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Montréal, October 2, 2019 — Quebec’s Indemnisation des victimes d’actes criminels (IVAC) discriminates against women and children who are victims of sexual offenses, and violates their constitutional right to the equal protection and the equal benefit of the law, said a mother who is denied compensation for being a victim of voyeurism.

In December 2018, “Melissa” discovered that her long-term boyfriend had been hiding cameras inside their shared home. These cameras captured intimate footage of Melissa, her son and daughter, and her son’s girlfriend. Some of the footage that dated back to several years showed the mother and the youth using the bathrooms, and her and her then-partner having sex.

Melissa’s son was still a minor for part of the time that these videos were recorded; as such her true identity cannot be disclosed due to a court-ordered publication ban.

Melissa has suffered psychologically and financially as a result of these events. Her distress caused her to use all her sick leave, vacation days, and take an additional three months leave of absence from work.

“For many weeks, it was very difficult for me to function at all. I was not sleeping, not eating, not functioning. For my children and me, it was a shocking breach of our privacy and trust,” Melissa said.

Melissa filed a complaint with the police, leading to criminal charges of voyeurism and possession and production of child pornography. She then submitted an application with IVAC for the psychological and material damages she suffered as a result of these events.

IVAC is a Québec government program that compensates victims of crime so that they may receive services or financial compensation to treat the physical or psychological injuries resulting from the crime. In addition to wage loss, Melissa incurred the cost of changing her locks, moving from her shared home with her ex-partner, and seeking psychotherapy.

However, IVAC turned down Melissa’s request for compensation, stating that she was not a victim of crime as set out by the Québec Crime Victims Compensation Act. When she contested IVAC’s decision to deny her compensation, she was again denied compensation by the Direction générale de l’IVAC, on the grounds that that voyeurism and production and possession of child pornography, the alleged offenses to which Melissa and her family were victims, do not appear in the schedule of the Act.

“My three children and I are penalized by an antiquated system, and as victims of crime, we are now victims of discrimination. This is a form of double jeopardy that the current Quebec government needs to fix immediately,” Melissa noted.

This IVAC list of crimes which are deemed to be eligible for compensation has not been updated in the last 35 years, and includes only three sexual offences outlined in the Criminal Code: sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon, and aggravated sexual assault. Many technology-based crimes are not included.

Melissa’s son, who is now receiving psychological help, will apply for IVAC and be expected to be denied.

Justice Canada recognizes that women and children in Canada are far more likely to be affected by sexual offences like voyeurism. National data has shown that this gendered pattern exists even among minors. According to a study conducted by Statistics Canada in 2012, young girls were more likely to be the victims of sexual offenses, including voyeurism. The Canadian Centre for Child Protection also determined that girls were disproportionately represented among victims of child pornography.

“We submit that voyeurism is a sexual offense which disproportionately targets women of all ages, and that by failing to recognize voyeurism and child pornography as a crime for which victims like Melissa may be compensated, IVAC practices systemic discrimination against women and children and violates their constitutional right to the equal protection and the equal benefit of the law,” said CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi.

“With its underinclusive list that effectively denied women and children compensation benefits for crimes such as voyeurism and child pornography, IVAC, and the Quebec Government have failed in their obligations under international conventions on the rights of women and children as well,” Niemi added.

CRARR is helping Melissa in her appeal before the Quebec Administrative Tribunal (TAQ). In her application, she is asking that the TAQ declare that IVAC’s failure to update and include offenses such as voyeurism constitutes, in effect, indirect gender discrimination, that her unconstitutional rights have been violated and that she be eligible for compensation.

Melissa and CRARR also call upon the federal government to work with the provinces and territories to end discrimination in their respective crime victim compensation regimes.