When former interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose began her bid to require sexual assault law training for judges, it faced an uphill battle.
Despite unanimous support from the House of Commons, it was repeatedly stalled in the Senate and, as a private member’s bill, was among the lowest items on the list of business to be considered. It ultimately died in the Senate, with Ambrose pointing the finger at a “group of old boys” in that chamber.
But new legislation tabled on Tuesday will give the effort a second shot.
Liberal Justice Minister David Lametti reintroduced the bill in the House of Commons on Tuesday morning with slight amendments endorsed by Ambrose herself and said that because it is now a government bill rather than a private member’s bill, he hopes to see it taken more seriously.
“One of the arguments that was raised last time was that it was a private member’s bill and so certain senators thought that because it was a private member’s bill that it could go to the bottom of the pile,” said Lametti.
“Now it’s a government bill, and senators have an abiding obligation to treat government legislation expeditiously.”
Ambrose first introduced the bill, then known as C-337, in February 2017.
Three months later, it received rare unanimous support from all the parties in the House of Commons and did so repeatedly as it returned for subsequent required readings.
Things hit a snag, though, when it got to the Senate in May 2017.
Not until May 2019 did the Senate judicial affairs committee begin its study of the bill, but by the time they issued recommendations on June 3 — which Ambrose endorsed and which are included in the new version of the bill — the clock was running out on the final days of the 42nd Parliament.
It rose several weeks later, effectively sounding the death knell for the bill, and the final blow came when the election was formally called on Sept. 11, 2019.
The delays prompted outcry from advocates, though, and led to all four main parties at the time — the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP and the Greens — to include in their election platforms a vow to reintroduce the bill after the election.
Ambrose said she is encouraged by the support her effort has garnered and that it proves there can be issues that unite across partisan lines.
“Supporting victims of sexual assault and improving our justice system and building confidence in our justice system is one of those issues. From the very beginning, this has been about all the MPs in the House, no matter the stripe, putting partisanship aside,” she said.
“I think we’ve made the case that Canadians support this bill wholeheartedly … we’ll continue to make our case that this is necessary. There’s been a movement across this country, and we’ll continue to make our case to those who might not believe it’s necessary.”