Independent legal advice for adult survivors of sexual assault

The Independent Legal Advice (ILA) program provides free, independent legal advice to adult survivors of sexual assault. The program respects survivors’ privacy and their right to make their own decisions. 211 Nova Scotia provides program registration and participants will not be identified to government.

Eligibility

The ILA program has two eligibility requirements:

  • participants must be 16 years old or older at the time they access the program
  • the assault must have occurred 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

Call, text or email 211 Nova Scotia to register for the ILA program. You do not need to provide details about what happened. You only need 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 receive an information package with a certificate number for 2 hours of free legal advice. You may opt to receive the package by email or mail, and may designate a safe email or mailing address.

Make an appointment

Your package will also include a list of participating lawyers and details about their experience. You can select any lawyer from the list and give them the number on your 2-hour certificate. You can meet with the lawyer in person, by telephone, or videoconference.

What to expect

All participating lawyers have been screened by the program, have received training and have agreed to follow the program’s terms.

If more time is needed with the lawyer, you may request an additional 2-hour certificate through 211 Nova Scotia. 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 may contact 211 Nova Scotia to ask for additional hours.

Assistive or translation services

If English or French is not your first language, translation services are available for free. If you require an assistive service due to a disability, it will be provided for free. Because meetings can take more time when using a translator or assistive service, both the lawyer and the translator or assistant will provide an extra hour of services for every 2-hour certificate used.

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 lawyers submit their invoices, they use the certificate number only.

211 Nova Scotia staff are trained to support individuals who have experienced sexualized violence and will maintain your confidentiality; your information will never be released without your permission. 211 Nova Scotia only shares non-identifying data with the Department of Justice. Clients reserve the right to refuse to self identity for any demographic category. This information helps to measure program use and to address program gaps.

Program scope

The certificate number can only be used to access 2 hours of free legal advice about your sexual assault from a pre-approved lawyer. It can’t be used to access legal representation in 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

Legal action

If you decide to take legal action in criminal court, you don’t need 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. A Crown attorney works 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.


Working with us

Request a presentation

The ILA program provides presentations to organizations across Nova Scotia. If you would like a presentation about the ILA program, please contact Victim Services.
Some examples of organizations who have received presentations on the ILA program include:

  • colleges and universities across Nova Scotia
  • transition houses
  • 2SLGBTQIA+ organizations
  • African and Black Nova Scotian community groups
  • victim support groups
  • the Nova Scotia Barristers Society

If you or your organization may be the recipient of a disclosure of sexual assault, please contact contact us to request a presentation.

Community and partner organizations

The ILA program partners with other organizations to provide more holistic services. If you provide support outside the scope of the ILA program that our lawyers and 211 Nova Scotia could refer clients to, please contact Victim Services to set up an initial meeting.

Lawyers

If you would like to join the roster of ILA lawyers, please contact Victim Services to request an application.