Legal advice for sexual assault survivors

To give adult survivors of sexual assault better support, the province of Nova Scotia created the Legal Advice for Sexual Assault Survivors program.

The program respects survivors’ privacy and their right to make their own decisions. Registering is done through an independent agency, 211 Nova Scotia, and participants do not have to report to police or take legal action if they use this service.

Eligibility

  • Participants must be 16 years or older
  • The assault took place in Nova Scotia

In Nova Scotia, under Section 25 of the Children and Family Service Act (PDF 145 KB), there is a duty to report suspected sexual abuse of anyone under 16. There is also a duty to report suspected sexual abuse by a parent or guardian for people aged 16-19 and any sexual abuse where another person under the age of 16 may be at risk.

Laws and rules can be different from province to province. Nova Scotia lawyers can only give advice on laws, programs, and services that exist in Nova Scotia but may not be able to advise regarding other Provinces.

How to access legal advice

Register for the program

Call 211 to register. You do not need to provide details about what happened. You only have to say that you were sexually assaulted in Nova Scotia, and that you would like to speak with a lawyer.

Receive a package

Once you are registered, you will be sent a package with a certificate number for 2-hours of legal advice.

Make an appointment with a lawyer

Your package will also have a list of participating lawyers. Choose any lawyer on the list and contact them with your certificate number to make an appointment.

Using this service

  • If more time is needed, call 211 NS and they will send you another certificate number for an 2-hour session of legal advice.
  • If you’re not sure if you were sexually assaulted, you can still call 211 NS and register for the program. When you meet with the lawyer, they will help you define what happened to you according to the law.

Connecting with the lawyer

  • You can choose any lawyer you want from the participating lawyers list. To help you make your choice, there is a biography about each lawyers’ background and experience.
  • All of the lawyers have been screened by the program, have received training, and have agreed to follow the program’s terms.
  • Once you pick a lawyer, you can contact them and give them the number on your 2-hour certificate. This is how they will know that you are part of the program.
  • You can meet with the lawyer in person, by telephone, or through videoconferencing like Skype.
  • If you are not happy with your first lawyer’s advice, you can use your second 2-hour certificate to see a different lawyer from the list.
  • If more time with the second lawyer is needed, you can call 211 NS to ask for additional hours.

Confidentiality

  • Before you share what happened to you, the lawyer will explain any limitations of confidentiality. Once you understand these limits, you can choose to go through with the session or not.
  • The program was created by Nova Scotia’s Department of Justice, but the Department does not have access to participants’ names or contact information. When the lawyers send in their invoices, they use the certificate number only.
  • The only information that 211 NS will share with the Department of Justice is non-identifying data. This information helps to measure if the program is being used.

Translation services

  • If English or French is not your first language, translation services are available for free.
  • Because it can take more time to have an effective meeting with a translator, both the lawyer and the translator will provide an extra hour for every 2-hour certificate used.

Using the certificates and legal advice

  • The certificate is for you to talk to a pre-approved lawyer about your sexual assault and for you to get legal advice about the assault. The certificate can only be used for this purpose. It is not for legal representation.
  • Legal representation in court is different. It involves going to court, which is not part of the program.
  • During your session, the lawyer will help you figure out your legal options, like deciding if you want to report to the police. After you meet with the lawyer, you may choose not to take any legal action.
  • If you decide to take legal action in criminal court, you don’t have to have a lawyer. Criminal cases have a Crown Attorney and a Defence lawyer. The Defence lawyer represents the person who has been accused of a crime, and the Crown Attorney represents the public.
  • It is the Crown Attorney’s job to prove in court that a crime was committed. You will likely have to explain to a judge what happened to you by testifying under oath.

Funding support provided by Justice Canada Policy Centre for Victim Issues