.
Today, Sean Fraser, Member of Parliament for Central Nova, on behalf of the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, announced funding to the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre and Sexual Assault Services Association to raise awareness and understanding of the Canadian criminal justice system.
The Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre and Sexual Assault Services Association will use $162,543 in funding over two years to develop a bystander intervention program specific to Nova Scotia. The program will help educate the public about sexual violence and criminal justice processes related to sexual assault, including the law of consent in relation to sexual activity and reporting options. The funding will also be used to create five videos that will explain specific processes in the criminal justice system to a broad range of audiences. The videos will be piloted in at least four communities in northeastern Nova Scotia, including one First Nation community and one African Nova Scotian community.
“A well-functioning justice system is one that serves all Canadians, protects the vulnerable, and builds a safer and better Canada. This funding will help educate the public about sexual violence as a crime and help victims of sexual assault understand the process of reporting these crimes to the police.”
The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, P.C., Q.C., M.P. Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
“Nova Scotia has made strides in improving access to medical and supportive services for survivors of sexual violence in recent years. With this funding, the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre and Sexual Assault Services Association will help to build an understanding of the criminal justice system and experiences of victims in the process.”
Sean Fraser, Member of Parliament for Central Nova
“This project seeks to increase the awareness and understanding of the criminal justice system for victims of sexual violence through bystander intervention and violence prevention programming specific to Nova Scotia. This is the first project of its kind in this region, and we are excited to get started on such an important initiative.”
Heather Blackburn, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Program Coordinator, Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre and Sexual Assault Services Association
• The Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre and Sexual Assault Services Association reports that:
• Many women who have contacted the Centre or partner organizations have described experiences that would meet the legal definition of sexual assault but they do not recognize these experiences as crimes because they do not understand consent laws or their rights.
• Only 30 percent of the sexual assaults reported to police in Nova Scotia in 2007 resulted in charges being laid. The national average is approximately 43 percent.
• The rate of self-reported sexual assaults has been trending upward even though the rate of sexual assaults reported to police has trended downward.
• In the fall of 2016, up to $12 million over three years was made available under the Victims Fund for projects designed to improve the criminal justice system’s response to sexual assaults against adults. This funding has been made available to provinces and territories, municipal governments, bands, criminal justice professional organizations and non-governmental organizations.
• Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre and Sexual Assault Services Association: http://awrcsasa.ca/
• Victims Fund: http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/fund-fina/cj-jp/fund-fond/index.html
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• Follow Minister Wilson-Raybould on Twitter: @MinJusticeEn.
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For more information, media may contact:
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of Justice
Department of Justice Canada