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After 4 years, bill requiring sexual assault training for new judges becomes law

Click to play video: 'MPs working across party lines to pass bill that aims for mandatory sexual assault law training for Canadian federal judges' MPs working across party lines to pass bill that aims for mandatory sexual assault law training for Canadian federal judges
WATCH: MPs working across party lines to pass bill that aims for mandatory sexual assault law training for Canadian federal judges – Feb 4, 2020

A long-awaited bill that would require prospective judges to undergo training in sexual assault law was finally adopted by the Senate Thursday, clearing the way for it to be officially added to the federal Judges Act and Criminal Code.

Bill C-3 quickly received royal assent after passing through third reading in the Senate. The bill officially became law once the Speaker of the House of Commons was informed shortly afterwards.

The bill, which will also require judges to commit to continued education in how systemic racism and discrimination factors into assault cases, unanimously passed the House last November.

Read more: Rona Ambrose’s judicial sex assault law training bill gets 2nd shot as Liberals retable

It began as a private members bill introduced in February 2017 by former interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose, which the Liberal government supported.

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The bill had made it all the way to the Senate in May 2017, but it was held up there for two years and ultimately failed to pass before the 2019 federal election.

Justice Minister David Lametti reintroduced it as a government bill in February 2020 with amendments that senators had proposed to Ambrose’s bill. But he then had to reintroduce it again last fall after Parliament was prorogued by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in late August.

Click to play video: 'Reintroduction of bill requiring sexual assault law training for judges to break down myths, stereotypes: Lametti' Reintroduction of bill requiring sexual assault law training for judges to break down myths, stereotypes: Lametti
Reintroduction of bill requiring sexual assault law training for judges to break down myths, stereotypes: Lametti – Feb 4, 2020

Lametti had urged the Senate in March to pass the bill quickly and avoid adding further amendments that he feared would doom the bill once again.

“This bill sends a clear message to all survivors of sexual assault, and to all Canadians,” Lametti said on Twitter after the bill passed the Senate.

“The justice system must serve you fairly and respectfully. Sexual assault cases will be heard without the influence of myths and prejudices.”

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He thanked Ambrose for her “support and cooperation” as the bill wound its way through Parliament.

The idea that judges need added training to hear sexual assault cases was driven by rulings that critics have said relied on stereotypes about victims of sexual abuse.

The bill would also require the Canadian Judicial Council to report on continuing education seminars offered on matters related to sexual assault law and social context.

It also amends the Criminal Code to require judges to put their reasons for decisions in sexual assault proceedings on the record.

— With files from the Canadian Press

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