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Quebec Public Safety Minister Lise Theriault responds to questions over police sexual-assault allegations at the legislature in Quebec City on Wednesday.

Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

The minister responsible for overseeing the investigation into claims provincial police officers abused native women in northwestern Quebec has taken a leave of absence to deal with an unspecified illness.

Public Security Minister Lise Theriault is taking time off, the Quebec government announced Thursday.

Theriault's spokeswoman said she is stepping aside for an indefinite period and wouldn't say when she'll return.

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"(Theriault) has health problems," said Emilie Simard. "Health issues are between her and her doctor. We wish her the best for a quick recovery."

Theriault has been on the defensive ever since news broke that several native women in the town of Val d'Or, about 525 kilometres northwest of Montreal, accused provincial police officers of physical and sexual abuse going back several years.

The Opposition has called for her resignation over what they call her mismanagement of the investigation into the abuse allegations.

Municipal Affairs Minister Pierre Moreau will take over Theriault's public security duties during her absence.

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