OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) – The Liberal government has re-introduced a bill designed to strengthen training requirements for judges handling sexual assault cases.
It is consistent with a bill introduced in 2017 and spearheaded by former interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose, which passed the House of Commons but didn’t receive Royal Assent.
On Tuesday, Minister of Justice and Attorney General David Lametti said Bill C5, as it is now called, will “provide [judges] with important insight into the myths and stereotypes that too often surround sexual assault.”
“Indeed, in this day and age, it is critical that all of us who serve the public are equipped with the right tools and understanding to ensure that everyone is treated with the respect and dignity that they deserve,” he said, adding this step will help enhance the confidence both the public and sexual assault survivors have in the Canadian justice system.
The federal government said the aim is to ensure judges presiding over sexual assault cases will be able to make fair and proper decisions.
Lametti and Ambrose both said there are some issues that “are just above politics.”
“I want to thank Justice Minister Lametti for introducing this bill. He’s a Liberal justice minister who is re-introducing a bill that was introduced originally by a Conservative Party member — myself — a private member’s bill co-sponsored, in fact, by Thomas Mulcair, a former leader of the NDP, and included in the election platforms of the Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Party Leader, at the time, Elizabeth May,” Ambrose said.
She recalled watching sexual assault and abuse court cases be tried, during her time working on a project in university. Ambrose said there was a “striking” discrepancy between what the law looked like on paper and what it looked like in practice.
“That project actually led to recommendations that all judges should receive mandatory sexual assault law training,” she explained, adding that despite the recommendation training is still not happening today.
“Today, one-in-three Canadian women will experience sexual violence in their lifetime but only one-in-10 will actually report it to police and even less, of course, will ever make it to trial,” Ambrose said on Tuesday.
She noted the statistics are also grim for Indigenous women who she said are five times more likely to experience sexual violence.
“When you put all those stats together, what it says is 95 per cent of women who experience sexual violence are silent,” Ambrose said. “When you ask them why they don’t report, what they say is that they have no confidence in the justice system.”
The new bill is only a small part of a bigger push to build that missing trust, Ambrose said.