Women in BC Applaud Repeal of ‘Suffocating’ Publishing Ban for Sexual Assault Victims

Morrell Andrews of Vancouver says she is hopeful about the future after fighting for two years with other sexual assault survivors to have their names revealed in Canadian courts.

The 28-year-old spoke alongside David Lametti, the federal justice minister, on Wednesday to announce that the government has introduced legislation that would amend the Criminal Code to allow sexual assault victims to choose not to have their names published.

Although courts routinely prohibit the release of information that could identify victims, for the sake of the victims’ own safety, Andrews feels this system is oppressive.

After Zia Shah, the driving school instructor who assaulted Andrews when she was a teenager, received her sentence for the assault in 2021, Andrews had been preparing to present her victim impact statement to a select group of friends and family members. Andrews remained silent about her case for months out of concern that she would have to pay a $5,000 fine or spend up to two years in jail; however, the prohibition was eventually removed last May following a protracted legal struggle.

She is one of a select group of women from British Columbia that founded the organization My Voice My Choice to push for changes to Canadian law.

Being able to discuss her sexual assault in public helped Kelly Favro of Victoria overcome the shame and stigma she believed came with it.

“I didn’t realize I was healing until I began discussing what had happened in public. For six years, I was unable to pronounce his name aloud, but with each repetition, it became a tiny bit easier.

Currently, most publication bans are imposed without consulting the victims, but this new bill aims to change that. The Senate’s proposed legislation will oblige courts to inquire of prosecutors if they have consulted victims regarding publishing bans. Additionally, it will give victims the option to revoke or alter the bans either during or after the trial.

The House of Commons justice committee called on the government to guarantee that publication restrictions are not placed on victims without their consent in a report that was released in December and was supported by all committee MPs.

If you or anyone you know has been the victim of sexual and/or physical abuse and is searching for legal rights and remedies, Slater Vecchio LLP is here to help. Please contact us for a free, private, confidential meeting.

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James Richards
As a member of our class action practice group, I act for survivors harmed by institutional abuses in both class action and individual civil sexual assault claims. I believe that every harmed person deserves to be heard and advocated for.