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Hearing begins for judge who demeaned sex assault victim

The remarks that led up to today’s hearing before the Canadian Judicial Council were made during the 2014 trial of Alexander Scott Wagar who was charged with sexual assault. The trial was held before Judge Robin Camp who then sat on the Alberta Provincial Court. The next year Camp was appointed as a justice on the Federal Court of Canada.

During the trial, a 19-year-old woman testified Wager had raped her over a bathroom sink during a party at a Calgary house. Camp asked her why she couldn’t have sunk her bottom into the sink and prevented penetration. In another remark that was widely publicized at the time, the judge asked simply asked her, “Why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?”

Camp also commented on the fact the woman knew she was drunk and asked the prosecutor whether consent to sex required some particular words “such as in a marriage ceremony.” The judge also said pain was not necessarily a bad thing and wondered why the teen didn’t scream if she was really frightened.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Camp kept referring to the 19-year-old woman as “the accused” rather than “the complainant” throughout the trial.

Camp acquitted Wagar but the Alberta Court of Appeal later overturned the acquittal and ordered a new trial. The appellate court justices expressed doubt Camp understood laws on sexual assault and found sexual stereotypes that have been discredited years ago had found their way into Camp’s decision.

The Canadian Judicial Council was created in 1971 with the mandate, among other things, to make federal justices accountable. Since Camp is now a federally appointed justice, the Council has jurisdiction to hold an inquiry into his conduct. An investigation into Camp’s behaviour on the bench was commenced after four law professors made formal complaints.

Only 11 hearings have been held since the CJC was founded in 1971.

The hearing will be before a five-member panel; three superior court justices and two lawyers. It will be held at a downtown Calgary hotel and seven days have been set aside for the hearing. Their recommendations that can extend from a reprimand to removal will be forwarded to the entire judicial council for a decision.

The statements made by Camp during Wagar’s trial are a matter of record and it is not anticipated he will contest what he said. Rather, he will beg to keep his job by arguing he has already apologized and taken gender sensitivity courses. He is also expected to call character evidence. The panel of the Judicial Council will essentially determine whether the justice’s apologies are enough.

Should the CJC decide Camp should be removed from the bench, they do not have the power to directly remove him. All they can do is make a recommendation to the federal Minister of Justice. Federal judges can only be removed by a joint resolution of the House of Commons and the Senate.

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