Canada reintroduces bill on continuing education for judges, enhancing sexual assault survivors’ confidence

From: Department of Justice Canada

Today, the Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, reintroduced proposed changes to the Judges Act aimed at ensuring that all newly appointed provincial superior court judges participate in continuing education in sexual assault law and social context. The new Bill is identical to former Bill C-5 which was introduced on February 4, 2020 in the 1st session of the 43rd Parliament.

The Bill is aimed at enhancing confidence in the criminal justice system, particularly among survivors of sexual assault. 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. Importantly, the Bill reflects a former Private Member’s Bill introduced by the Honourable Rona Ambrose, Bill C-337, including the amendments adopted by the House of Commons providing for the inclusion of education on social context in addition to matters relating to sexual assault law. It also incorporates the amendments to Bill C-337 proposed 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.

The proposed legislation respects the principle of judicial independence, which is critical to public confidence and a core constitutional principle. Judicial independence requires judicial control over the training and education of judges and this is why the National Judicial Institute, which is internationally recognized for its work on judicial education, would provide the required training to the newly appointed judges.

Quotes

“We remain committed to addressing issues of violence against women, including sexual violence. For this reason, we have reintroduced proposed changes to the Judges Act and Criminal Code. I want to acknowledge the important work the judiciary is doing now on this issue, but it is essential to ensure public confidence in our criminal justice system. To that end, this legislation will help ensure that judges have the awareness, skills and knowledge of sexual assault law to deal with cases in a manner that is fair to the parties and free from myths and stereotypes. It will also help Judges understand the social context in which they hear all matters, and the factors that may affect individuals’ engagement with the 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. COVID-19 only adds greater urgency to our efforts. 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. The Government of Canada will continue to work toward 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

Quick facts

  • 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.

  • On February 4, 2020, former Bill C-5 An Act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code was introduced. Following the prorogation of Parliament in August 2020 and the opening of the new parliamentary session on September 23, 2020, proposed changes to the Judges Act were reintroduced today in the House of Commons.

  • The Government committed to reintroducing Private Member’s Bill C-337, which was passed 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.

/Public Release. The material in this public release comes from the originating organization and may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. View in full here.