News Release Archive

  Wayne Mackay, executive director of the Nova Scotia Human
  Rights Commission, urges concerned Nova Scotians to voice
  their opinions regarding two recent Supreme Court of Canada
  decisions, O'Connor v. The Queen and L.L.A. v. Beharriell.
  The Supreme Court has ruled that trial judges have the power
  to decide whether counselling records of victims in cases of
  sexual assault can be used in the defense of those charged
  with sexual assault.
  This was an issue in a Nova Scotia case involving then law
  student, Kenneth Ross, of Truro and the use of counselling
  records of the complainant in his sexual assault case. Mr.
  Ross ultimately pleaded guilty to the sexual assault charge
  and Dr. Eric Hansen, the psychiatrist who released her
  records, has been disciplined for this action by the Nova
  Scotia Medical Board.
  The Supreme Court outlined the procedure judges are to
  follow in deciding if the victim's records are likely to be
  relevant. They noted that there are several reasons for
  holding that the onus upon the accused to show their
  relevance should be a low one. In effect, the Supreme Court
  gave the rights of the accused to a full defense preference
  over the rights of the alleged victim in a sexual assault
  These rulings have potentially devastating effects in the
  reporting of sexual offenses. The court ruled that the
  societal interest in encouraging the reporting of sexual
  offenses and the acquisition of treatment by victims is not
  a paramount consideration in deciding whether the
  information should be provided. This may reinforce the
  current under reporting of sexual offences in Canada.
  The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission supports the
  campaign lodged by the Nova Scotia Advisory Council of the
  Status of Women, the Avalon Centre and the Canadian Mental
  Health Association. Through this campaign postcards are
  being sent directly to Parliament requesting legislation be
  enacted to counteract these measures. In the commission's
  view, this a human rights issue as well as a privacy issue,
  because sexual assault occurs in all races and classes
  within society and the majority of victims of sexual assault
  are women and children.
  Contact: Wayne MacKay  902-424-4111
  trp                   Jan. 30, 1996 - 10:20 a.m.