The federal Liberals will re-introduce a bill set to die in the Senate that sought to mandate judicial sexual assault law training if they are re-elected this fall.
Global News has confirmed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‘s government is committed to tabling a bill that would make it necessary for judges to undergo training on sexual assault if the Liberals are returned to government in the October election.
The pledge comes as a private member’s bill seeking to mandate the training, put forward by former interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose, is set to die in the Senate after being stalled by Conservative senators despite passing the House of Commons unanimously in 2017.
“We need to ensure that survivors of sexual assault are treated with respect and dignity, and we believe judges should have access to sexual assault training – that is why our government supports and voted in favour of Bill C-337,” said Rachel Rappaport, press secretary for Justice Minister David Lametti.
“We are fully committed to introducing this legislation if re-elected. It would build on our investments and strengthening of training for the judiciary.”
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Ambrose introduced C-337 in February 2017 after it emerged that an Alberta judge, Robin Camp, had asked a rape complainant in 2014 why she couldn’t just keep her “knees together.” The accused was acquitted at a retrial in January 2017 but the comment prompted national outrage when it came to light.
Camp resigned from the Federal Court, to which he had been appointed in the intervening years, in March 2018 after the Canadian Judicial Council recommended he be removed.
But he won back the right to practice as a lawyer — but not a judge — in Alberta later that same year.
Ambrose has been vocal in her criticism of the Senate, where her bill has languished for more than a year, first being passed over for review by the Senate judicial committee and then being blocked by procedural tactics the Conservatives have deployed in recent weeks to bar private members’ bills from reaching the floor of the Senate for official debate.
She repeatedly pointed the finger at a “group of old boys” in the Senate that were delaying the bill.
“I know for a fact that there are people in the Senate, literally a group of old boys who want to protect another group of old boys and this has got to stop,” she said in an interview with CTV’s Power Play in April 2019.
On Thursday, after it became clear her bill would not pass the Senate before the end of the session, Ambrose tweeted that she was heartbroken to see the chamber let down victims of sexual assault.
That came after she slammed a group of senators on Tuesday for making “a backroom deal” to kill her bill.
“Canadians rightfully expect more from Parliament – victims of sexual assault deserve representatives who will stand up for them – especially when they don’t have a voice in the fight,” she said in a tweet.
“It’s shameful that powerful Senators lack the will to stand up for victims of sexual crimes.”