HALIFAX – Nova Scotia sexual assault victims will now have access to free legal advice to help them consider their options after an assault.Victims will receive up to four hours of independent legal advice through a federal-provincial pilot project.Justice Minister Mark Furey says the government has been told clearly that victims and survivors needed better support.“We know most sexual assault cases do not get reported,” he said in a statement. “This pilot program will provide victims with the advice they need to make informed decisions about how they want to move forward.”Victims of sexual assault, or people who think they may have been sexually assaulted, can call the province’s 211 phone service and obtain certificates for services from a pre-approved list of lawyers.A justice official wasn’t available for an interview Friday afternoon, but the department provided a “frequently asked questions” pamphlet that says people can use the service at any stage after an assault, regardless of whether it has been reported to police.“The lawyer can help you to determine your legal options, such as whether you should report the matter to the police or take civil action,” says the pamphlet. “You may decide after meeting with the lawyer, and receiving information about those processes, that you are choosing no further action at this time. This program is to help you make informed decisions. You have some choices on what happens next.”The selected lawyers in the three-year pilot program — funded by $810,000 in federal cash — will be provided with extensive training and will share their experiences and best practices.Nova Scotia Liberal MP Bernadette Jordan said a better understanding of victims’ needs leads to a more just and fair criminal justice system.“If victims do not report sexual assaults because they fear they will not be believed, or they lack confidence in the criminal justice system, then the integrity of the system is called into question,” she said in a statement.Jackie Stevens, executive director of the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre in Halifax, says the project is an important first step towards legal advocacy for victims.“We are excited that this service is in place as there is a major need for legal advice and support for survivors of sexualized violence going through the court process,” said Stevens. “We encourage the Nova Scotia government to continue to prioritize justice reform.”The Public Prosecution Service will also create a guide for victims of sexual assault on the court process and provide sexual-violence training for Crown attorneys.The Ontario government last year announced a $41-million plan aimed at combating sexual violence and harassment that includes a pilot program to provide free, independent legal advice to survivors of sexual assault.Newfoundland and Labrador has announced a similar program.
SpaceX has launched a load of supplies to the International Space Station following a pair of unusual power delays.A Falcon rocket raced into the pre-dawn darkness today, carrying a Dragon capsule with about 2,500 kilograms of goods. This recycled Dragon — which is making its second space voyage — is due to arrive at the orbiting lab early Monday.That’s when Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques will be pressed into duty, manning the Canadarm 2 to perform his first-ever “cosmic catch” manoeuvre, backed up by NASA astronaut Nick Hague.Part of the cargo aboard the Dragon vehicle is 1.2 million tomato seeds heading to space as part of the Tomatosphere educational project.The Canadian Space Agency says in a release the seeds will return to Earth a month later, along with blood and breath samples for a Canadian health probe into the impact of living in space on astronauts’ bone marrow.The delivery is a few days late because of electrical power shortages that cropped up first at the space station, then at SpaceX’s rocket-landing platform in the Atlantic. Both problems were quickly resolved with equipment replacements: a power-switching unit in orbit and a generator at sea. — with files from Associated Press.The Canadian Press