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Quebec lagging in wrongful-conviction payments, victim says

Quebec stalls for time while other provinces move to compensate people who are jailed for crimes they did not commit, says a Quebecker who spent nearly three years in prison for a rape he did not commit.

Michel Dumont, who served jail time in the 1990s but was cleared of his sexual-assault conviction in 2001, protested yesterday outside the Quebec legislature. He is demanding the government pay him for the time he spent in jail and the hardship his family endured.

Mr. Dumont, 45, said most serious wrongful convictions in other provinces result in apologies and millions of dollars in compensation within a few years of the injustice being confirmed. However, in Quebec in two recent instances, the process dragged on for nine and 15 years, while others have taken years.

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"And in Quebec you have to relive the entire process over and over again," Mr. Dumont told reporters.

"All you have to do is compare the wrongful convictions in other provinces to the ones in Quebec, you'll see how it drags on here."

Mr. Dumont, an electrician, has waited four years since he was officially cleared by the Quebec Court of Appeal, with no sign the issue will be settled soon. He has sued the Quebec government for nearly $9-million in damages for pain, suffering and lost opportunities.

"I have to follow the judicial route; that will take another five, six, 10 years," he said.

"It's time to change that here in Quebec. Quebec signed the international pact to settle its wrongful convictions, it's time to start settling them."

A woman from Boisbriand, just north of Montreal, accused Mr. Dumont of raping her in her home in 1990. Despite the woman's uncertain identification of her attacker and Mr. Dumont's alibi, he was convicted and sentenced to four years and four months in prison.

Less than two years later, as his appeal was before the courts, the woman told authorities she may have identified the wrong person. The information never made it into his appeal.

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"It was hell, the whole length of my incarceration. I was labelled a sexual offender and that's how I was treated," Mr. Dumont said.

He was cleared in 2001, long after he had served his sentence. "I want them to say sorry. It won't relieve the burden, it won't erase what happened, but it would provide some comfort."

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