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

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

Okanagan Lake (File photo)
Thompson-Okanagan ready to welcome back tourists

The Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association expects this summer to be a busy one

Aerial view of a wildfire at 16 Mile, 11 kilometres northwest of Cache Creek, that started on the afternoon of June 15. (Photo credit: BC Wildfire Service)
Wildfire at 16 Mile now being held

Wildfire started on the afternoon of June 15 at 16 Mile, east of Highway 97

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

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

Bella Bella is on B.C.’s Central Coast, accessible only by air and ocean. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
B.C. provides $22 million for Heiltsuk development on Central Coast

Elders care home project, tourism, lumber mill supported

Most Read