Civil actions for assault: all time limits abolished

  • July 8, 2020
  • Crimes, Justice
Justice poursuites civiles

Bill 55 came into force last June 12. It abolishes all time limits for bringing cases of sexual assault, spousal violence, or childhood violence to court. 

Previously, victims of such situations had a maximum of 30 years to institute civil proceedings against the assailant. The "prescriptive period" refers to the time frame for taking legal action. The legislative changes are partly in response to the Québec Ombudsman’s recommendation to eliminate all prescriptive periods for these victims.

Never too late to speak out

Following numerous investigations, the Québec Ombudsman released several findings in 2017:

  • Taking the specific context of assault victims into consideration is important. Sometimes, it might take many years before victims truly become aware of the physical and psychological trauma they suffered;
  • This often happens in cases of childhood violence;
  • Fear of facing the assailant may be a deterrent to victims’ seeking legal action;
  • As a result, victims might take decades before acting, or may decide not to act at all. 

Hence, the need for victims to be allowed to institute civil actions no matter how much time has elapsed.  

The new Act is retroactive. Take, for example, a suit denied by a court simply because the former deadline had expired. Now victims have three years after passage of the Act to re-introduce the civil suit. 

Note that there is no such time limit for criminal cases.

If you are dissatisfied with the Ministère de la Justice's services, do not hesitate to contact the Québec Ombudsman. This includes complaints regarding the services or compensation provided by the Direction générale de l’indemnisation des victimes d’actes criminels (DGIVAC)

Always remember that our services are confidential, free and user-friendly.