Ms McPherson: Yesterday the government announced a three-year pilot program through the Elizabeth Fry Society to provide free legal advice to survivors of sexual violence. Two years ago Bill 2, An Act to Remove Barriers for Survivors of Sexual and Domestic Violence, removed time limits to bring forward civil claims. Does the Minister of Status of Women agree that removing time limits is effective in encouraging women to come forward to report sexual assault?
The Speaker: The hon. Minister of Justice and Solicitor General.
Ms Ganley: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker and to the member for the very important question. We were very proud to move that bill forward with respect to removing the barriers. At that time the conversations I had with the survivors that I spoke to indicated not that they would necessarily bring forward claims but that they liked to have the option available to them so they didn’t feel like they were forced into a decision at a time when they were still traumatized.
Ms McPherson: Given that sexual assault has often devastating effects on survivors and given that becoming strong enough to report an assault can take years, decades in some cases, and that creating the opportunity to come forward should encourage more survivors to report historic sexual assault, what outcomes indicate the success of Bill 2 since 2017, and what are the expected outcomes of this pilot?
The Speaker: The hon. minister.
Ms Ganley: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker and to the member for the important question. You know, in general with these sorts of instances, to us what indicates success would be survivors feeling better supported moving forward. They’ve certainly indicated that these are the things that will make them feel better supported and better able to make their own decision. At the end of the day, this is about agency. This is about giving the survivors of sexual violence agency in their lives, the ability to make the decisions when they’re prepared to make the decisions and to engage in the way that they’re prepared to engage.
Ms McPherson: Thank you to the minister for the answer.
Given that we agree that no time limit is a good thing for survivors to be able to bring information forward in the legal system and that the pilot is a good idea, is there a reason that this pilot does not include women who live south of Red Deer, and what, if any, alternative supports are available to women in southern Alberta?
The Speaker: The hon. minister.
Ms Ganley: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker and again to the hon. member for the very important and informed questions. Certainly, this is a pilot project, and these supports will be available initially on a limited basis for a few years. We’ve done a number of other things. Certainly, as the member referenced, we have removed the time limits on bringing forward sexual claims. Another thing that I’m very proud of is that we’ve worked with police services to put in place guidelines for dealing with victims who do choose to come forward to the police and to seek that particular route. It’s important that they be respected at every step of that process, and I think everybody agrees on that.