A member of Prince Edward Island's Official Opposition is asking the King government to bring in legislation that would ensure victims have the right to report sexual assault — even if they have signed a non-disclosure agreement in the past.
Green Party MLA Lynne Lund says people who suffer sexual violence or harassment and later sign such agreements should still be allowed to report it to police under a "right to report" clause if they eventually decide they want to do that.
Furthermore, Lund says they should not then be liable for damages under the legal agreements they signed in which they agreed to accept compensation in return for not talking about what happened.
The MLA had brought up the "right to report" issue in the legislature twice before, she noted Thursday as she asked Premier Dennis King to commit to providing her with information about what needs to be done to make the legal change.
"I cannot help but feel that if this issue disproportionately affected men, I would have had an answer by now," she said.
Lund said three victims have come to her about this issue.
"It's a catch-22 because in a lot of situations it's that financial component that allows a women to get out of the situation," Lund told CBC.
"But once they've had the opportunity to leave that situation, once they've had that opportunity to have counselling and support ... women tell me they would then like to be able to seek justice, and when they have spoken to their lawyers they've been advised 'if you do that, you run the risk of being sued.'"
Lund wants to know whether a clause allowing victims to report their experiences to authorities is included in any non-disclosure agreements the province enters into involving sexual assault or harassment claims, but hasn't received a response.
Lund said she wants government to change the law to require such a clause in all non-disclosure agreements.
Working group looking into issue: Thompson
P.E.I. Justice Minister Bloyce Thompson later told CBC News that the province's adult sexual violence working group is now looking into this, and the government is doing "a jurisdictional scan" to see what other governments are doing on this topic.
"These are very complicated agreements and we want to make sure that victims are supported," he said.
Lund said a growing "right to report" movement exists in the U.K. and many U.S. states as a result of the #MeToo movement that picked up steam in the wake of allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein.
She's not aware of any Canadian provinces that have brought in legislation allowing the right to report to take precedence over non-disclosure agreements.
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