Question Period: Sexual Assault – 16 February 2017

Here is the video and transcript of oral questions, recorded in the language in which it was spoken.

Mr. Coon: Since the Globe and Mail reported on the high rates of sexual assault cases classified as unfounded by police forces across this country, with the highest rates right here in New Brunswick, the Ontario Minister of Community Safety has been on the front page of the Globe and Mail calling on her province’s police forces to incorporate outside oversight of sexual assault case files. She is promoting the Philadelphia Model, a civilian oversight program that invites frontline advocacy groups to review sexual assault files alongside senior officers.

This has worked in Philadelphia, with unfounded rates plummeting from 18% to 4%. Will the Minister of Public Safety join Minister Lalonde and call for the implementation of the Philadelphia Model in New Brunswick?

L’hon. M. Gallant: Encore une fois, j’apprécie beaucoup les questions du chef du troisième parti. En tant que ministre responsable de l’Égalité des femmes, je veux réitérer ce que j’ai dit il y a quelques jours : Comme gouvernement, nous sommes très préoccupés par cette situation sérieuse et nous allons nous assurer qu’il y aura une analyse de la situation. De plus, nous voulons nous assurer que des mesures seront mises en place pour rectifier la situation. Comme je l’ai constaté il y a quelques jours, nous allons travailler avec nos collègues, que ce soit au niveau fédéral ou avec ceux des provinces de l’Atlantique, pour voir exactement comment nous devrions nous y prendre collectivement pour aborder cette situation très sérieuse. Je peux vous dire que, lorsque nous pourrons fournir une mise à jour, nous le ferons ici, sur le parquet de la Chambre.

Mr. Coon: What we need is action in New Brunswick. What we need is action to protect the safety of women in New Brunswick. The provincial rate of sexual assault cases deemed unfounded here in our province was 32% on average, but, for Saint John, it was 50%. In an interview with Terry Seguin yesterday morning, Chief Paul Fiander, the President of the Association of Chiefs of Police, indicated that, in fact, each year, the Department of Public Safety does audits of our police departments. That is what I want to ask the minister about.

Can the Minister of Public Safety tell the House whether or not he was made aware of the results of his department’s audits regarding the rate of unfounded sexual assault case reports? If not, why was he not?

Hon. Mr. Gallant: Again, I appreciate the questions. I think we have to make sure that we recognize that we are all in this together. We do not want to start pointing fingers here, and I certainly hope that is not what the leader of the third party is trying to do during question period.

What is very clear is that this is a very serious situation that we have to address. I said it just days ago. We have spoken to our colleagues in Atlantic Canada. We want to cooperate with them, and we want to cooperate with the federal government as well. We want to make sure that we cooperate with the appropriate authorities. I spoke to the Women’s Council about this just days ago and days after the report came out. What I can tell the member opposite is that we are on this and we are certainly going to take action. We want to make sure that it is a coordinated effort with all of those who need to play a role. With that said, the member talked about taking action. We are very proud that, today, we will be taking action, as we will be introducing legislation to protect against gender-based violence and intimate and domestic violence. We think that is something that is definitely action-packed to help women.

Mr. Speaker: Time, Premier.

M. Coon: Les services de police de North Bay, en Ontario, ont indiqué qu’ils vont inclure des experts externes dans leurs évaluations des cas d’agressions sexuelles. Le Conseil des femmes du Nouveau-Brunswick a demandé à ce gouvernement d’inclure des organismes communautaires qui ont de l’expérience directe dans la prestation de services en matière de violences sexuelles dans n’importe quelle évaluation de cas d’agressions sexuelles au Nouveau-Brunswick. Je demande au ministre responsable de ce dossier s’il va demander aux services de police de la province d’inclure ces experts externes dans leur processus d’évaluation?

L’hon. M. Gallant: Encore une fois, je remercie le chef du troisième parti de poser ces questions. Comme je l’ai indiqué, il y a déjà quelques jours, nous allons nous assurer d’aborder la situation. Toutefois, encore une fois, nous voulons travailler avec tous nos partenaires. I know that there are some representatives from our police forces here in the gallery. They are here because they care about this issue deeply. They are here because we are going to be introducing legislation to help try to put an end to intimate violence and to protect those who are in those very terrible situations. We are all in this together. I can tell you that, within a very short time, we will have an update for the Legislature.

However, again, we are in talks with our counterparts, colleagues, different authorities, and people we want to have play a role in ensuring that we address this very situation in a timely fashion. Again, I thank the member opposite for his questions, and I guarantee that we will be back with an update on this very serious situation soon. Thank you.