Eleven new lawyers will now be available to provide free, independent legal advice to survivors of sexual assault in Nova Scotia, as part of a pilot project by the federal and provincial governments.
The program already has eight lawyers in the province offering the service. The expansion will bring the total to 19.
The lawyers offer survivors four hours of free legal advice. People seeking the help can call 211. The information help line will handle the program administration and connect people with legal services.
In a news release, Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey said expanding the program will mean survivors have better access to important legal advice.
That advice can help a survivor figure out their legal options, such as deciding whether to report the sexual assault to police.
More diversity among lawyers
Since the program launched in November, 71 people have sought the help of a lawyer.
The provincial Department of Justice said it will also have greater diversity among the lawyers taking part in the program. It states that lawyers from the Cantonese, LGBTQ, Indigenous and African-Nova Scotian communities will be involved in the project.
Six of the new lawyers are from Halifax, two are from Sydney, and the remainder are from Port Hawkesbury, Truro and Chester.
The Department of Justice said it is working on several other initiatives to respond to the needs of sexual assault survivors. That includes hiring two prosecutors to handle sexual assault cases and conducting police audits to make sure officers have the capability to investigate sexual assault cases.
The province has also launched a domestic violence court in Halifax.