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

Chilliwack school district’s Learn at Home program will be extended to March 12, following a parent survey that showed support for the learning option. (Submitted/ Jessica Browne)
Learning from home option continues to March for Chilliwack students

More than 600 students currently connecting to school from home

A horse on Yale Road West peeks out from its shelter at the rainy weather on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
November saw mild and rainy conditions in Chilliwack

Around mid-month there was a rare November thunderstorm rolling through

Volunteers organize items during Central Community Church’s Stuff-a-Truck food drive on Saturday, June 27, 2020. There are several donation drop-offs, toy drives and other fundraisers happening this month to help bring Christmas to many families and individuals in need this year. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
The Christmas list: where and how to give, receive in Chilliwack

A thorough list from toy drives to food drop-off locations to how to apply for a Christmas hamper

A few lines on the turf field at Chilliwack secondary school may seem like nothing huge, but it could make a big difference for the Chilliwack Hawks field lacrosse association. (Facebook photo)
Chilliwack Hawks loving new lines on Chilliwack secondary school turf field

The field lacrosse association has been asking for sport-specific markings, and finally has them

These three orbs in a triangular formation were spotted in the skies above Abbotsford/Aldergrove on Dec. 1. (YouTube)
VIDEO: Alleged UFO sighting in Abbotsford/Aldergrove

Footage from Dec. 1 shows three orbs in triangle formation in the skies

Janet Austin, the lieutenant-governor of British Columbia, not seen, swears in Premier John Horgan during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. Horgan says he will look to fill gaps in the federal government’s sick-pay benefits program aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. premier says province prepared to patch holes in new federal sick-pay benefits

Horgan said workers should not be denied pay when they are preventing COVID-19’s spread

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation at the legislature, Nov. 30, 2020. (B.C. government)
Hockey team brought COVID-19 back from Alberta, B.C. doctor says

Dr. Bonnie Henry pleads for out-of-province travel to stop

B.C. Premier John Horgan on a conference call with religious leaders from his B.C. legislature office, Nov. 18, 2020, informing them in-person church services are off until further notice. (B.C. government)
B.C. tourism relief coming soon, Premier John Horgan says

Industry leaders to report on their urgent needs next week

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

An RCMP cruiser looks on as a military search and rescue helicopter winds down near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
B.C. Mountie, suspect airlifted by Canadian Armed Forces from ravine after foot chase

Military aircraft were dispatched from Comox, B.C., say RCMP

Photo by Dale Klippenstein
Suspect tries to thwart police in Abbotsford with false 911 call about men with guns

Man twice sped away from officers and then tried to throw them off his trail

Most Read