Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti responds to a question during a news conference about training for judges Monday October 19, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti responds to a question during a news conference about training for judges Monday October 19, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Commons gives approval in principle to judges’ sexual assault training bill

Bill C-3 would require new federally appointed judges to agree to take training

The House of Commons has unanimously approved in principle — for the third time — a bill that would require judges to commit to take training in sexual assault law.

Bill C-3 will now be scrutinized by the Commons justice committee, which could yet propose amendments.

The proposed legislation originated as a private member’s bill from former interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose, which the Liberal government supported.

It was unanimously approved by the Commons but stalled in the Senate and died when Parliament was dissolved for last fall’s election.

Ambrose blamed “the old boys’ club protecting the old boys’ club” for throwing up procedural roadblocks, while Conservative senators said they were prioritizing government legislation as the clock ran out.

The Liberals revived Ambrose’s effort as a government bill in February. It won unanimous support in principle and was under study by the justice committee when the Commons was adjourned in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That bill ultimately died when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prorogued Parliament in August but has now been resurrected once again.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole had said his party would support the latest iteration of the bill but his MPs refused over the past few weeks to cut short opening debate on it, prompting some suspicions among the Liberals that not all Tory MPs were on side.

Those suspicions were further fuelled last week when Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner questioned the merit of mandating sensitivity training for judges about sexual assault.

“Why are we appointing people who need this training to begin with? This bill gets it wrong,” she wrote on Twitter.

In the end, however, the bill passed at second reading Monday by a vote of 327-0 — with all Conservatives, including Rempel Garner supporting it.

Shortly before the vote, Justice Minister David Lametti urged O’Toole to “show leadership” and persuade all his MPs to support the bill.

“In the last Parliament, this bill had all-party support in the House. I have been discouraged to hear some Conservative members criticize C-3 as unnecessary,” he said.

Gender Equality Minister Maryam Monsef said the bill is not just about correcting the behaviour of some “bad apples” on the bench.

“It will help all of us do right by survivors of gender-based violence,” she said, adding that “even the best judges” can benefit from training aimed at exploding “deeply rooted attitudes and beliefs” about survivors of sexual violence.

Bill C-3 would require new federally appointed judges to agree to take training, including learning about rape myths and stereotypes and how to make sure biases about race, gender and other social factors do not influence their decisions. It would also require judges to put their reasons on the record when ruling on sexual assault cases.

Ambrose’s original bill was sparked by some high-profile rulings, including Alberta judge Robin Camp asking a sexual assault complainant in 2014 why she couldn’t keep her knees together and Halifax judge Gregory Lenehan ruling that “a drunk can consent” while acquitting a taxi driver of sexual assault on a passenger in 2017.

The Canadian Judicial Council has expressed concern that judicial independence will be compromised if the federal government passes a law mandating new judges to take training in sexual assault law.

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

Criminal Justicesexual assault

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

Just Posted

Kimberley case counts not at the point for 18 years and older community vaccination, says Interior Health. (File photo)
Many factors considered for smaller community-wide vaccination: Interior Health

East Kootenay resort town’s COVID-19 situation not at the point of community-wide vaccination, say officials

Nav Canada will not be closing the tower at West Kootenay Regional Airport. Photo: Betsy Kline
Nav Canada tower to remain open at West Kootenay Regional Airport

The organization was considering closing the tower

School District 20 is advising the public there has been a positive case of COVID-19 at the Trail high school. Photo: Trail Times
COVID exposures at three West Kootenay schools

Three West Kootenay schools have students in isolation

A cougar encounter near the flagpole above Pulpit Rock has closed off a section of the popular trail. File photo
Part of Pulpit Rock trail closed by cougar sighting

Pulpit Rock to the flagpole will be blocked to the public for the next two weeks

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

MLA Shirley Bond, right, answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. gaming minister says she wasn’t told directly about dirty cash flowing to casinos

Shirley Bond said Thursday civil forfeiture, gang violence and gambling addiction were also major concerns in 2011

RCMP Constable Etsell speaks to tourists leaving the area at a police roadblock on Westside Road south of Fintry, B.C., Thursday, July 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Yvonne Berg
B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel

Asking the police to enforce roadblocks exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections, says federation president Brian Sauve

As part of the province’s strategy to combat the opioid overdose crisis, take-home naloxone kits have been distributed throughout the province. (Courtesy of Gaëlle Nicolussi)
Vancouver Island could be at its worst point of overdose crises yet: medical health officer

Island Health issued overdose advisories for Victoria, various communities in the last two weeks

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

BC Hydro released a survey Thursday, April 22. It found that many British Columbians are unintentionally contributing to climate change with their yard maintenance choices. (Pixabay)
Spend a lot of time doing yard work? It might be contributing to climate change

Recent BC Hydro survey finds 60% of homeowners still use gas-powered lawnmowers and yard equipment

Journal de Montreal is seen in Montreal, on Thursday, April 22, 2021. The daily newspaper uses a file picture of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dressed in traditional Indian clothing during his trip to India to illustrate a story on the Indian variant of the coronavirus. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Montreal newspaper blasted for front-page photo of Trudeau in India

Trudeau is wearing traditional Indian clothes and holding his hands together in prayer beside a caption that reads, ‘The Indian variant has arrived’

Nanaimo RCMP say a man was injured while pouring gunpowder on a backyard fire in Harewood on Wednesday, April 21. (File photo)
Nanaimo man hospitalized after pouring gunpowder onto backyard fire

RCMP investigating explosion in Harewood also came across a still for making alcohol on property

Most Read