Photo: Graham Hughes The Canadian Press On February 8, 2023, a man drove a bus into a daycare in Laval.
Quebec is preparing to cut its financial assistance to victims of crime under a reform adopted by the Legault government in 2021. The parents of a child seriously injured during the attack on a daycare in Laval, a year ago to the day, are among those whose compensation now has an expiration date.
“When we tell you that, it’s a bit of a sword of Damocles. In two years, I need to be better,” summarizes Sébastien Courtois, who lives with the consequences of post-traumatic shock. His son Jules, who is now 5 years old, was seriously injured when a man ran a bus into a daycare in Laval on February 8, 2023. “We heard the politicians, Mr. Legault and Mr. Trudeau, when they came there, said that all the victims would be taken care of 100%. […] We shouldn’t come forward and say 100% when we don’t know the system,” he laments.
The day after the Laval attack, the Prime Minister of Quebec, François Legault, affirmed that his priority was to offer psychological support to those affected by the tragedy. “Accept psychological help,” he pleaded. The reality turned out to be more complicated.
When he began suffering from nightmares, anxiety and hypervigilance in late 2023, Sébastien Courtois turned to the compensation scheme for victims of crime, IVAC, as had his wife, Virginia Duprat, in the weeks following the attack. Like his partner, he was told that his salary would be replaced at 90% — for a maximum of two years.
“Two years is a short time,” argues Ms. Duprat. I think especially of the [two] families who lost a child and I say to myself: reconstruction cannot be done in two years. »
Condemned to welfare ?
The payment of compensation by the IVAC did not have a time limit until it was modified, in 2021, by the Minister of Justice, Simon Jolin-Barrette. Since this reform, victims (direct or indirect) of criminal acts receive financial assistance for a maximum of two or three years, according to the criteria defined by law.
Next October, three years will have passed since the adoption of Minister Jolin-Barrette’s bill. As the deadline approaches, victims are receiving letters from IVAC these days notifying them of the upcoming end of their benefits. Their options ? Obtain additional financial assistance, for a maximum of two years, and on condition of professional reintegration. Otherwise, victims are directed “towards other government programs”, responded to the Devoir the Ministry of Justice and the Commission on Standards, Equity, of occupational health and safety (CNESST).
“We are supposed to feel supported, not abandoned. I was told: “Get ready, on October 13, 2024, you will no longer have benefits”,” told DevoirÉric (fictitious name), a resident of the Capitale-Nationale who chose to withhold his real name in order to protect his privacy and “to be treated fairly” by the IVAC. “Since this announcement, I no longer have quality of life, my after-effects are increasing, I am anxious and I think about it constantly. Am I going to have to go bankrupt, lose my apartment ? Am I going to be able to eat ?” he wonders. He has calculated that his benefits will drop from $2,000 to $800 a month if he has to turn to welfare, as he fears he will have to do.
The Public Protector had expressed his concerns about the time limit during the study of the Jolin-Barrette reform. Today, it receives “complaints from citizens who realize that their compensation will stop in October 2024,” spokesperson Carole-Anne Thuot confirmed on Tuesday. The Quebec ombudsman had already “stressed that no time limit should exist and that assistance should end only if the victim's injury is healed or their situation is consolidated,” she recalled.
“It’s going to scream in the fall”
Lawyer Marc Bellemare, who made IVAC-related cases his specialty, said he received two calls on this subject on Tuesday alone, when he spoke with < i>Le Devoir. “There is a woman who has been paid for eight years, who received the letter and is losing her job. “She's really going crazy,” he pointed out.
The former Minister of Justice had sounded the alarm about the three-year delay during the study of Mr. Jolin-Barrette’s bill. Me Bellemare described the bill as “vile and regressive”. “You abandon them [the victims], you throw them on the street after three years,” he told Minister Jolin-Barrette. Three years later, he hasn't let up. What awaits victims after October 2024 ? “Social assistance,” he answers bluntly. Or you sell everything to qualify for welfare. It's going to scream in the fall, it won't be pretty. »
Lawyer Sophie Mongeon believes the changes to the law are a “catastrophe”. “I have a client who was on a bus and he got stabbed. He has half of his stomach that isn't even contained by his muscles; he doesn't work at all. Him, if this event had happened today, he would be financially bankrupt,” she illustrated. When possible, Me Mongeon tries to direct his clients towards compensation from the CNESST, where there is no time limit. “IVAC, I avoid it like the plague,” she said. The Ministry of Justice instead emphasizes that the Quebec regime is “the most generous in Canada.” Care, treatment and professional services can in particular be covered beyond the three-year period, argues the CNESST, to which the IVAC reports.
Éric for his part pleads for a new modification of the law. “Being post-traumatic is no fun, I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. I hope there will be awareness. »
Plea for help facing the twists and turns of the IVAC
Like others before them, Sébastien Courtois and Virginia Duprat encountered the administrative maze of the IVAC when they needed help. For example, Ms. Duprat’s transportation costs to consult a professional were not fully reimbursed. The reason ? “I didn’t have a letter justifying that I couldn’t take the bus to go to my appointment,” relates the woman whose son Jules was seriously injured by a bus driver.
The parents also noted that they had certain costs to pay, since the compensation from the IVAC does not cover the entirety of the fees charged by the professionals. “It’s a heavy [financial] burden,” notes Mr. Courtois. “We shouldn’t have to ask ourselves the question: do we prioritize mom’s psychotherapy or our daughter’s ?”
In the tumult following the drama in which they were plunged, the Courtois-Duprats would have liked to be accompanied to navigate through the twists and turns of the IVAC. Ms. Duprat also suggests that the IVAC include, on its website, the list of psychologists who accept “IVAC mandates,” especially since they are rare. “I have clients who called 50 psychologists and couldn’t find anything,” explains lawyer Marc Bellemare. The paperwork is too complicated and resources are insufficient, especially since the pandemic, he summarizes.