Should Canadian judge lose job over naked photos posted online?

Toronto based attorney, Rocco Galati, left, leads his client, Alex Chapman, out of the Federal Court Building in Winnipeg. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Trevor Hagan

A Canadian woman stands to lose her job because someone shared naked photos of her without her knowledge or permission.

This may sound strange, especially in light of widespread condemnation of non-consensual dissemination of naked photos of such celebrities as Jennifer Lawrence, who slammed the act this week as “a sexual violation.”

But Manitoba judge Lori Douglas could be removed from the bench because her husband posted nude photos of her online.

Sexual harassment allegations, raised several years ago when Alex Chapman claimed the Douglas’s husband tried to get Chapman to have sex with her, have been dropped.

But Douglas will still have to fight to keep her job.

“The photos could be seen as inherently contrary to the image and concept of integrity of the judiciary,” states a complaint notice against her.

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“The confidence of individuals appearing before the judge, or of the public in its justice system, could be undermined.”

There are also allegations arguing she should have told the selection committee about the photos when she was being reviewed as a potential judge.

The Canadian Judicial Council inquiry panel reviewing Douglas’s case is a new one, the old panel having resigned en masse last year. There’s no date set yet for her hearing, which is supposed to begin next month.

“I find it appalling. This is really medieval, the logic you’re seeing here,” said Mary Anne Franks, a law professor who’s pioneered U.S. legislation criminalizing so-called “revenge porn” – when people, often former partners, publish intimate images of women (it’s almost always women) without their consent.

“That a woman who has been violated, who is in fact the victim of vicious behaviour, is actually being called to account for this behaviour – it’s got everything backwards. …

It’s saying, ‘Well, now you’re damaged goods and you should not be able to continue the job you’re otherwise extremely well qualified for.”

And amid consternation over the lack of women representation on the bench and in the House of Commons, cases like this hardly encourage young women to seek professional positions of prominence.

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“It’s one of the most disturbing cases I’ve heard of because of the implications it has,” Franks said. “The message that’s sending … is that everyone woman needs to be worried that something in her past, something awful someone’s done to her, could come back to hurt her so that she will not get to be the person she wants to be, professionally or in any other respect.

“How many potential judges, lawyers, activists, businesswomen, whoever, are being inhibited because they’re being told this message, that you are more likely to have someone do this terrible thing to you and you are more likely to have this come out into the public and be used to punish you?”

With a report from the Canadian Press

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