A window opens on the laptop screen and Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette appears in front of Océane*. He has good news. “I was particularly touched by your story last summer, and I think all of Quebec was touched by your story,” the minister begins.
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“I wanted to say to you personally: thanks to you, thanks to the fact that you denounced, we will change the laws, we will change the way of doing things. It can’t happen anymore. »
Océane sits at an aunt’s kitchen table in front of the computer and smiles. The young woman will thus contribute to changing the legal situation in Quebec. Correction of an error contained in the Civil Code. It’s not nothing.
Minister Jolin-Barrette requested this meeting via videoconference with Océane on Friday to tell him this first: He intends to make legislative changes very soon to prevent a sexual aggressor from claiming paternity of a child conceived during a rape.
In other words, the minister wanted to tell Océane that, thanks to her courage, no other woman in Quebec has to suffer the same nightmare that she suffered.
I told you the story of Océane in a column that made a lot of noise last August1. She was only 17 when she was raped by her roommate in 2019. She became pregnant from the attack and decided to keep the child.
The rapist, he made his way to prison not without having assaulted three other women in Mauricie. He took it for more than five years. His name was placed on the sex offender registry for life. From the depths of his cell, he is now fighting to be recognized as the father of Océane’s son.
A particularly shocking detail of this case: the attacker had the nerve to go to court to DNA test the child.
Nothing in the law prevented him from making that request. In April 2022, a Superior Court judge even agreed with her, ordering Océane to go to a clinic to have her child’s genetic fingerprint taken. Result: The rapist was in fact the biological father.
This man wanted – and still wants – to interfere in the life of the now 3-year-old boy. In particular, he would like his last name to be entered on the child’s birth certificate.
“What you experienced with the parentage application didn’t make any sense,” Simon Jolin-Barrette admits to Océane. I wanted to tell you that over the past few months we have been working on various scenarios to change the law to ensure that a situation like this does not happen again. »
The Superior Court judge made no mistake in ordering this DNA test. She stuck to what the Civil Code prescribed. She just didn’t have to consider the circumstances of the conception.
This situation means that there is nothing in Quebec that prohibits a rapist from pursuing paternity in court, even if he has been convicted of the rape in which the child was conceived. It’s absurd, but it’s the law.
It was only when Océane’s story came to light in La Presse that we were amazed to discover that there is a blind spot in family law. Even the Minister of Justice was stunned.
“The law, as written, was not intended for a situation like the one you experienced,” he explains to Océane. So I think it’s important that elected officials make the necessary corrections to the law. That’s what we’re here for. Pass laws to protect victims. »
“I’m glad to talk to you. Very happy. But it’s still a stress I’m living. And that I don’t want to live anymore. Every time I talk about it…I have it in my heart. We can.” never take us,” says Océane to Simon Jolin-Barrette.
She also tells him that she lives in fear. She dreads the moment her attacker will be released from prison. Sometimes she thinks of running away with her son and leaving everything behind. But she can’t. Because of that man who raped her.
Let’s say I want to change country, this would require the consent of both parents. Because of this person I can’t even travel with my boy.
Oceane addressing Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette
Océane is happy to advance the cause… but she also wants her cause to advance. Time is of the essence for them.
The law changes may come too late for the young woman, who is still embroiled in a court case. On January 30, his lawyers filed a motion with the court to forfeit the father of his child’s custody.
“What I would have liked in all of this was to have said, ‘He was found guilty [d’agression sexuelle], so he cannot have access to either me or my boy. I shouldn’t even have to ask for the loss of parental authority. It should be automatic. »
That is precisely the purpose of the bill.
Mr Jolin-Barrette promises her it will be presented in the near future and says he hopes it will be adopted in time for her to benefit.
Of course it won’t be tomorrow morning. However, I am confident that there will be a change in the next few months that will affect your situation.
Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette speaking to Océane
We can still imagine that this bill will spark some debates among parliamentarians. Where will they draw the line? Will they only deny parental rights to offenders convicted of their crime? Will they go further? How far exactly?
“It’s not easy,” the minister admits. We are actively working to find a way. »
He also emphasizes how important it is “that the child is not penalized financially. […] There are several things to consider. But my goal really is that rape victims and their children are protected both psychologically and financially. »
* La Presse changed Océane’s first name to protect the identity of the victim and the child.