Four years and three attempts later, Bill C-3 received royal assent in Parliament on Thursday evening. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

Four years and three attempts later, Bill C-3 received royal assent in Parliament on Thursday evening. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

Judges’ sexual assault training bill receives royal assent after clearing the Senate

The legislation will require federally appointed judges to learn about rape myths and stereotypes about race, gender and other social factors

Rona Ambrose says she had no idea it would take so long and require such determination to see that new judges are properly trained in sexual assault law.

Four years and three attempts later, Bill C-3 received royal assent in Parliament on Thursday evening.

It will also require judges to put their reasons on the record when ruling on sexual assault cases.

The legislation originated as a private member’s bill that Ambrose presented in 2017 while she was interim Conservative leader, but after it received cross-partisan support in the House of Commons, it stalled in the Senate.

Ambrose said there were certain senators who purposely tried to hold up the bill with the intent of quashing it. These individuals, whom she did not name, posed questions and made statements about the bill that she says were sexist and misogynistic.

“There were senators who knew that they could hold it up. They said things like, ‘This will sway the legal system in favour of victims,’ which was the most bizarre thing I’ve ever heard because it was just about education, and things like, ‘This is just another part of the Me Too movement,’ ” she said in an interview Friday.

“It was misogyny, without a doubt. Sexism and misogyny, and from corners I didn’t expect.”

The Liberal government supported her original bill, but because of the stalling tactics employed in the Senate, it died when Parliament was dissolved for the 2019 election.

The Liberals revived it last year, making it a government bill that could not be killed in the Red Chamber.

Justice Minister David Lametti said the new law will help ensure survivors of sexual assault are treated with respect and dignity in their interactions with the criminal justice system.

“We expect that these changes will have a broad and positive impact that reach beyond sexual assault matters,” he said Friday.

“Judges will benefit from new tools and perspectives that they can apply in all of their work.”

Lametti gave full credit to Ambrose for championing the passage of this legislation, which she has continued to do even though she is no longer involved in federal politics.

“Rona’s ongoing support and collaboration were important to getting this bill through the parliamentary process, and I wanted to thank her, personally, for her commitment to this issue and to this legislation.”

Looking back over the long road to royal assent, Ambrose said she was emotional when she learned the bill had finally passed.

Her thoughts were with the victims of sexual assault who have reached out to her over the last four years, many of whom disclosed their painful experiences, including triggering and re-victimizing ordeals within the justice system.

It was these women’s stories that kept her driven to ensure federal judges are properly applying Canada’s laws when it comes to sexual assault and rape victims.

“This isn’t the be-all and end-all that’s going to solve all kinds of things, this is just a small thing that we needed to do, but it’s incredible that a small thing took so long to get done,” Ambrose said.

“Because the truth is institutions are pretty opaque at times. We’re seeing that with the military now too and with the RCMP — there are a lot of great things about our institutions, but willingness to reform themselves is not one of them.”

The bill was sparked by some high-profile rulings that led to public outcry. Alberta judge Robin Camp asked a sexual-assault complainant in 2014 why she couldn’t keep her knees together; Halifax judge Gregory Lenehan said “a drunk can consent” while acquitting a taxi driver of sexual assault on a passenger in 2017.

Camp resigned from the bench after the Canadian Judicial Council eventually recommended he be removed. Lenehan was cleared of misconduct, though a committee examining his decision said his words were “ill-considered.”

The new law will only apply to federally-appointed judges and training will not be mandatory for those already on the bench, in order to respect the principle of judicial independence.

However, the training will be available for all judges who wish to take it, Lametti said.

“We can’t force judges who are currently sitting to undergo training, but we do hope that this will create a positive environment to receive that training, and hopefully we will, with time in particular, have a much better-equipped bench that will instill confidence in Canadians.”

Some provinces have begun taking steps toward adopting similar mandated or voluntary training programs for judges, including Prince Edward Island, which passed legislation in 2018, and Saskatchewan, which committed to developing a training program for judges, lawyers and other justice system professionals in 2019.

Ambrose said she hopes all the provinces and territories will pass legislation similar to the new federal law, although she is aware of intense push back from the legal and judicial community in many jurisdictions that has made this challenging.

She plans to continue working with any province that wish to make courtrooms a safer and more sensitive place for victims.

“Some of the things that judges have said and some of the mistakes that they’ve made are just unacceptable for people who hold those positions,” Ambrose said.

“To me, the easiest way to rectify that is to make sure they have the right education and training, so yeah, I’m going to keep pushing for it at the provincial level because that’s where a lot of these cases are.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Just Posted

Joseph Albert Brooks, 94-years-young pf Prince Rupert offers traditional prayers and smudging to the sick. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Heart of our City: Joseph Albert Brooks keeps smudging and praying for others

94-year-old Tsimshian elder just wants some help washing his floors

Land along Prince Rupert’s waterfront, PID 012-247-391, where residents say excessive industrial train noise is stemming from, has been found to be owned by the City of Prince Rupert and is not federal land like first presented, Prince Rupert Environmental Society stated on June 17. (Image: supplied by Land Title and Survey, Govt. of BC.)
Error found on land titles map may assist city with noise control enforcement of industry

Prince Rupert residents had been told there was no municipal jurisdiction to enforce noise bylaws

Department of Oceans and Fisheries has announced as of July 19 chinook salmon is not to be fished in certain areas in BC tidal waters until July. Spring chinook salmon are seen swimming. (Photo courtesy Michael Humling, US Fish & Wildlife Service)
Chinook Salmon limits set to zero in some BC tidal waters

DFO implement restrictions to protect Chinook Salmon

Visitors to a pop-up temporary aquarium in Prince Rupert will have the chance to see marine ecology from July 21 to Aug. 15, like this viewer watching sea anemones at the Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Prince Rupert pop-up aquarium will bring sea level to eye level in July

A permanent peak to reef ecology centre is in the planning stages by North Coast Ecology Society

Prince Rupert’s Ellen Wright and Graeme Dickens jam out during filming the two Ring System Studio concerts to be broadcast on television during June. (Photo: supplied, H. Cox)
Ring System Studio sounds on television

Two concerts by the Prince Rupert music school will be broadcast in June

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

People in Metro Vancouver can expect to experience a short wave of heat just in time for Father’s Day, according to Environment Canada. (Black Press Media files)
Short-lived heatwave headed for Metro Vancouver this weekend

Temperatures are expected to be up to 10 degrees higher than average Sunday and Monday

Patrick O’Brien, a 75-year-old fisherman, went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search for lost fisherman near Victoria suspended, U.S. Coast Guard says

The 75-year-old man was reported missing Thursday evening

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

New research suggests wolves can be steered away from the endangered caribou herds they prey on by making the man-made trails they use to hunt harder to move along. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Culling cutlines, not B.C. wolves, key to preserving caribou herds: researcher

The government has turned to killing hundreds of wolves in an effort to keep caribou around

Gary Abbott (left) and Louis De Jaeger were two of the organizers for the 2014 Spirit of the People Powwow in Chilliwack. Monday, June 21, 2021 is Indigenous Peoples Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 20 to 26

Indigenous Peoples Day, Take Your Dog to Work Day, Onion Rings Day all coming up this week

Gwen Spencer Hethey with her uncle and mentor Major Frederick Richardson. (Courtesy of Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame)
‘She was a killer’: The B.C. woman who pioneered female sharpshooting

Gwen Spencer Hethey made military men ‘look like turkeys’ says her son

Central Okanagan Grade 12 grads are set to get $500 each after a more than $1 million donation from a Kelowna couple. (File photo)
B.C. couple donating $500 to every Grade 12 student in the Okanagan

Anonymous donors identified as Kelowna entrepreneurs Lance and Tammy Torgerson

Most Read