It was on October 15, 1980, that the Clinic for women and young people (Clinique des femmes et des jeunes) at the CLSC Métro officially opened its Rape Crisis Centre. In 1983, the centre was incorporated under the name of Comité des femmes actives de Montréal / Montréal Women’s Action Committee. The official name of the organization was later changed to Centre pour les victimes d’agression sexuelle de Montréal (MSAC) / Montreal Sexual Assault Centre to reflect the changes that had been made to the criminal code in January 1983 and clearly indicate the Centre’s identification with the city of Montreal.
The organization was originally created to offer alternative, comprehensive and bilingual services free of charge in order to meet the various needs of victims of sexual assault in a judgement-free atmosphere of trust. The MSAC offered help to victims of all ages, but the sheer volume and the countless requests from people who had been sexually assaulted or were victims of incest in their childhood forced the centre to focus on a specific clientele. As a result, the MSAC now offers its services to anyone 18 and over who was sexually assaulted during the past year. Listening, support and referral services continue to be offered to anyone affected by sexual violence.
The MSAC has greatly evolved since it opened in 1980, with services expanding to reflect the population’s growing needs. The team, which has expanded both in terms of size and the expertise of its individual members (who now total 40 employees and some 50 volunteers), is well equipped to take on new challenges. Since April 16, 2010, the MSAC has also been managing the provincial helpline for victims of sexual assault. This toll-free telephone service offers bilingual, confidential and anonymous services free of charge across all regions of Quebec 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Throughout the years, the MSAC has strived to remain faithful to its mission of providing direct assistance to victims and survivors of sexual crimes.
 Bill C-127 made substantial changes to the substantive rules and rules of evidence that apply in cases of sexual offences:
In 1983, the Criminal Code of Canada was amended to replace the crimes of rape and indecent assault with three new levels of sexual assault offencesthat focused on the violent rather than the sexual nature of the offence.
▪ The new legislation clarified that males or females could be victims of sexual assault.
▪ Proof of penetration was no longer required to obtain a conviction.
▪ Several rules of evidence were abolished:
- The rule on recent complaint was abolished (this rule required the court to hold in doubt the testimony of a sexual abuse victim who did not complain to someone immediately after the offence occurred).
- The requirement of corroboration was abolished.
- Evidence related to the victim’s past sexual experience or reputation was no longer admissible, except in certain cases.
- A man could be accused of sexually assaulting his spouse.
- The discretionary power of judges was limited.
Source: Évolution de la loi relative aux agressions sexuelles; Regroupement québécois des CALACS, 1994 (adapted and translated)