26 Nov 2023

Shaking up the foundations of the civil justice system, one victory at a time

Conjugal and sexual violence, the blind spot of civil law

Par Caroline Touzin, La Presse
[Traduction libre par Juripop]

On the occasion of the 12 jours d’action contre les violences faites aux femmes, and as stories of conjugal and sexual violence continue to dominate the headlines, Juripop, an organization that works to improve access to justice, takes stock of two years of innovative legal work with victims and survivors of violence. It also takes the opportunity to look to the future.


The #MeToo movement sparked a collective reflection on the criminal justice system and led to major reforms in this area. The civil justice system, however, which is an integral part of the judicial process for victims, remained in the blind spot of this movement.

This is why, in 2021, the Minister of Justice, Simon Jolin-Barrette, entrusted Juripop with the mandate of examining the path taken by victims and survivors in civil matters. The organization was thus tasked with documenting the obstacles to access to justice in this area of the law and developing innovative practices that would ensure respect for the rights of people who are victims.

This mandate enabled Juripop to obtain a number of landmark judgments that changed civil law, including :

  • The first civil protection order in the context of conjugal violence, prohibiting the perpetrator of violence from approaching places frequented by the victim, preventing him from communicating with the latter and enjoining him to hand over his weapons;
  • The first appointment, in civil law, of a paravent lawyer to cross-examine during a divorce, thus protecting the victim from revictimization and its consequences in the middle of the courtroom;
  • The forfeiture of attributes of parental authority that the abusive parent used to control the victimized parent, such as the right to know where the children are or to choose their extracurricular activities;
  • Protecting the confidentiality of the identity and address of many survivors, enabling them to assert their rights without fear of reprisals from those around them or threats to their safety.

In accordance with the mandate given to it by the Minister of Justice, Juripop has relayed this knowledge to the entire legal community through training courses which to date have reached over 1,500 jurists, thus helping to improve the quality of legal support for victims and survivors across Quebec.

Juripop’s Executive Director, Sophie Gagnon, affirms that these achievements are producing results on both a small and large scale. “Our work with victims not only contributes to their recovery and empowerment, but also to the development of new practices that will benefit all those who follow.”

For his part, Simon Jolin-Barrette, Quebec’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General, said: “For too long, victims have been the last to be considered in our justice system. It has become imperative to change our ways of doing things so that they are now at the heart of the process. The human approach of Juripop’s lawyers makes a real difference to victims as they begin their healing journey. By working together, we can rebuild victims’ trust.


While the organization has already made a number of significant gains, the needs remain pressing. “Victories are the exception. Defeats, such as when a victim is forbidden to testify alongside her support worker, or when the violence experienced is not recognized by the court, show just how much work remains to be done,” explains Sophie Gagnon, Juripop’s Executive Director.

Juripop cites testimonial support measures, the persistence of myths and stereotypes, and the downplaying of the psychological consequences of conjugal and sexual violence.

The children in all this?

Juripop argues that children experience significant consequences from the pitfalls of the civil justice system. The organization wants to strengthen the representation of children since they are closely involved in the vast majority of family proceedings and decisions.

“Children are too often absent from the debates that concern them. Even today, nobody is governing their representation in family and youth courts. Children are victims too. We have a duty to defend their rights properly,” shares Justine Fortin, Juripop’s Director of Victim and Survivor Services.


Consulter l’article sur le site de La Presse.

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