Photo: Annik MH de Carufel Le Devoir
The former boss of Just for laughs, Gilbert Rozon, is the subject of allegations of sexual misconduct.
The application of collective action brought by twenty women from Gilbert Rozon is a unique case in Quebec, which could inspire other alleged victims of sexual violence use the civil justice system, an option still ignored.
“Civil procedure is not a novelty, it is an option that has always existed, but which is being ignored [in the case of sexual assault],” says Suzanne Zaccour, author, a feminist and a master’s student in law at the University of Cambridge, England.
“It is important to say is that the purpose of going to the civil is not to replace criminal proceedings,” added the lawyer by training.
On Monday, The Courageous, a group of alleged victims of Gilbert Rozon, has filed a request for collective action against the former boss of Just for laughs. It asks for a sum of over $ 10 million in damages.
The purpose of going to the civil is not to replace criminal proceedings
Suzanne Zaccour, author, a feminist and a master’s student in law at the University of Cambridge
The group was created in the wake of revelations of Duty and 98.5 FM about allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of the businessman on nine women.
The peculiarity of this case is that women unite to aim at only one and the same person.
Case ” single “
“We heard about collective actions for sexual abuse in the churches or individuals pursuing only their abuser in a civil, but a group of women who have denounced someone in this way, it is unique “, tells Me Joey Zukran, a lawyer specializing in collective actions.
To be permitted, the use must meet four criteria well-established, and demonstrate that there was fault, that there has been damage by the result, that there is a causal link, and that the designated member of the appeal adequately represents the group.
“With the information that have been revealed so far, the application appears to meet these conditions “, said Me Zukran.
The difference between the avenue of criminal and civil is that the first aims at “punishing” the abuser, while the second is intended to compensate the victim for any material or moral damage. In some cases, victims may have experienced psychological distress which has for example led to a loss of employment.
This is why, in addition to the $ 10 million in punitive damages, The Courageous claim a compensation for each victim, the amount of which will be fixed individually.
Another distinction, “the burden of proof is not the same,” notes mr. Michel Rocheleau, a lawyer specializing in civil litigation.
In a civil action, the victim will not have “to prove beyond a reasonable doubt” the guilt of the aggressor. We rather speak of” proof by a preponderance “, that is to say that the victim must convince the judge that the existence of a fact is more probable than its non-existence. “The judge must be convinced 50 % + 1” says to Me Rocheleau.
In addition, in the case of a collective action, only the designated representative will testify on behalf of the group. The other alleged victims can remain anonymous if they wish.
“It’s going to prevent tens of miniprocès, and for a victim, it is a huge gain do not have to tell them in detail what she lived “, argued Me Zukran.
In the use of the Courageous, it is the actress Patricia Tulasne who acts as the representative of the action. It requires for its part a sum of $400,000.
Since this is a collective action on cases of assault and sexual harassment, and the challenge will be to determine who will be eligible. In recent years, the statute of limitations in civil sexual assault has also been revised from 3 years to 30 years.
“The challenge for the court will be to accept that the consequences may not have been exactly the same for all persons […] A judge may ask for a sworn statement of each of the victims “, writes Me Rocheleau.