Today, the Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, introduced An Act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code, which would ensure that all newly appointed provincial superior court judges undergo training in sexual assault law and social context, and that the Canadian Judicial Council reports on the participation of all sitting superior court judges in sexual assault law education.
The Bill is aimed at enhancing public confidence and sexual assault survivors’ confidence in the criminal justice system. The goal is to ensure judges hearing sexual assault matters will have the necessary training to fairly and properly decide matters, without the influence of myths and stereotypes. The Bill also proposes to enhance the transparency of decisions by requiring judges to provide written reasons, or to enter them into the record, when deciding sexual assault matters.
The Bill is consistent with former Private Member’s Bill C-337, which was introduced during the previous parliamentary session by the Honourable Rona Ambrose in her capacity as the member for Sturgeon River-Parkland. Importantly, the current Bill reflects the amendments adopted by the House of Commons regarding the inclusion of education on social context in addition to training on sexual assault. It also incorporates the amendments put forward by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. Bill C-337 was adopted unanimously in the House of Commons, but had not been passed by the Senate at the dissolution of the 42nd Parliament.
“Canadians expect that judges have the necessary training to understand the complex nature of sexual assault and the myths that too often surround them. They also expect their leaders to work across party lines to bring about change. I am pleased to put forward new legislation today, based on a private member’s bill put forward by the Honourable Rona Ambrose. This Bill will also help ensure that judges participate in broader training on social context, including social or cultural factors that may affect individuals’ engagement with the justice system. I hope this will help foster greater confidence of survivors, and the broader Canadian public, in our justice system.”
The Honourable David Lametti, P.C., Q.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
“Too few survivors feel confident coming forward and of those who do, only a small fraction result in a conviction. Canadians expect better. This legislation will help ensure that our legal and justice systems treat survivors of sexual assault with greater dignity and respect. Every step our government has taken to address and prevent sexual violence and gender based violence has been informed by survivors and their families. We thank you for your courage. This bill is also an example of how a minority parliament can move beyond partisanship to create a future where no one has to say ‘me too’.”
The Honourable Maryam Monsef, P.C., M.P.
Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development
The Criminal Code prohibits all non-consensual sexual activity, provides a clear definition of consent, identifies when consent cannot be obtained, and sets out rules for the admissibility of certain types of evidence to deter the introduction of discriminatory myths and stereotypes about how survivors of sexual assault are expected to behave.
At the end of the 42nd Parliament, the Government committed to reintroducing Private Member’s Bill C-337, which was adopted unanimously in the House of Commons. This Bill echoes that Private Member’s Bill.
In Budget 2017, the Government provided the Canadian Judicial Council with $2.7 million over five years, and $0.5 million per year thereafter, to ensure that more judges have access to professional development, with a greater focus on gender and culturally-sensitive training.
Social context education is designed to teach awareness and skills for judges to ensure that all people who come into the courtroom are treated respectfully, fairly and equally.