Joined: 16 Dec 2009
|Posted: Thu May 18, 2017 10:00 am Post subject: Making sex-assault training for Judges mandatory?
|Christie Blatchford: Bill to make sex-assault training for judges mandatory gets fast-tracked despite concerns
As it turns out, no one who counts, and so Rona Ambrose’s bill to make sexual assault training mandatory for new federal judges passed the House of Commons on Monday without a whimper.
First, Ms. Ambrose stood to announce that the bill had won all-party support at the committee level and asked the House, on behalf of her party and the NDP, to fast-track Bill C-337.
Then Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould announced that she, too, supported it, though she was careful to call it improved training for lawyers — lawyers, that is, who won’t get to the bench without it.
Then Sheila Malcolmson (NDP, Nanaimo-Ladysmith) rose to sing the bill’s praises: It seeks, she said, “to prevent any more of the terrible headlines we have seen in this country on how victims of sexual assault might be treated in the courts.”
Then Speaker Geoff Regan asked if she had unanimous consent, and just like that, the bill received third reading and was booted to the Senate, where it got first reading the next day and will get second reading Thursday.
The discussion, such as it was, happened at the Status of Women Committee, where representatives of the National Judicial Institute and the Canadian Judicial Council both expressed some concern with aspects of the bill, in particular the who-will-deliver aspect of the training and the yearly reporting of the number of judges who preside over sexual assault cases who haven’t received the training.
As Norman Sabourin, the CJC executive director, once told the committee, “Some people have called some of the provisions of the bill an attempt to have a ‘name and shame’ provision; and I think there could be a real issue with trying to identify which judges take which courses at which time, to then criticize their decisions on that basis.”
As Sabourin said, knowing that, say, a given court has seven judges who among them had a dozen acquittals for sexual assault doesn’t equate to there being “a problem at that court.”
It was also at the committee where a myriad of groups and individuals, representing victims of violence, shelters, the transgendered and indigenous women, got to say their piece.
On May 2, Karen Vecchio, a Conservative MP from London, Ont., was asking why these groups haven’t been part of the existing training (and yes, federal judges are already receiving what is called mandatory “social context” education).
Adele Kent, executive director of the NJI which delivers judicial education, replied that: “Some of those groups are advocates, and we can’t have advocates teaching our judges. We need the balance … One example is that when we have a prosecutor come to talk about something involving criminal law, we will always have someone from the defence bar. There needs to be balance.
“I understand that some of these advocates that you’ve heard from appear before the courts.
“We cannot have people who appear before judges in our training sessions, because the very next day a judge may walk in and have one of them in front of them.”
And Sabourin — the CJC funds the NJI — while quick to get aboard the “community involvement” train, also suggested that involvement might be in the development of the training, not the delivery.
Yet many of the groups that spoke at committee urged the members to let the experts — meaning themselves, of course, with their “lived experience” as it’s called — train the judges directly.
And Marc Giroux, who as the deputy commissioner of the Commission for Federal Judicial Affairs is effectively the guy in the hot seat because the bill specifies that wannabe judges have to his “satisfaction” demonstrate they’ve taken the necessary “recent and comprehensive” training, tried to suggest the committee change the wording around when the training is taken.
As it is, candidates for the bench must show they’ve got the special education before they’re appointed; that, said Giroux, is putting the cart before the horse. Better for the judge and the process that the training comes after the appointment.
Alas, in the end, the bill as passed with barely a nod to those who represented the judiciary.
And it specifies that the training that will be taken must be “education in sexual assault law that has been developed in consultation with sexual assault survivors, as well as with groups and organizations that support them …”
Even the language used in the legislation — and this is legislation that amends both the Judges Act and the Criminal Code — is the modern lexicon of sexual assault advocates, who almost universally prefer the term “survivor” to “victim.” That’s fine and good for them — they’re the advocates, after all — but not for the criminal justice system and the law. A criminal trial is between the state (thus “Regina”) and an accused person, period.
There is, or ought to be, a world of difference between the two worlds, the chasm best illustrated by what one of the advocates who addressed the committee said on April 13.
Jackie Stevens, who is with the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre in Halifax, was talking about the lack of faith in the justice process when she said, “… there is a perception that the rights of the accused are more important than the rights of victims …”
Well, that’s a perception good and true, and woe is the justice system that meddles with it and panders to those who would alter the balance.
So much for the so-called 'independence of the Courts! Now they will be 'trained' by graduates of the Women's Studies programs at universities, the same people who think women can do anything men can do, but don't see why they shouldn't have a right to extra help whenever they see an opportunity for the Law to make it easier for women.
Oh, Rona, nothing shamed you in politics as much as the way you left it.