In recent weeks, several sexual assault cases have gone before the Nova Scotia courts that have raised some serious questions.
Last week, a man was given a 90-day sentence for a violent sexual assault. A sentence he’s able to serve on weekends.
A judge also recently acquitted a man of sexual assault who thought a fellow student at Acadia University had consented to sex.
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The cases have lead the provincial opposition to speak out.
“I am very offended at the recent court decisions that we’ve seen,” PC leader Jamie Baillie said Thursday.
“These are women who are brave enough to step forward and go into the justice system to go after they’re predators and I’m sure they’re questioning now why they bothered.”
Sexual assaults are severely under-reported – for every 100 incidents of sexual assault in Canada, only six are reported to police.
Any changes to the criminal code around sexual assaults and punishment must be made by the federal government, something Premier Stephem McNeil is hoping for.
“The national government, I believe, needs to look at the criminal code when it comes to this,” McNeil said.
“We as a government will continue to work to make sure that there are services there for victims and that victims feel that they can come forward.”
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Justice Minister Diana Whalen says sexual assault sentencing is an issue across the country, not just in Nova Scotia.
“There’s been cases right across the country that we’ve heard about that discourage any victim of sexual assault to come forward,” she said.
“That’s why it’s our role federally and provincially to do our upmost to reassure people and to go back and reassure people of the supports we have in place. That’s what I’ll be doing.”
Experts say while changes to the criminal code are a federal responsibility, there are things that the province can do as well.
For starters, the provincial government can adopt sexual assault policies at universities in Nova Scotia.
“Some provinces require them to have stand alone sexual assault policies, Nova Scotia does not require that at the moment,” said Wayne MacKay, a law professor at Dalhousie University.
MacKay also says while the criminal process is important, there should also be other avenues available for victims of sexual assaults.
“The criminal process doesn’t give the victim any compensation or remedies. It punishes those who they find guilty, but it doesn’t give them any compensation,” said MacKay.