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

The Williams Lake Stampede Association will crown a new queen, and potentially a princess, during the Williams Lake Stampede Royalty coronation on Saturday, June 26. Vying for the title are Miss Williams Lake Lions Kennady Dyck (from left), Miss Peterson Contracting Ltd. Karena Sokolan and Miss MH King Excavating Bayley Cail. (Photos submitted)
New Williams Lake Stampede Queen to be crowned June 26

“It was jump in right away all the way,” Wessels said of getting the program up and running

As the province moves to lift some COVID-19 restrictions, the city of Williams Lake will be opening up its city council meetings to the public, beginning June 22. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Public attendance on the agenda once again for Williams Lake city council meetings

Residents will be permitted to attend meetings in person beginning June 22

The Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society invites residents in 100 Mile House, Williams Lake and Quesnel to participate in “Free Your Things” taking place over the Father’s Day weekend. (Mary Forbes photo)
Cariboo Conservation Society co-ordinating “Free Your Things” Father’s Day weekend

Residents can sign up if they have items they want to give away

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

Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake Campus. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake high school teacher valedictorian for TRU virtual graduation ceremonies

Jonathan Harding is graduating with a master of education degree

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

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

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and Attorney General David Eby attend opening of the first government-run B.C. Cannabis Store, Kamloops, Oct. 19, 2018. (B.C. government)
B.C. government to allow home cannabis delivery starting July 15

Added convenience expected to persuade buyers to ‘go legal’

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
BC Green leader Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

B.C. Premier John Horgan leaves his office for a news conference in the legislature rose garden, June 3, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. premier roasted for office budget, taxing COVID-19 benefits

Youth addiction law that triggered election hasn’t appeared

Most Read