03/05/2015 02:57 EST | Updated 05/05/2015 05:59 EDT

Nova Scotia to amend bill on sexual assault, removing time limits on civil suits

HALIFAX - Victims of sexual assault in Nova Scotia would be able to launch civil lawsuits regardless of when the assault took place under changes to the law promised Thursday by the province's justice minister says.

Lena Metlege Diab said she will bring in an amendment to the Limitation of Actions Act during the spring session of the legislature.

"What the legislation will mean is that victims of sexual assault, regardless of when it happened, can sue, can launch a civil claim suit," Diab told reporters.

Currently, the Limitation of Actions Act removes the statute of limitations for any future victims of sexual abuse. The proposed amendment would allow for retroactive lawsuits, Diab said.

The Progressive Conservative party and victims of Ernest Fenwick MacIntosh have pushed for the change to allow historical victims of sexual assault the right to start lawsuits.

MacIntosh was living in India in 1995 when allegations arose that he had sexually abused boys in Cape Breton in the 1970s. The former businessman was extradited in 2007 and the first of his two trials in Nova Scotia started in 2010. His convictions were quashed in April 2013 after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled his case took too long to go to trial.

Weldon MacIntosh-Reynolds, who testified against MacIntosh, said he wants to see the details of the law and discuss them with a lawyer before deciding what he will do.

"I’m happy they’re going to do that," he said.

"They did nothing for us all along, and it’s been a big coverup."

MacIntosh-Reynolds testified against MacIntosh at a trial that resulted in the former Nova Scotia businessman being convicted of 17 charges of gross indecency and indecent assault involving six boys from the Port Hawkesbury, N.S., area in the 1970s.

The charges were later thrown out after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the 14-year delay between the allegations and the trial affected MacIntosh’s ability to defend himself.

MacIntosh-Reynolds staged a hunger strike in 2013, calling for Ottawa to conduct a public inquiry into the federal and provincial governments handling of the case.

— With files from Michael Tutton