No one answers the telephone line set up by the Ministry of Education to report a situation of misconduct or sexual violence in a school. Even during business hours, weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., complainants must leave a voicemail message and wait to be called back. It’s not “really helpful,” says an organization that works with victims of assault.

More than a week after the announcement of this service, La Presse called half a dozen times to 1 833 DENONCE to find out if there was someone on the line. It was impossible to speak to anyone in person.

We were consistently directed to an automated message that first provides general information. “To report a minor victim, contact the DYP office in your area as soon as possible,” it says, without giving a phone number or email.

Callers are then instructed to dial 911 “if the situation requires urgent intervention”, followed by the Sexual Violence Info-Help number.

Finally, the female voice says to leave a message “to report a situation of sexual misconduct or violence” suffered or observed in a school.

“Please provide us with your first and last name and phone number,” she adds, while assuring that the service is “rigorous and confidential.”

Reminding ? The Ministry of Education specifies that it is “three people” and that the calls are “received by the team assigned to the treatment of complaints at the Ministry”.

In one week, 17 calls were made to this number, “however, the majority of calls received were inquiries, complaints, or comments on topical matters not related to the general investigative mandate,” writes his spokesperson Esther Chouinard.

The automated message from the Ministry of Education refers to the “Info-aide violence sexuale” line of the Center for Sexual Assault Victims of Montreal.

At any time of day, this line for victims or their relatives has two people who can respond to calls. The centre’s executive director says that “it’s essential” for her organization to have someone on the phone.

“Our mandate is to listen and provide information,” says Deborah Trent. “My biggest fear is that there will be no one to answer,” she adds.

Thus, unlike the telephone line of the Ministry of Education, that of Info-aide sexual violence never refers to a voicemail. Those who use this number do not have to identify themselves.

Director General of the Prevention and Intervention Center for Victims of Sexual Assault, Monique Villeneuve observes that “a voicemail that answers is not really useful”.

“Disclosure takes a lot of courage, regardless of age. Revealing to voicemail…” Monique Villeneuve observes a silence, weighs her words. “…It’s not a favored social intervention,” she says.

His organization goes to primary and secondary schools to raise awareness. Since classroom visits resumed after a pandemic-caused hiatus, the number of requests for help has increased.

“The fact that we go directly to the schools makes a big difference,” said Ms. Villeneuve. “You [youth] need to be able to refer to someone they trust,” she says.

She would have liked the Minister of Education to consult the organizations before setting up this line. Bernard Drainville, she says, has “duplicated a structure” that already exists.

“There are so many needs around sexual violence, let’s invest them in the right place,” said Monique Villeneuve.

The launch of the 1 833 DENONCE hotline comes at a time when the Ministry of Education is conducting a “general investigation” into numerous cases of sexual misconduct affecting the school network in recent weeks. At the launch of the hotline last week, Education Minister Bernard Drainville said he was “concerned” by the increase in cases of violence, while recalling that his ministry cannot “replace police forces » in the event of a criminal offence.