Support Canadian Rape Survivor sign now

Mirlande Demers is an extraordinary person and today she needs your help. At 23 years of age, this French-Canadian woman of Haitian heritage, like many of her Quebec contemporaries, sees herself as a citizen of the world and feels compelled to denounce human rights abuses wherever they occur. Acutely aware of Northern privileges and Southern marginalization, Mirlande has engaged actively in social justice initiatives and international development work. She has participated in trainings and internships in El Salvador, Indonesia, Brazil, Haiti and Senegal since her teens. In the summer of 2003, she worked as a youth internship coordinator for a group of Canadian interns, exploring issues of youth and womens empowerment, under the auspices of a Quebec-based NGO called Solidaritй Nord-Sud des Bois-Francs.

Mirlande got malaria and typhoid fever while in Senegal, working under difficult conditions, with little support from her employers. Then, during the night of July 5-6th, 2003, after a meeting-filled day, as she was about to walk into her apartment (which was also her workplace) she was assaulted, pulled inside by four men, and raped repeatedly. Today, Mirlande has to use a wheel chair due to multiple illnesses and infections, including cythomegalovirus/hepatitis, as well as neurological impairments caused by seven months of anti-retroviral therapy. Mirlande still does not sleep more than two hours at a time, because of flashbacks, acute anxiety, depression and other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

To add insult to injury, since Mirlande returned to Quebec after this horrendous ordeal, she has had to face multiple barriers in getting compensation. She is not entitled to compensation for victims of criminal acts since the collective rape took place abroad, and not on Quebec soil. She has had to call on the Public Protector Act to get her employer to acknowledge that she could not have been raped if she had not been working in Senegal under the auspices of the NGO in question. Mirlande has also been confronting the heavy bureaucracy of the Commission de la santй et de la sйcuritй du travail or CSST. This Quebec agency, which regulates occupational health and safety, does not recognize Mirlandes rape as a work-related accident according to the law. In the meantime, she has no money. She has been surviving thanks to loans and is now asking for donations to help cover her subsistence costs, as well as the high cost of medications not covered under the Quebec public prescription plan.

No woman should go though what Mirlande did in the summer of 2003. Rape is now recognized under international law as a form of torture because of the deleterious mental and physical health consequences victims experience in the short and long-term. Mirlande will have to cope with the long-lasting effect of rape for the rest of her life. While courageous in her struggle, she needs the help of provincial and national governments and institutions, and support from individuals and groups across the world.

We ask Ministry of Labour of Quebec and its agency that regulates occupational health and safety, the Commission de la santй et de la sйcuritй du travail (CSST) to recognize Mirlande Demers rape as an work-related accident which has short and long-term consequences on her physical and mental health, so that she can gain financial compensation and other benefits, such as coverage of related medical, psychological expenses, transportation, rehabilitation, as provided for by the CSST.

We also call on the Ministry for Justice of Quebec to introduce an amendment in the victims compensation act so that all Quebec residents who are victims of a criminal act are acknowledged, and given compensation and access to legal remedies, whether the crime took place in Quebec or elsewhere.

We ask the Minister of Foreign Affairs Canada and the Minister of International Relations of Quebec to require all international development organizations funded through these Ministries to subscribe to the CSST so that their volunteers, interns and staff members be protected in case of injury overseas which have medium or long-term consequences once they return to Canada.

Mirlande Demers has received support from the following advocacy organizations: Amnesty International(Quebec Chapter), National Anti-Racism Youth Network of Canada, Fйdйration des femmes du Quйbec, Ligue des droits et des libertйs du Quйbec, Coalition des mйdecins pour la justice social, SUCO, Alternatives, Regroupement quйbйcois des centres daide et de lutte contre les agressions а caractиre sexuel (CALACS).

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  • 12 May 2015475. Saoirse M
    This woman does the work that few of us, born and raised in North America would do, let alone volunteer for. Rape is a crime against humanity, recognised as such by international and Canadian law. For our government to turn its back on this woman sends an
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Information

Hilda BuchananBy:
Justice, rights and public orderIn:
Petition target:
Minister of Foreign Affairs Canada, Minister of International Relations of Quebec, Minister of Labour of Quebec, Minister of Justice of Quebec

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