A dog Mira soon in the court house

JUSTICE. Forming a little more every day in the Drummondville courthouse, the new court specializing in domestic violence and sexual violence will be equipped, in November, with a new four-legged service. A Mira dog is ready to accompany the victims in their legal process.

With the recently appointed coordinator of the implementation of this new court for the entire province, Sophie Bergeron who leads, at least until her successor is appointed at the Center d’aide aux victims de Criminal Acts (CAVAC) in Drummondville, seeks to redouble its efforts to ensure that women who experience sexual or domestic violence are cared for and respected. This trained criminologist has worked with victims in the region for 19 years.

“It’s a big challenge, a big mandate, because everyone has to work together: judges, police, lawyers and land resources,” he said in an interview in downtown Drummondville on Friday morning. Five courthouses will build this special court as part of a pilot project, which will eventually reach all of Quebec, under the supervision of Ms. Bergeron. “I was there, I believe in my career,” said the 46-year-old woman, who will probably travel hundreds of kilometers in the next few years.

Sophie Bergeron, General Manager of CAVAC in Drummondville. He will soon oversee the implementation of the new specialized court across Quebec. (Photo Ghyslain Bergeron)

If the task looks big, it also promises to be full of surprises. A few weeks ago, he found out that the Mira dogs were included in the pilot project, to provide more support to the victims. This is also the first time that the organization that is recognized throughout the province will breed dogs specifically for the function of social intervention.

very proud of this project. We are working hard to profile the stakeholders and then the victims to prepare the five dogs to be placed in several courts,” he said. In Drummondville, a CAVAC worker will take care of him. Companion dogs are very different from those that work with visually impaired people. Their main task: to be petted and stuck. “It’s a real potato! When they arrive at a palace, the only person who has the right to touch the animal is the victim. This way, the dog will know who the person is to guard during the day and it will let the victim to feel special and important,” explains Sophie Bergeron, who is eager to know the breed of her next teammate.

He expects that this new service will have a great beneficial effect on the female victims. “We recently met a woman, a victim of domestic violence, who had the privilege of testifying in court with a dog. He said he didn’t feel too nervous. He didn’t feel alone. It is interesting to say, because it is an animal, but it comes to give birth to the justice system, which is very cold at the base”, declared Drummondvilloise.

In court, the dog will be placed on a small platform, so that it is the same height as the victim… and can be easily touched.

According to Ms. Bergeron, the upcoming arrival of the hairball will make all the stakeholders, prosecutors, social workers, board of directors of CAVAC as well as the management of the courthouse smile.

By extension, the dog Mira will also support the staff working at CAVAC, whose premises are located on Marchand Street. Facing difficult situations on a daily basis – and increasing requests for help -, workers have the opportunity to work on their files in his company. “The dog will come with us. We were told that this had an effect on the anxiety of the workers. I can only believe it”, the director was happy.

Organizational challenge

In addition, it should be noted that until now, two liaison judicial social workers have been appointed and are already working in court, for this tribunal. “Currently, the challenge we have is the organization of the court. We already have specific days in the court calendar where we handle cases of sexual violence and domestic violence. What remains to be done essentially affects the organization of work of our workers and then the trajectory of actions, from the first meeting where we assess the risks of the victim to the start of the legal process, “said Ms. Bergeron, who emphasized the fact that Quebec is the first jurisdiction in the world to deploy such a special tribunal. In fact, this project is a key recommendation of the report rebuilding trust, Filed in December 2020 by the Committee of experts on support for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.

According to Ms. Bergeron, the court must take his course in the fall of 2022 in Drummondville.

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