Bill 55 adopted, Big win for victims of sexual violence. Historic advancement in rights for victims
Quebec Attorney General Sonia LeBel announced the unanimous adoption by the National Assembly of Bill 55. This makes civil actions in matters of sexual assault, violence suffered during childhood and domestic violence imprescriptible and it introduces legal protection for excuses. In doing so, the government is fulfilling one of its flagship promises.
This historic advance for victims responds to concerns expressed for several years by both the victims and the organizations that support them, as well as by the Québec Ombudsman and elected officials of all parties represented in the National Assembly.
The law abolishes the limitation period of 30 years and establishes that persons whose civil action has been dismissed for the sole reason of the limitation period may reintroduce legal action, and this, for a period of three years following the adoption of the law. Since victims, due to the special nature of the crimes suffered, can sometimes realize the damage caused by their aggression after many years only, they will now be able to benefit from all the time they need to start a legal process against the person responsible for their assault.
In the event of the death of the victim or the author or perpetrator of the act, a prosecution may also be brought against the estate of the person responsible for the assault within three years. However, this measure does not apply to communities, businesses or organizations that could be held responsible for the actions of one of their members or their employees who have died since the events.
The law also introduces in the Civil Code of Quebec provisions on excuses. A person may, therefore, apologize for a situation, without this constituting an admission admissible as evidence within the meaning of the Civil Code. This rule will be applicable in civil matters only.