Women who are victims of domestic violence have rights that often go unknown. In most cases, personnel from women's shelters can answer questions about these rights. Otherwise, they can refer you to resources that will better meet your needs.

Knowing your rights is essential in regaining full control of your life

For example, to know that the victim has the right to be informed of her aggressor’s release from custody, the right to terminate a lease if she is facing domestic violence or sexual assault, or the right to be assisted during legal proceedings. Knowing these rights is one ways of fighting the feeling of helplessness.

Some examples of rights

1- The possibility to meet the prosecutor of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions

The 2004-2008 governmental action plan regarding domestic violence, allows a meeting between the prosecutor and the victims of domestic violence before the trial. Even if the attorney of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (previously named Crown Prosecutor) is not the victim's attorney, it is important for the victim to speak with them in order to understand how the trial will take place, what is her role, etc. you should not hesitate to ask for a meeting with the prosecutor.

Victims of domestic violence can be assisted and supported during legal proceedings by a women's shelter case-worker or by a case-worker of the Crime Victim Assistance center (CAVAC). The day of the appearance or trial, the victim can wait in a room, reserved for her, until the beginning of the procedures.

2- The right to be supported

In family law and in youth's protection, hearings are closed to the public, in order to preserve the identity of minor children. However, if the victim of domestic violence wishes to be assisted by a case-worker, she can ask her lawyer, who will request permission from the judge.  Furthermore, the  Youth Protection Act  stipulates that: « the child and the parent are entitled to be accompanied by a person of their choice if they wish to obtain information, or when meeting the director of protection services or any person the director authorizes» (Article 8).

3- The right to be informed of the release of the aggressor

For a few years now, Quebec's Ministry of Justice entrusted CAVAC with the responsibility of informing victims when their aggressor is released. In order to get this information, the victims have to provide their contact details to the authorities if they leave their home.

4-The right to be informed of the temporary or conditional release of the aggressor

The Act respecting the Québec Correctional System states that the correctional services, or the Commission québécoise des libérations conditionnelles(CQLC), have to undertake all necessary means to inform the domestic violence victim of the scheduled date of their offender’s temporary absence, conditional, or total release. The conditions of release and the destination of the offender are also to be communicated with the victim. (Article 175)

A victim may write a letter to the director of the correctional facility or to the president of the parole board, concerning the temporary absence or a conditional release granted to her offender, in which she can express her concerns, and expose the harassment or threats she might have faced during the offender’s imprisonment, etc.

5- Crime victim compensation (IVAC)

Apart from threats and harassement, that still aren’t not covered by IVAC, victims of domestic violence can be compensated for any loss of income related to a temporary or permanent disability. They can also receive support to pay costs of medical assistance (including psychological therapeutic support) that might be necessary after an agression. Rehabilitation can also be provided. However, delays are often long and your patience is essential.

For more information: http://www.ivac.qc.ca/ 

6- Termination of your lease for domestic violence or sexual abuse

Some victims of domestic violence might need to move in order to get away from their dangerous partner. Since 2006, article 1974.1 of the Civil Code of Quebec allows the termination of your lease within  three months notice. Since this measure was adopted, some empathetic landlords often offer victims the possiblity of terminating their lease even quicker.

For more information: www.justice.gouv.qc.ca/Français/publications/generale/bail.htm 

7- Confidential adress in court

Normally, you must identify yourself and give your adress when testifying in court. Women who are victims of domestic violence and who ran away from their partner can inform the prosecutor of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions if they don’t want to reveal their adress for security reasons. The request is usually accepted without any problem.

8- The right to privacy

No personal information concerning victims of domestic violence can be revealed by a comunity organisation to any other organisation without permission of the person concerned.When an authorisation of this kind is requested, the type of information asked and the period of validity of  the authorisation has to be specified. In case of any doubt, it is preferable to ask for an extension and to visit a human rights association organization.

There is one exception: if there is a reasonable motive to believe that the safety of the victim is compromised (imminent danger of death or of serious physical or psychological harm), professionals can give partial information in order to inform someone capable of helping the victim ensuring her safety.

9- Supervised access rights

Victims of domestic violence who fear that their partner might use his access rights to the children to threathen their safety, or that of their children, can ask for the visit or the custody exchange to be held in a Supervised access rights Center. However, these centers are not accessible in every region, and there are very few of them. Lawyers should be aware of available services.

10- Legal aid

Victims do not need to be represented by a lawyer to make a complaint. However, it is preferable, in the case of a separation, a divorce, or regarding the custody of children, to consult a lawyer who is familiar  with domestic violence cases.

Even though the eligibility threshold excludes great part of the population, some women victims of domestic violence can benefit from the services of a private lawyer who accepts legal aid mandates, or through a permanent legal aid jurist.

For more information: www.avocat.qc.ca/public/iiaidejur.htm