Rona Ambrose. (The Canadian Press)

Senate finally poised to pass bill on sex assault training for judges

Ambrose blamed a ‘group of old boys’ in the Senate for setting up roadblocks to the bill

After stalling for two years, the Senate is poised to finally pass a private member’s bill that would require judges in Canada to undergo training about sexual assault law, including rape myths and stereotypes about victims and the impact of trauma on memory.

Bill C-337 was introduced by former interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose in February 2017 and was passed unanimously by the House of Commons just three months later.

It has languished ever since in the Senate, despite enjoying broad support in principle among the various groups in the upper house.

Earlier this year, Ambrose blamed a “group of old boys” in the Senate for setting up roadblocks to the bill, which will die if not approved by the time Parliament breaks for the summer and the subsequent fall election.

But she has now endorsed several amendments to the bill, which some senators had felt necessary to address concerns that it could undermine judicial independence and create the perception of judicial bias in favour of victims.

The Senate’s legal and constitutional affairs committee was set to vote on the amendments Monday evening.

If, as expected, the amended version of the bill is approved by the Senate as a whole, it will have to return to the Commons for MPs to decide whether to accept the changes.

Among the amendments, to be introduced by Independent Sen. Andre Pratte after consultation with other committee members, is one that would drop the bill’s requirement that all applicants for judicial posts undergo training in sexual assault law. Instead, all applicants would be required to commit to undergo continuing education in sexual assault law, which would be mandatory for successful applicants.

Ambrose told the committee Monday she believes the amendment is “a very good solution” that actually makes her bill stronger.

Another amendment would require that training courses be developed in consultation with any relevant groups, not just victims’ groups.

And a third would drop a requirement that the Canadian Judicial Council publicize the names of judges who hear sexual assault cases without having taken the training.

“I really applaud the senators on this committee for really trying to think creatively about how to get past the challenges that we had with the bill and finding a way forward so that we can ensure that the intention of the bill succeeds,” Ambrose said.

She argued that last month’s ruling by the Supreme Court in the Cindy Gladue case demonstrates the need for her bill. The top court ordered a new trial for a truck driver acquitted of killing Gladue, an Indigenous prostitute. It ruled that the justice system failed Gladue by allowing her sexual history to become an issue and suggested trial judges need to do more to counter prejudice against Indigenous women.

Ambrose noted there are plenty of other examples of judges showing insensitivity to victims and misunderstanding of the law on sexual assault, such as the former Alberta judge who asked a victim why she hadn’t kept her knees together or sunk her bottom into a bathroom sink to avoid being raped.

Only one in 10 victims of sexual assault complain to the police, Ambrose said, because they fear they won’t get fair treatment. Her bill is intended to improve trust in the judicial system in hopes that more victims will be encouraged to come forward in future.

ALSO READ: #MeToo at work: B.C. women share horrifyingly common sexual assaults

ALSO READ: BC RCMP launch ‘fulsome review’ into 2012 interrogation of sex assault victim

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Skeena Valley Farmers Market looks to reopen

Market switched to online format earlier this year in response to pandemic

Two per cent hotel tax coming to Terrace and Thornhill

Tax comes into effect on Sept. 1, will support Kermodei Tourism

‘Busier than we’ve ever seen’: Mountain biking around Terrace jumps

Terrace Off Road Cycling Association opened new trails on June 2

City of Terrace considers reopening playgrounds, day camps

Sportsplex and aquatic centre likely to remain closed through summer

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

Facing changes together: your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park at large

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

No charges to be laid against 22 northern B.C. pipeline protesters

Twenty-two people were arrested in February, but Crown has decided not to pursue charges

“The Great Regional Air Hug” being organized by the Vanderhoof International Airshow Society

A multi-aircraft flyover over the region is being planned for August 15.

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

Larva of voracious green crab discovered on North Coast

Public asked to retain the carcasses of these invasive species for DNA testing

Plan in place for BC Ferries to start increasing service levels

Ferry corporation reaches temporary service level agreement with province

Most Read