THUNDER BAY – Ontario is piloting a new program that will give survivors of sexual assault access to free legal advice, regardless of how much time has passed since the incident.
Starting today, survivors of sexual assault living in the City of Toronto, the City of Ottawa, and the District of Thunder Bay will be able to receive up to four hours of free, confidential advice from a lawyer. The legal advice may be provided over the phone or in person.
Free Legal Help for Sexual Assault Survivors
Eligible female and male survivors can access the program by filling out and submitting a voucher request form, available at ontario.ca/legaladvice. Women living in the City of Toronto also have the option to access the program directly through the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic.
Helping ensure survivors of sexual assault are informed and supported is part of It’s Never Okay – Ontario’s Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment. The plan is helping change attitudes, improve supports for survivors and make workplaces and campuses safer and more responsive to complaints about sexual violence and harassment.
“Sexual assault survivors need to know they have choices and they have power. Providing them with information on support services that are available is only one piece. Offering them free legal advice is key to helping them make decisions about what is best for them as they move forward,” stated Yasir Naqvi, Ontario Attorney General.
“We know that navigating the justice system can be difficult for survivors of sexual assault. Providing free legal advice helps them know their rights and provides critical support in their pursuit of justice,” said Tracy MacCharles, Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues.
“Ontario’s pilot program to provide independent legal advice to sexual assault survivors is an important and groundbreaking step in bolstering the justice system’s response to these crimes. As part of the government’s overall commitment to stop sexual violence and harassment, this pilot is key, and the Schlifer Clinic is honoured to be a part of it,” commented Amanda Dale Executive Director, Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic.
- The pilot is expected to run until March 2018. During that time, the province will assess the effectiveness of the program and determine its next steps.
- Services provided under the program are available to both women and men who are at least 16 years of age and the assault must have occurred in Ontario.
- Through the program, eligible survivors can choose from a roster of lawyers to provide legal advice. Although these lawyers will not provide legal representation (e.g. speak for the client in court), they may advise a client to speak to a lawyer who can represent them.
- Survivors of sexual assault in any of the pilot sites can get information about the program in multiple languages through the toll-free, 24/7 phone line: 1-855-226-3904.
- One in three women and one in six men experience some form of sexual assault in their lives.