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article imageCPC bill: New judges must undergo training in sexual assault

By Arthur Weinreb     Feb 24, 2017 in Politics
Ottawa - The bill requires all lawyers appointed to the bench undergo extensive training on sexual assault issues before they are allowed to assume their judicial duties. The bill follows a high profile case where a judge made improper comments to a victim.
The private member’s bill, Bill C-337, was introduced in the House of Commons yesterday by Rona Ambrose, the interim leader of the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC). Known as the Judicial Accountability through Sexual Assault Law Training Act, the bill passed first reading after it was introduced.
The bill, that proposes amendments to the Judges Act and the Criminal Code, would require those appointed to the bench to receive comprehensive training before they can assume their duties. This training would include learning about how sexual assault proceedings are conducted, what evidence is not allowed to be introduced in sexual assault trials and the concept of consent. Would-be judges would also be taught about the myths and stereotypes surrounding victims of sexual assault.
In addition, the proposed legislation also mandates the Canadian Judicial Council to report on continuing education courses on sexual assault law. Finally, the bill would require judges to give written reasons for all decisions made in proceedings dealing with sexual assault.
Ambrose
The Honorable Rona Ambrose
The Honorable Rona Ambrose
Rona Ambrose website
, who worked at a rape crisis centre while attending university, said sexual assault victims have lost faith in the judicial system and those who work in the system do not realize what these victims go through.
The case of Judge Robin Camp—the "knees together judge"
While Ambrose said her bill was not the result of one specific case, it comes in the wake of the Robin Camp matter. In December, a panel of the Canadian Judicial Council recommended Camp be removed from the bench as a result of comments he made during a sexual assault trial when he was a Provincial Court judge in Alberta. A year after the trial, Camp was elevated to the Federal Court of Canada.
SEE ALSO: Inquiry finds ‘knees together’ judge should be removed from bench
In
Federal Court of Canada Justice Robin Camp
Federal Court of Canada Justice Robin Camp
Andrew Balfour, Federal Court of Canada
2014, Camp was sitting on the Alberta Provincial Court when he presided over the trial of Alexander Scott Wagar. Wagar, who was charged with one count of sexual assault that involved allegations of raping a 19-year-old homeless woman, was acquitted by Camp.
During the trial Camp kept referring to the complainant as “the accused.” After the woman testified Wagar raped her over a sink, Camp asked her why she could not have simply kept her knees together or why she did not just lower herself in the sink to avoid penetration.
Camp found Wagar not guilty of the charge and the Alberta Court of Appeal ordered a new trial on the basis of the judge's comments. A complaint was made to the Canadian Judicial Council.
SEE ALSO: Hearing begins for judge who demeaned sex assault victim
Currently, Camp’s lawyer is attempting to have the Canadian Judicial Council reopen the hearing to hear new evidence. This new evidence is the fact Wagar was found not guilty again after a retrial by another judge.
What helps illustrate this bill is necessary is the fact Camp came to Canada from South Africa and had never practised criminal law. He testified he knew practically nothing about Canadian laws on sexual assault when he presided over Wagar’s trial.
Private members bills rarely pass in Parliament and Ambrose is asking for support from the other parties. Justice Minister Judy Wilson-Raybould said she is looking forward to reviewing Bill C-337 after which she will decide if the government will support it.
More about Sexual assault, bill c337, Rona ambrose, robin camp, knees together judge
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