Supreme Court of Canada chief justice Richard Wagner speaks during the welcoming ceremony for Justice Sheilah Martin, in Ottawa on Friday, March 23, 2018. Wagner, the chair of the Canadian Judicial Council, says that social context education provides judges with necessary skills to ensure “myths” and “stereotypes” do not influence judicial decisions, on the website. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Judicial council offers up courses for judges on handling sex assault cases

Website includes 10 offerings focused on sexual assault law, as well as one on sexual assault trials

The Canadian Judicial Council has launched a new website showcasing the training courses it is offering to federally appointed judges — including seminars to help judges handle sexual assault cases.

In a statement on the site, council chair Richard Wagner, who is also the Supreme Court’s chief justice, says so-called social context education gives judges the skills necessary to ensure “myths” and “stereotypes” do not influence judicial decisions.

The website includes 10 offerings focused on sexual assault law, as well as one on sexual assault trials.

The latter course includes video-based programs that provide judges with an overview of the sort of issues they’re liable to face.

In one session, experienced jurists discuss “rape myths” and “stereotypes,” and how such myths can propagate “rapidly” during various stages of the judicial process.

Johanna Laporte, the council’s director of communications, said Canada has “extensive” training for judges on a range of issues and the website is intended to inform Canadians of how judges keep up to date with the law and social context.

“While the recent public debate about sexual assault training for judges has cast a light on the need for added transparency, council’s main impetus was to showcase the breadth and depth of judicial education programming,” said Laporte.

“Many courses have elements of social context awareness and sexual assault law woven into them and council hopes that visitors will see that these complex issues are discussed in a variety of settings — not just in a stand-alone course.”

The question of how well-equipped judges in Canada are to handle sexual assault cases has been a hot topic in recent years, most recently after a Nova Scotia judge acquitted a Halifax cab driver, suggesting that even an intoxicated woman can consent to sex.

The federal Liberal government has thrown its support behind a bill, currently before the Senate, that would require judges to take courses in sexual assault law.

Bill C-337 would also limit judicial appointments to those who have completed comprehensive education in sexual assault law and social context.

It would also require the council to report on continuing education seminars in matters related to sexual assault law and change the Criminal Code to require courts to provide written reasons in sexual assault decisions.

The bill was introduced in 2017 by former Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose after Provincial Court Judge Gregory Lenehan acquitted Bassam Al-Rawi of sexual assault, even though police found the partially naked complainant unconscious in the back of Al-Rawi’s cab shortly after the alleged incident.

The ruling — along with Lenehan’s comment in his decision that “clearly, a drunk can consent” to sex — prompted widespread protest. Earlier this year, Nova Scotia’s top court ordered a new trial in the case.

Janice Dickson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

All Native Basketball Tournament Day 6: Recap

Highlights and results from day 6 at the All Native Basketball Tournament

All Native Basketball Tournament Day of Champions Preview

Looking ahead to the championship matches of the All Native Tournament

Prince Rupert Gas Transmission project searches for partners

TransCanada is renewing permits for its natural gas pipeline project to North Coast.

Coastal GasLink stops work to investigate archaeological find

OGC archaeologists are en route to the Houston-area site where Unist’ot’en report finding stone tools

Wolves still haven’t been caught in Port Edward

District council briefs from Feb. 12 meeting include Diana Lake and an update on wolves in the area

Ice skating on the North Coast, a rare treat

Seawolves hockey players bring their gear to Oliver Lake this week to play on the outdoor rink

Eight cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver outbreak

Coastal Health official say the cases stem from the French-language Ecole Jules Verne Secondary

Plecas won’t run in next election if B.C. legislature oversight reforms pass

B.C. Speaker and Abbotsford South MLA says he feels ‘great sympathy’ for Jody Wilson-Raybould

Workshop with ‘accent reduction’ training cancelled at UBC

The workshop was cancelled the same day as an email was sent out to international students

Former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell accused of sexual touching

Accuser went to police, interviewed by Britian’s Daily Telegraph

Judge rules Abbotsford home must be sold after son tries to evict mom

Mom to get back down payment and initial expenses

Trump officially declares national emergency to build border wall

President plans to siphon billions from federal military construction and counterdrug efforts

Snow turns to slush, rain as it warms up across B.C.’s south coast

Some areas are already covered by more than half a metre of snow following three separate storms

Father to be charged with first-degree murder in Amber Alert case

11-year-old Riya Rajkumar was found dead in her father’s home in Brampton, Ontario

Most Read