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

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said growing COVID-19 case numbers continue to be a concern in the province. (Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta announces 1,077 new COVID-19 cases Thursday

There are currently 14,052 active cases in the province

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said the 500 deaths from COVID-19 in the province are a tragic milestone. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta hits ‘tragic milestone’ with more COVID-19 deaths

Province up to 500 COVID-19 deaths, adds 1,265 cases

Photo Submitted
Sylvan Lake Grade 2 students in Holiday Healing Campaign

Students in Nicole Eleniak’s class worked to share love and joy with other children this holiday

Kyle Charles poses for a photo in Edmonton on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Marvel Entertainment, the biggest comic book publisher in the world, hired the 34-year-old First Nations illustrator as one of the artists involved in Marvel Voice: Indigenous Voices #1 in August. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
VIDEO: Indigenous illustrator of new Marvel comic hopes Aboriginal women feel inspired

Kyle Charles says Indigenous women around the world have reached out

The Red Deer Games Foundation has made changes to its grant program as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo supplied)
Red Deer Games Foundation adjusts grant program due to COVID-19 pandemic

The foundation postponed the spring 2020 grant program due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty to a mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque, arrives at the courthouse in Quebec City on February 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mathieu Belanger - POOL
Court strikes down consecutive life sentences; mosque shooter has prison term cut

The decision was appealed by both the defence and the Crown

Gold medallists in the ice dance, free dance figure skating Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, of Canada, pose during their medals ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Charlie Riedel
Olympic champions Virtue, Moir and Tewksbury among 114 Order of Canada inductees

Moir and Virtue catapulted to national stardom with their gold-medal performances at the Winter Olympics in 2018

Shoppers line up in front of a shop on Montreal’s Saint-Catherine Street in search of Black Friday deals in Montreal, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Black Friday shopping in a pandemic: COVID-19 closes some stores, sales move online

Eric Morris, head of retail at Google Canada, says e-commerce in Canada has doubled during the pandemic.

skip2
Rimbey Christian School students experience the joy of giving

Grades three and four students raised $2,000 for Somalian children

File Photo
Sylvan Lake Town Council asks for a mask bylaw to be brought forward for consideration

The bylaw would require face coverings in all indoor Town-owned and operated facilities

The corporate headquarters of Pfizer Canada are seen in Montreal, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. The chief medical adviser at Health Canada says Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine could be approved in Canada next month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Health Canada expects first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved next month

Canada has a purchase deal to buy at least 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine,

Most Read