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 sexual abuse 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. The listening and referral service continues 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. In 1983, the centre implemented an emergency telephone service for the Montreal region. Nearly fifty volunteers responded to these calls at all times. The emergency line took its last call in 2018 to make room for the provincial listening and referral service. Indeed, since April 16, 2010, the MSAC has been managing Sexual Violence Helpline as mandated by the Ministère de la Justice du Québec. 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.
In 2014, a report on the organization of services for sexual assault victims offered by designated centres in Quebec presented six recommendations based on the evaluation of the implementation of those centres. In the wake of the #metoo movement in 2017 and based on those recommendations, the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux mandated the MSAC to establish a provincial coordinating body. This led to the creation, in July 2019, of the Support Service for Designated Centres Providing Medico-social Services for Sexual Assault Victims.
The team is now strong of about 50 employees. Having grown both in numbers and in the skills and expertise of the team members, the centre is able to face new challenges. Throughout the years, the MSAC has strived to remain faithful to its mission of providing assistance to victims of sexual violence.
 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 offences that 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)