Madam Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity in the House to thank and congratulate folks in Quebec and across Canada who are working on the front lines of this pandemic in hospitals and long-term care homes. I am talking about health care workers, nurses, doctors and orderlies. We are now in the midst of a ferocious and very complex second wave, and these people have not had a break since the first wave this summer. They were not even able to take vacation. That is not easy. I commend them and honour them for the essential work they are doing.
It is a huge honour for me to speak to this bill. I stand here humbly, hoping to make a modest contribution, to play a small part in making sure that our justice system treats everyone the same.
As I stand here, I am thinking of all the women I have known in my lifetime who experienced the trauma of sexual or other types of assault. I am thinking of all the women who even today hesitate to file a report because the process is too long, too gruelling, too overwhelming. I am thinking of the women who worry that they will have to relive their painful moments and trauma over and over again, retell their stories over and over, and find the words, words that can often hurt just as much as the actions. I am thinking of the women who know or believe that, at the end of the day, justice will not be served.
Obviously, I am also thinking of my 17-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son. It is also important to me as a man. I believe this is a rather sensitive debate. There have been some good questions and considerations that have been touched on in recent days with regard to this matter. If my sex, my being a man, is part of the problem, then I hope that, as a parliamentarian, I can be part of the solution.
The statistics on sexual assault are shocking. Only 5% of women who are assaulted report it. That is shocking. According to the Regroupement québécois des centres d'aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel, Quebec's association of sexual assault centres, believe it or not, only three of every 1,000 reports of sexual assault result in a conviction. Apparently, the vast majority of victims never report their assault, and the few who do never get justice. The justice system scares them.
Yesterday and today, my colleagues gave several examples of judges whose comments exposed their poor understanding of issues related to sexual assault and who have therefore done justice a disservice. Bill C-3 will fix that. I do not think it is a panacea or the definitive solution, but it is a big step in the right direction. The Bloc Québécois supports this bill, which everyone seems to agree on, so let's adopt it quickly and not let it drag on. It is a step in the right direction, but we need to do more.
I would like to invite this assembly to consider the social and cultural changes that are needed when it comes to sexual consent. We see that these changes are happening slowly in society. We have seen it in recent years, but I think we need to go even further.
Let us talk about rape culture. To make sure that we understand what that means, the United Nations defines rape culture as the social environment that allows sexual violence to be normalized and justified, fuelled by the persistent gender inequalities and attitudes about gender and sexuality. Naming it is the first step to dismantling rape culture.
Rape culture exists in Quebec and Canada. Of course, we can agree that no one would publicly and voluntarily endorse sexual assault. However, by perpetuating myths surrounding sexual assault, some individuals often contribute, quite unconsciously, to trivializing sexual assault and invalidating victims' experiences. Rape culture and, more broadly, the trivialization of sexual assault are deeply rooted in our society.
How many men have learned from watching movies that kissing someone out of the blue is romantic? However, in many cases, that can constitute sexual assault. It is imprinted in our brains. These are behaviours that are difficult to change. Take, for example, the number of movies in which a suitor relentlessly pursues the woman of his dreams until she finally gives in and agrees to go out with him, even though she initially refused. It is presented as romantic and sweet.
An example of this is a film I am sure everyone is familiar with that grossed $100 million at the box office. The Notebook is a 2004 film starring Ryan Gosling. In it, his character forces his future wife to agree to a date with him after harassing her at a carnival and threatening to commit suicide if she does not give in to his blackmail. That is really something. It seems so cute and sweet: the girl sees the guy hanging off a merry-go-round, and he threatens to throw himself under it. He tells her that if she does not agree to go out with him, he will kill himself. The girl wants nothing to do with the guy, and in fact, she was there with her boyfriend, but she eventually gives in. Everyone loved the film, and it took in millions of dollars at the box office. Men and women saw that as romantic.
Rape culture is perpetuated by collective myths. It is also perpetuated by individual actions that reinforce prejudices and stereotypes. Certain comments and questions can unintentionally make victims feel worthless. Sometimes these comments can even come from the victim's own family or loved ones.
Think about what happens to victims of sexual assault when they report the crime to the police or someone else. They get asked why they did not leave, why they did not fight off their attacker, why they drank that night, and how they were dressed. Sometimes the victim's account is questioned because she had multiple partners, because that shows promiscuity, which is viewed negatively. All these questions and comments do harm.
We must not only understand rape culture, but also destroy it. Many collective and individual changes are needed. We must also denounce macho culture, where a man who gets rejected is humiliated and judged because he did not get what he was hoping for. We have to develop positive and healthy masculinity. It has be okay for a man to be told no. It does not make him any less of a man or take anything away from his masculinity. No must always mean no. Being told no is not a signal to ask 50 more times in the hope of being told yes. Accepting no for an answer is not less manly.
Naturally, we must do more than just say no means no. Change is happening. In Quebec, for example, there is an interesting campaign called “Sans oui, c'est non!” or “If It's Not a Yes, It's a No!”. This campaign has helped raise awareness significantly on university campuses. I commend their contribution and their efforts.
More and more people understand that having sexual contact with a person who did not say no because they were unable to also counts as sexual assault. I am thinking in particular of TV host Julie Snyder. Last week, on her show, she responded to Gilbert Rozon, who had claimed that he had never slept with anyone who said no. Julie Snyder said that a person cannot say no if they are sleeping, and they cannot say no if they are not asked. That, too, contributes to rape culture.
More and more people understand that a timid, embarrassed or fearful no may not be a true yes and that it is vital to get true and enthusiastic consent. When in doubt, stop and check. It is very important that people understand this. We must destroy rape culture. This also means questioning our role as men and as individuals.
I do not have much time left, but I think my colleagues know where I was going with that.
This is a very important and worthwhile bill. It is a step in the right direction. The justice system can play a part, but as a society, and as men, we can all go a little further and start thinking about these issues. As someone rightly mentioned earlier, we are currently talking about training for judges already on the bench, but we also need to ensure that future judges will have taken the training beforehand.
If we knew that judicial candidates already had that training and that open-mindedness, we would be able to help move society forward.