Judicial Accountability through Sexual Assault Law Training Act

An Act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code (sexual assault)

This bill was last introduced in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2019.


Rona Ambrose  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


Considering committee report (Senate), as of June 5, 2019
(This bill did not become law.)


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Judges Act to restrict eligibility for judicial appointment to individuals who have completed comprehensive education in respect of matters related to sexual assault law and social context. It also requires the Canadian Judicial Council to report on continuing education seminars in matters related to sexual assault law. Furthermore, it amends the Criminal Code to require that reasons provided by a judge in sexual assault decisions be entered in the record of the proceedings or be in writing.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

November 16th, 2020 / 6:40 p.m.
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Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to be here this evening. First, I would like to commend and thank my colleague from Peace River—Westlock for his excellent speech. I was impressed by the pipeline construction I saw when I had the opportunity and the pleasure to visit his riding. Perhaps we could find a new use for pipelines. We could send maple syrup from the beautiful riding of Mégantic—L'Érable to his riding via pipeline in the spring and then Mégantic—L'Érable could get delicious honey from his riding the same way in the fall. That would be an excellent opportunity for trade between our two ridings.

It is with honour and enthusiasm that I rise today at third reading of Bill C-3, which is also known as the just act. I hope it will help women who are victims of sexual assault to regain some trust in the justice system and encourage them to come forward when they are assaulted.

I would like to remind members that this is the third time that the House has tried to pass the just act. We must give its original author, the Hon. Rona Ambrose, all the credit for bringing before the House the serious issue of the lack of training of some judges who hear sexual assault cases.

When introducing the just bill, which was private member's Bill C-337 at the time, my hon. colleague Ms. Ambrose said:

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to stand in the House to introduce a bill to address the need to build more confidence in our judicial system when it comes to the handling of cases involving sexual assault and sexual violence. Too often, those involved in these cases come away with the feeling they have experienced not just a judgment on their case but a judgment on their character.

On another occasion, she gave more detail to explain why women are afraid to file a complaint. She talked about what survivors go through in the justice system and the repercussions it has on them:

We have people who have backgrounds in corporate law, and oil and gas law who are overseeing some of these trials. That's not good enough. They need to have the training in criminal law and particularly in these kinds of cases, I believe. We know from research that's conclusive now that these kinds of crimes and this kind of trauma, especially at a young age, have a massive impact on girls and women. We know that women who experience violence are at least twice as likely to suffer from mental health issues, and they deal with these issues for the rest of their lives.

Clearly, the justice system is frightening for women who are victims of sexual assault. The statistics are clear: too few women report the assault, even fewer go to trial, and an infinitely small number of those trials end in convictions.

As I mentioned in my speech at second reading of Bill C-3, the numbers do not lie: 83% of sexual assaults go unreported. Of the remaining 17% of cases, one in five gets dropped, while the other four are subjected to intense scrutiny, leaving the victims caught in the middle of a difficult and stressful process that unfortunately has only a small chance of success. In three out of four cases, the proceedings are stayed, and just one in five will go to court. One in 10 cases ends in a conviction resulting in a fine or jail time.

Can we seriously ask women who are victims of sexual assault, especially women from disadvantaged, racialized or indigenous communities, to trust a system that finds it so difficult to recognize the crimes committed against them and punish those responsible?

Let me talk about a study I read. The topic of this action research study was “Female victims of violence and the criminal justice system: experiences, obstacles and potential solutions”. This study was conducted by several groups in Quebec and uncovered several reasons for this harsh reality.

The women interviewed for this study revealed the reasons they were fearful of the justice system. These include a lack of trust and the fear of not being believed; the perception that the safety of victims cannot be guaranteed throughout the process; and the influence of comments made by justice system stakeholders and the women's friends and families, who, according to studies, express doubts about the women's ability to navigate the justice system.

From the outset, the women are clearly told that they may not be able to see the process through and that it will be very difficult. In short, many obstacles are placed in their way from the beginning.

Some of the other reasons that came up include the need to take care of themselves first and to manage everyday life in the wake of sexual violence; the anticipation of the consequences of the legal process on the women and those around them; a lack of information on the legal process; and the fact that women know that assailants or perpetrators of sexual violence will get fairly lenient sentences.

The study went even further. Women who had gone through the justice system spoke about the obstacles and issues they had faced, such as the dearth of knowledge about female victims of violence; the continued existence of bias; being made to feel guilty by people within the justice system; the feeling that violence against women is minimized because of the very common legal procedure of sentence bargaining, during which the Crown and the defence negotiate sentencing; a perception that the accused has more rights than the victim; and lengthy delays.

I encourage my colleagues to read this study. They can contact my office or just google it. This study helped me better understand what women face after experiencing sexual violence.

Bill C-3 is not a magic wand that will change everything all at once, nor will it single-handedly change the statistics, but I think judges are the cornerstone of our justice system. Canadian judges must have all the tools they need to deal with every possible situation. If we give judges access to sexual violence training and require new judges to take the training, the entire justice system will clearly be better off. I sincerely believe it is high time Canada took action on this issue.

To ensure a better understanding of sexual assault cases, a new law concerning judges' education just came into force in August 2020. Judges will be required to attend specific training provided by a judicial training institute. Amnesty International and SOS Viol, a victim support organization, have called this a major victory, saying: “This new law is a positive and important step in the right direction. It addresses one of our main concerns in the fight against rape and sexual violence in Belgium: the many gaps in the training of those on the front lines, particularly in the judiciary.”

In France, the training course on sexual violence created in 2016 is five days long and addresses relevant issues pertaining to this specific type of violence.

In England and Wales, a tracking system was implemented that requires Crown Court judges to take a specialized training course before being able to hear sexual violence cases.

After all these years of waiting and all of the opportunities that we have had to pass Ms. Ambrose's bill, it is time to finally take action and pass this bill so that it becomes a reality.

However, I heard the questions that were raised throughout today's debate and I know that this bill will apply only to judges appointed by the federal government.

Although it is an area of provincial jurisdiction, I want to say a few words about training for Quebec court judges because they are responsible for the majority of the province's sexual violence cases. The Quebec Court has a six-page training program, which provides a very good summary. The Quebec Court and the Quebec Judicial Council are responsible for this continuing education, which is an ethical obligation for these two institutions.

The Judicial Code of Ethics states that judges have an ethical obligation to acquire and foster the knowledge and skills they need to carry out their judicial functions. However, I had to read through until the fourth page of the document to learn that the Court of Quebec is working on a special project to give judges specialized training on preparing rulings. However, there is no mention of training on sexual violence there.

The very last page mentions training on the rule of law and also on the society in which these rules are applied. I quote:

With respect to sexual offences, the training deals primarily with the evolution of jurisprudence and legislation regarding the notion of “consent”, the admissibility of means of defence and the tests for ensuring that myths or stereotypes do not influence the assessment of the credibility of complainants.

Once again, the training is not mandatory—

Judges ActGovernment Orders

November 16th, 2020 / 3:55 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to continue the comments I started this morning with respect to a very important piece of legislation. One only needs to look at the bill number to get a sense of why this has been a priority for the government. Survivors of sexual assault need to be treated with respect and dignity. To me, this encapsulates why it is so important we see this legislation ultimately passed.

It is not the first time we have had this debate in the House of Commons. In the last Parliament we had a member from the Conservative Party introduce Bill C-337. There has been a bit of modification from what it is right now, but in essence it is the same bill. It was the former interim leader of the Conservative Party, Rona Ambrose, who brought it forward to the House. At the time, one could talk and reflect with respect to what was happening, but the bottom line is that we saw support from all sides of the House. It was quite encouraging. Members might remember that in the last Parliament it did not take long for that particular private member's bill to hit the floor of the House of Commons and receive the unanimous support of all members of the House.

Ultimately, it passed through the different stages in the House. Unfortunately, once it got into the Senate it kind of got stuck. As opposed to getting into the politics of why it got stuck, the bottom line is it never passed through the Senate. Members on all sides of the House were somewhat disappointed it never got the support required to get out of the Senate, to the degree that members from within my own political party, prior to the last federal election, incorporated the idea into our actual platform. Therefore, it did not matter what area of the country one was in: Liberal candidates were aware of the platform and campaigned on the issue, recognizing, as I stated when I started my comments, that survivors of sexual assault need to be treated with respect and dignity. That is something I believe is universally accepted among all members of the House, both today and in the last Parliament.

Not that long ago, the bill went through second reading in the House of Commons once again. What was encouraging is I believe there was an intent to have a recorded vote because we wanted to be able to demonstrate very clearly that all members of the House of Commons, no matter what political party they belonged to or if they were sitting as independents, supported this very important piece of legislation. It was very encouraging to see that.

If we look at the minister responsible for bringing Bill C-3 to the House, we find that it was part of his mandate letter. The Prime Minister started a process a number of years ago, when issuing mandate letters to ministers, that they would become public in time. If we look at the mandate letter of this particular minister, we will see that it is there and is one of the reasons why we are again seeing it as a priority issue going forward.

During second reading, or even in the last Parliament, one of the things I noted in many of the comments from members, from the official opposition and others, was that they were focusing on comments that were made by judges.

I think the public as a whole would be surprised at the degree to which some of those comments were made. It demonstrated a clear lack of respect. The impact it had on women who have gone through these brutal incidents was quite significant. One did not even have to be subjected to a physical sexual assault in order to appreciate that those comments, in certain situations, were highly inappropriate.

It is an interesting system we have in Canada. We understand the importance of the rule of law. We understand the importance of an independent judiciary system. That is why the manner in which this legislation was brought through was very important, and ultimately what is within the legislation clearly respects judicial independence. For those who might have concerns in regard to that, I would refer them to look at the Debates on the floor of the House or at the discussions that have taken place in our standing committees. There are hours and hours of discussion and debate, and they will find that there is recognition of the importance of judicial independence. It is something I too respect, as I know all members of the House respect.

I listened in terms of the core of this legislation and what it would do. It would ensure that there is better understanding of and insight into the myths and stereotypes around the issue of sexual assault. The bill incorporates that into something that would allow for educational training of judges prior to their appointment. It would ensure that there is a higher sense of accountability on the issue of sensitivity training for new judges.

When I look across the way or have had the opportunity to talk with many people in regard to this, the support has been virtually unanimous. I cannot recall having had one person say to me that the legislation should not be supported. We should all be encouraged by that. I have had some people provide additional comments on things that we could be doing. I have had some people raise the issue of things such as judicial independence, and I attempted to deal with that particular issue in my comments. I do believe that this training would be of great benefit to our community as a whole.

This is not the first time that the federal government has demonstrated an interest in doing something with respect to this issue. In the 2017 budget, there was a budget allocation to encourage judges to have more access to professional development. It was a multi-million dollar commitment that would see judges have more professional development. That is something that is encouraged in many different professions.

It is important to recognize that the Canadian Judicial Council plays a critical role in ensuring that the professional development does at least occur in part. Through that council, my understanding is that we will receive an annual report to reflect on the legislation that we are passing, again providing a higher sense of accountability.

Through this debate we heard other members talk about other potential areas of concern. Systemic racism is a very real issue. Many of my constituents have raised the issue. I have had numerous emails not only from Winnipeg North but outside of the constituency that I represent, trying to emphasize the issue of systemic racism. We possibly may see something more tangible come from that. This is where the Canadian Judicial Council plays a very important role.

Often we find a very high bar that the public has for our judicial system, where our judges are held in high esteem and respected for the fine work that they do. However, all of us at different points in time can look at ways in which we can enhance our skills and knowledge, and professional development opportunities are an excellent way of doing that. That is why I was glad that not only do we have a government that recognized a good idea when it saw it a couple of years ago in regard to Bill C-337 from Ms. Ambrose, but we moved forward on that idea and brought it back in the form of legislation. We are also investing financial resources to encourage that professional development.

The Conservative member for Calgary Midnapore spoke earlier today at great length in regard to Rona Ambrose and how she was inspired by her. She went on to talk about other Conservative members and some of their accomplishments. It is important to recognize that in our history here in the House of Commons and beyond, there have been some incredible, strong women who have provided inspiration to many, both young men and women alike.

One can talk about some of our current ministers as the member across the way talked about some of her caucus colleagues that were before her. I think of the Minister of Finance and the important role she has in taking us through the pandemic, not to mention the overall finances of our nation. I could talk about leadership from other ministers in dealing with issues such as disability programs.

In my question for the member for Calgary Midnapore I talked about my daughter Cindy. Cindy learned about what we are doing here in Ottawa on this issue, and she right away jumped on it and said that this is something they should be doing in the province, without me even having to say anything. She raises it in such a way that hopefully we will see this type of legislation brought to the Manitoba legislature.

Other provincial jurisdictions, as some of my colleagues here have mentioned, such as the Province of Ontario and, I believe, Nova Scotia or New Brunswick, one of the Atlantic provinces, have also brought in legislation of a similar nature. It is important that we look at ways in which we can see an expansion, because not all judges are federal appointments. In order to have the policy be even more effective, it would be nice to see more provinces across Canada support it in the same fashion that we have seen here in Ottawa, where we have all parties getting behind the legislation and supporting it. In my books, this piece of legislation is a no-brainer. Everyone should be supporting it.

As I would encourage my daughter to move forward on this idea and I would encourage the Province of Manitoba, I would go beyond that. I would encourage all provincial jurisdictions to look at what it is we are hoping to pass in Ottawa, and I think that it would be that much stronger if we saw provinces and territories move in the same direction.

November 16th, 2020 / 12:05 p.m.
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Parkdale—High Park Ontario


Arif Virani LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice in support of moving Bill C-3 to the next stage of review.

I wanted to start by recognizing the work of my colleagues on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in conducting the clause-by-clause study of Bill C-3 in an expeditious and efficient manner so this important bill can continue to move forward. The version we have before the House today reflects a number of amendments that were adopted by the justice committee, and I will speak to those amendments in due course.

At the outset, I would like to acknowledge the important work that was done on a previous iteration of this bill during the 42nd Parliament by Ms. Rona Ambrose, the then interim leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. She presented this bill as a private member's bill, which gathered support of all members of Parliament and proceeded expeditiously through the House of Commons at that time.

It is unfortunate that it was not able to be passed in the 42nd Parliament and, as a result, has ended up before this current Parliament. In light of our belief in and support of this bill, we committed to tabling this legislation as government legislation, which is what we have done. We have seen it through now to this third reading debate.

The end goal of Bill C-3 is to bolster public confidence, particularly among survivors of sexual assault, that our criminal justice system will treat all individuals fairly. This fundamental objective was unanimously agreed to at second reading by the members, with a number of them speaking about painful personal experiences or their work with survivors of sexual assault.

These important statements bear witness to the fact that the sexual assault of women remains a scourge that is an affront to our society's reputation. It is a thorny and pervasive problem that every member of society must take seriously and that requires us to commit to making changes.

The bill, importantly, is not a panacea to this complex problem. However, Bill C-3 represents a small but important step toward transforming our justice system into one in which survivors of sexual assault are treated with dignity and respect at all stages of the justice system process.

I strongly believe that as parliamentarians it behooves us to take whatever steps we can to move toward a fairer, more just and more accessible criminal justice system. If passed, the bill will enhance public confidence. It will demonstrate to survivors of sexual assault and to all Canadians Parliament's commitment to ensure they are treated fairly and with dignity and respect, and that the proceeding will be decided in accordance with the legal framework provided by Parliament, not influenced by misguided or outdated myths or stereotypes.

To this end, Bill C-3 proposes three key measures relating to judicial education and one relating to the Criminal Code of Canada. Let me outline these provisions.

First, the Judges Act would be amended to require that to be eligible to be appointed to a provincial superior court, candidates must commit to participate, following their appointment, in education on matters relating to sexual assault law and social context. It is important, and I want to open a parenthesis here, that we are dealing as a federal Parliament with judges that are within federal jurisdiction. The bill does not purport to direct, indicate or outline aspects of judges who are nominated by provincial attorneys general and provincial governments in provincial courts.

This remains an important point. The notion of sexual assault law and awareness of social context is important for all judges. However, we are committed to leading by example on this important legislation and also continuing to work at federal, provincial and territorial tables to ensure the concept of the importance of this kind of sensitization is imparted upon judges at all levels within Canada and by all provinces.

The second point is that Bill C-3 would amend the Judges Act to provide that sexual assault and social context training established by the Canadian Judicial Council be developed after consultation with survivors, the groups that support them or with other groups and individuals who the council considers appropriate.

The third key element in Bill C-3, touching on judicial education, is the provision that would seek to have the Canadian Judicial Council provide an annual report to the Minister of Justice, for tabling in Parliament, containing details relating to the judicial education offered. This is intended to enhance accountability in the education of sitting judges on these matters and act as an incentive to encourage their participation.

The final element in Bill C-3 is an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada that would require judges to provide reasons in writing or on the record of proceedings for their decision in sexual assault matters. This provision would help to prevent the misapplication of sexual assault law. It would also help to improve the transparency of sexual assault decisions, because recorded and written decisions can be reviewed. We heard about this extensively during the course of the two iterations of the bill and in the various committee studies. Not only must justice be done but it must be seen to be done, and a record of the proceedings and reasons provided help ensure this critical objective is obtained.

Taken together, these amendments would increase the confidence of the public and survivors in our criminal justice system's ability to handle sexual assault matters in a fair and respectful manner, by treating the victims with dignity and, above all, by respecting the law that has been carefully designed to that end.

Just as importantly, the bill will send Canadians, especially survivors of sexual assault, the message that Parliament is committed and ready to take action so that all Canadians, especially the most vulnerable, can have confidence in our justice system.

With this outline in mind, I would like to now turn to the amendments adopted at committee, which I am very happy to say our government is pleased to support.

The first key amendment made by the committee was to include the terms “systemic racism” and “systemic discrimination” within the idea of social context. Colleagues will recall that in 2017, in its consideration of Bill C-337, the private member's bill by Ms. Rona Ambrose which I mentioned at the outset, our government proposed an amendment in the House of Commons to include social context education within the scope of that bill in the 42nd Parliament. That amendment ended up being passed unanimously by the House of Commons.

Adding social context to the judicial education provisions of the old Bill C-337 was considered essential to ensuring that important institutions like the judiciary be able to respond to the realities, needs and concerns of all Canadians. This was intended as explicit recognition that knowledge of substantive law was insufficient on its own. Individuals aspiring to appointment to Canada's superior courts must also be willing to undergo continued education following their appointment to ensure they are sensitive to and informed about the evolving nature of Canadian society, particularly marginalized and vulnerable groups. The language that was chosen was very deliberately drafted to be as encompassing as possible without going down a path of enumerating certain concepts, classes, groups or demographics, which could open up parliamentarians to the possibility of having unwittingly or, indeed, inadvertently excluded some persons or groups.

This is not an idle concern. As I noted earlier, it is imperative that all Canadians see themselves in the institutions that are created to serve them and support our democracy. It is our role as parliamentarians to ensure this when considering legislation. I also fully expect that this issue will receive careful consideration in the Senate. I look forward to hearing the views of all Canadians and stakeholders to ensure we meet the expectations of Canadians and get this accurate.

It is important to outline for the members of the House that Canada's superior court judiciary was one of the first in the world to insist on the importance of integrating awareness of social context into all its substantive programming. Going back to 2018, the Canadian Judicial Council explicitly mandated that the professional development of judges include awareness of the social context in which they performed their functions.

I will quote from the Canadian Judicial Council's professional development policies and guidelines, which can be found on the council's website. The document states:

Judges must ensure that personal or societal biases, myths and stereotypes do not influence judicial decision-making. This requires awareness and knowledge of the realities of individuals who appear in court, including an understanding of circumstances related to gender, race, ethnicity, religion, culture, sexual orientation, differing mental or physical abilities, age, socio-economic background, children and family violence.

This being said, the bill is a nuanced bill and an important one. We need to be careful in our approach. I say this because judicial independence is constitutionally protected. If I am allowed to digress a moment, this is an area in which I spent a large amount of my practice litigating in the 15 years I spent as a constitutional lawyer prior to entering Parliament.

Judicial independence is sacrosanct in any westernized democracy. It contains tenets that are obvious but often go unstated. We cannot influence the financial security of members of the bench. We cannot influence their tenure or seek to remove them of their tenure as a way of exercising influence. We also cannot, as a third hallmark of judicial independence, affect their administrative independence. A tangible example would be the government inserting itself in electing which judges hear what types of cases. That would clearly be offside our notion of democracy, but also offside the charter and the Constitution Act, 1867.

The administrative component of judicial independence requires judicial control over the training and education of judges. This ensures that judges in our country are not, and are not perceived to be, subject to arbitrary interference or influence in their decision-making. This is a critical concept, and that is why it is entrenched in the Constitution.

Bill C-3 and its predecessor, Bill C-5, were carefully drafted to ensure ultimate judicial control over judicial education.

I will turn to the amendment that was proposed, expressing Parliament's view that systemic racism and systemic discrimination are included within the idea of social context does not upset this very careful balance. The judiciary would still retain the direction and delivery of judicial education in a manner that fully respects judicial independence. At the same time, Parliament is able to fulfill Canadians' expectations that it has a role in addressing issues of pressing public importance. The issues of systemic racism and systemic discrimination are long standing, particularly with respect to our justice system. However, it goes without saying that public awareness of these concepts has clearly come to the fore during this pandemic.

I want to outline two specific instances and thank two specific members who participated in those committee proceedings: the member for Hull—Aylmer and the member for Sydney—Victoria. They talked eloquently about the pernicious aspects of systemic racism and systemic discrimination vis-à-vis Black people and indigenous people in Canada. I salute them for their work in with respect to the Black caucus and the indigenous caucus, but also for their contributions at the committee by suggesting amendments that are very targeted but very necessary in expanding out the idea of what social context includes.

I will now turn to the next set of amendments that were proposed by members of the third party, the Bloc Québécois. Members will note that some of the provisions have been slightly altered. For example, the word “shall” has been changed to “should” in certain contexts. Minor changes have also been made in relation to other provisions. These amendments were intended to address the possible perception that Parliament, in potentially enacting Bill C-3, could be purporting to direct the judiciary in respect of judicial education. While this perception, in my view, is improbable, our government is prepared to support these amendments out of an abundance of caution.

At this point, I want to briefly bring the attention of members to the government motion to amend Bill C-3 at the report stage to correct an unintended inconsistency between the English and the French versions of the amendments proposed by the Bloc members. These amendments are clearly necessary and uncontroversial, and I would expect all hon. members to vote to support them to ensure the amendments intended by the committee are reflected in both our official languages.

Again, the principle of judicial independence cannot be overstated. As I have emphasized, Parliament's efforts to bolster public confidence in our justice system cannot at the same time undermine this constitutionally protected principle. I fully expect that our esteemed colleagues in the Senate will likewise give this issue their careful attention, and I look forward to that for two reasons: first, because a vigorous public debate is essential to a healthy democracy; and, second, because in this instance such a debate will, in and of itself, serve to reassure the public of the strength of judicial independence in the country and the regard that our Parliament has for this important constitutional principle.

We are very fortunate in Canada to have one of the most, if not the most, robustly independent and highly regarded judiciaries in the world. This is in no small part due to the availability of the excellent publicly funded but judicially controlled continuing education to which the superior court judiciary has access.

Members heard me refer to some of the contours of what that education looked like as of 2018. This is a step in the same vein and direction to ensuring that education continues to be robust and indeed among the best standards, literally on the planet, for the judiciary in a westernized democracy.

I also applaud those parliamentarians before us who had the foresight to embed the availability of funding for judicial education in the Judges Act, and the Canadian Judicial Council for its leadership in recognizing that professional development and lifelong learning are critical to ensuring a judiciary that is well educated, professional and, indeed critically, independent.

The commitment of the Canadian Judicial Council to excellent continuing education is manifested in its professional development policies and guidelines, which I know explicitly recognize that the public rightfully expects judges to be competent and knowledgeable in the law. Bill C-3 seeks only to support and build on this notion and thereby move toward a better, more humane and more inclusive justice system.

I am going to conclude my remarks where I started: by acknowledging the challenges faced by survivors of sexual assault. Those challenges go well beyond the scope of the bill. We must recognize that in order to effect meaningful and substantial changes to the manner in which survivors of sexual assault are treated in our criminal justice system, every actor in the justice system, and every level of government, must take responsibility. That is what I referred to regarding the passage of the bill in the context of working with federal, provincial and territorial partners, and ensuring that the actions we may take through the bill, with respect to judges appointed to Superior Courts, are replicated in actions we may see, and hope to see, in provincial appointments to the bench.

It also goes without saying that the bill would not have had its genesis without the leadership of Ms. Rona Ambrose. It is important to note that when a member of the official opposition presents a bill that the government gets behind, it truly demonstrates the nonpartisan nature of what we are speaking about when we speak about sexual assault law, the importance of ensuring public confidence in our judiciary, social context, and confronting systemic racism and systemic discrimination. These concepts should never be partisan. I am thankful that in the context of the bill in its current iteration, partisanship has not entered into the discussion. This is representative of how important these concepts are for all of us as parliamentarians. I would urge all members to take the small but important next step to vote to move the bill into the next phase so that it can be addressed by the Senate. On that note, I conclude my remarks.

October 27th, 2020 / 12:50 p.m.
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Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I appreciate being able to speak to this at committee.

I was the vice-chair of the status of women committee when we studied Bill C-337 when it came to Parliament. I have a signed copy of that bill in my office.

I want to give a shout-out to Ms. Ambrose and to the members of the status of women committee, because we really did a lot of work collaboratively across party lines.

Whether to include written reasons was an issue we discussed at length. When the bill first came to us, we amended it to say that reasons, if they were not recorded, should be provided in writing. I wonder, Madam Chair, if I could read some of the submissions that we received in April of 2017.

Justice Kent, whom I know, appeared before the justice committee. In 2017, she said that if it “allows for audio recordings to be available, that makes a lot more sense.”

In 2017, we had the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime saying, “ensuring that new legislation does not cause further delays in the criminal justice system is important – something that should be considered with respect to the requirement for a written decision.”

Finally, in a submission from the Native Women's Association of Canada in 2017, they said, “While justice needs to be served as expeditiously as possible, judges should not unreasonably extend the incarceration of Aboriginal offenders while they await the conclusion of trials due to the necessity of written reasons. ... [Generally] Aboriginal offenders fail to be granted bail and are left incarcerated during their trials.”

Madam Chair, the Supreme Court, in R. v. Jordan, set time limits for the courts to give their decisions. While the spirit behind the member's amendment is worthy—and one that I know caused us a great deal of discussion when we were at the status of women committee—at the end of the day, I think it puts an undue burden on the judiciary and in fact could have a negative impact for survivors of sexual assault who want to see the reasons. The recordings are available. That was a concession that we made previously to ensure that there was something available for survivors to have access to.

I just wanted to give that context. While I can't vote, I would not be supporting it if I had the ability to vote. I think it isn't the right thing to be doing.

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

October 8th, 2020 / 4:25 p.m.
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Nelly Shin Conservative Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, as I give my first speech in this session of the 43rd Parliament, I would like to thank the amazing people in my riding of Port Moody—Coquitlam, Anmore and Belcarra for allowing me the privilege to stand here today. I want them to know that it is my joy and honour to serve them, especially during this unique and challenging time in Canadian history.

I am grateful to stand here in the House of Commons as a woman speaking on Bill C-3, legislation that I trust will mark one step forward in the healing and empowering of women and girls to thrive and beautify the world with their vision, wisdom and love. I would like to thank the Hon. Rona Ambrose, former interim leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and the official opposition. She originally introduced it as Bill C-337 on February 27, 2017. I am encouraged to see this legislation adopted by the Liberal government earlier this year as Bill C-5 and reintroduced in this session as Bill C-3. I am happy to see many members contribute their ideas, thoughts and feelings during the course of debate on the bill.

One in three women around the world is victim to physical or sexual violence. In Canada, young women aged 15 to 24 years have the highest rate of sexual assaults, 71 incidents for every population of 1,000. The impact of COVID-19 has created an environment of an increase in violence against women and girls, but I know there is hope because of counsellors, social workers and community outreach programs on the front lines across Canada that provide a safe oasis for vulnerable and victimized women.

On that note, I would like to thank Tri-City Transitions, a shelter for domestically abused women and children in my community. The unconditional love and caring work of women like Carol Metz and her counsellors help the women in my community find hope to heal and the courage to break free from the cycles of abuse and violence.

I am also grateful for the tireless work of champions like Mary O'Neill and recovery programs like Talitha Koum that provide caring mentorship to help women reclaim their lives, not only from addiction but many times the trauma behind their substance abuse. I thank them for being beacons of hope to women who are hiding in the shadows of fear, broken will and shattered self-image. The sad truth is that the fact that we need more shelters and programs for victims of domestic violence and assault, and the fact that they exist, shows a broken system that allows the cycle to perpetuate. This cycle must stop.

I support Bill C-3, an act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code, because it is one step in a long series of many steps we must take to break the cycle of violence and abuse against women. Bill C-3 addresses the lack of justice for women in the court of law by seeking to improve the interactions between sexual assault complainants and the justice system, specifically the judiciary. Bill C-3 seeks to amend the Judges Act to restrict eligibility of who may be appointed a judge of a superior court by requiring them to commit to undertaking and participating in continuing education on matters related to sexual assault law and social context, including attending seminars.

This bill also requires the Canadian Judicial Council to submit an annual report to Parliament on delivery and participation in the sexual assault information seminars established by it. Bill C-3 also requires judges to provide reasons for their decisions in sexual assault cases.

We need only look at a couple of incidents as prototypes of court decisions that show reviling misogyny and biases. Robin Camp, a former federal judge, in 2014, when the alleged rape victim was testifying, asked her why she could not just keep her knees together. Throughout the trial, he criticized her for not screaming while the alleged assault took place and suggested she wanted to have sex. Camp later acquitted the defendant, Alexander Wagar. After acquitting him, he told the defendant, “I want you to tell your friends, your male friends, that they have to be far more gentle with women.” This is absolutely disgusting.

Cindy Gladue, an indigenous woman, was paid for sex by Bradley Barton, the alleged killer, and was found dead in a pool of blood in a motel room after a violent death. I dare not repeat how graphic that picture was because it is just so reviling. The judge presiding over the trial repeatedly referred to her as native and a prostitute. Barton was acquitted because of biases formed against Gladue's history. Such appalling incidents further victimize and silence women from speaking up. It is also unjust for families of victims.

The majority, 83%, of sexual assaults are not reported to police. These two examples alone illustrate very clearly the cause of this hesitation: 67% of women in Canada have no confidence in the justice system and of the 20% of women who take their cases to court, only 10% that make it to court come out with convictions. Among those convicted, only 7% of the perpetrators actually get punished with jail time. Others get probation or fines at the judge's discretion. There is no justice, so why would these women pursue it?

Insult is added to injury when they are left to walk away, feeling like the ones who were sentenced. When an agent of authority like a federal judge gaslights a woman before the court, where does that leave her? There is no justice for that woman. That little seedling of self- esteem she fought to salvage is trampled, but the chain of injustice is long.

There is fear of retaliation from perpetrators when they are not locked up in jail and are free to stalk and repeat their offences, and perhaps even go further and murder the victims. The lack of support, condemnation, shaming and shunning that victims experience from taboos and cultural stigmas prevent women from speaking up. If the perpetrator is someone she knows, like a friend, acquaintance or neighbour, as is the case in 52% of sexual assault incidents, it is even harder.

The court's decision can take away a victim's credibility in the community and inevitably put a toll on the mental and physical health of that victim. It takes a lot of courage for women who have experienced sexual assault to speak up.

I just want to pause here and commend and congratulate the women who have taken steps to speak up and go to the courts. This is why we are standing here as parliamentarians. They inspire us. It takes a lot of courage for women who have experienced sexual assault to speak up and seek the justice they deserve. They have to relive the trauma when speaking about it. If they go forward to the courts, they risk being condemned for speaking up.

Similarly, it does not help when families of victims like those who came forward with testimonies for the report on missing and murdered indigenous women and girls have to relive their traumas through the retelling of their stories and now still await action from the government. However, I hope that these discussions will inspire the government to take action more quickly.

I am very proud that my Conservative colleagues in the last Parliament supported the “JUST Act”, because we recognized that the justice system failed to respect the experiences of victims of sexual assault far too often. I would like to thank Ms. Ambrose again for her work on this important file.

As I support Bill C-3, I do so with a hope that it is an important step among lawmakers in Canada to improve the justice system to work for all people, including women and girls, and not against them. Bill C-3 is a positive beginning, but simply that. I hope the passage of the bill will not give license to the government or my colleagues across all aisles to simply relax, because the bill does not get to the root of violence against women.

If we are to break the cycle of violence against women, we need to get to the root. The root begins with the family and the way women are treated by their intimate partners and their parents. Domestic violence breeds abuse and violence. There needs to be more education, awareness and a breaking of the code of shame and silence. Speaking with women's shelters, men also need mentoring and accountability. They are a missing part of the puzzle that is necessary to make the healing journey for families and society fulsome.

Indigenous communities need all the support they can get to help their women, and the provinces cannot do all of this alone. We need all tiers of government and all community front-line agencies to work together to create long-term solutions. Prevention will save lives.

My mandate as a member of Parliament is to contribute to the making and passing of laws and policies that will help heal individuals, families and society, so each person will prosper, so Canada will prosper and that personal peace will help build a strong and free nation. Bill C-3 is a bill that I am happy to support and reminds me why I am here. However, let us not applaud too loud, lest we become complacent and fail to do the daunting work that lies ahead: to heal our women and our nation.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

October 8th, 2020 / 4:10 p.m.
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Corey Tochor Conservative Saskatoon—University, SK

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to be here to put my comments and support on the record for Bill C-3.

To understand this bill, it is important to back to where it came from. It is very fortunate that our former leader, Rona Ambrose, saw the need, saw the problem and looked for a solution. If we as parliamentarians can find a little of that every day in our duty, we will be in a pretty good place in the country.

We do not need endless study. We need action and fortunately for our judiciary, this is what this will be. I would once again like to thank Rona for all her advocacy work on this file.

I was duly elected last year. I understand that this has been debated, went to committee and has been discussed at length. I am honoured to add my comments and my support to the initiative because it is needed.

I did some research after being informed that I would have the honour to speak to the bill and it was probably some of the toughest reading I have done in this job, to read first-hand what some sexual assault victims had faced. This is very much needed.

I interacted with couple of people and I want to highlight how the bill will affect our country, and thankfully it will. I think of Erica in Montreal. She is a rape counsellor. Throughout the day and even some evenings she counsels people on the phone and in person on some horrific crimes. Hearing these stories through these victims, it stays with her. I suspect she is thinking about it long after the day is done. I think about the number of people Erica would have counselled, that may not have been strong enough to report charges for some of the unfortunate incidents of sexual assaults. Sometimes it is family members.

We know that a fraction of cases actually go before a judge. The number of crimes not reported is probably one of the more eye-opening statistics I witnessed during my research. Probably the most impactful measure in the bill to improve things is making the court system much more understanding of these victims. That will go a long way in helping Erica. She will still have those long days and long consulting sessions with clients, but at least she will know that if those cases do go forward, they will find themselves in front of a judge who has the training to be much more sensitive to the victims.

I think of Kim, a prosecutor in the Hamilton region, and all the times she showed up to court and the victim was not there, because of fear of past injustices toward people who had been sexually assaulted. I think of the days when Kim goes to court and may witness court proceedings that we would not want for any of our loved ones. She has to stomach it.

Things really hit home when I started reading different articles and research. I would like to read one passage that is impactful and has guided my belief of how worthwhile Bill C-3 is. It is from “Aiming for Justice: The Legal System Has Failed Sexual Assault Survivors”.

It reads, “She was a 19-year-old indigenous woman, and the assault was as brutal as it could be. The accuser slapped her repeatedly, forced her to crawl, bit her hard enough to break the skin, threatened to cut her into pieces if she didn't stop screaming, and forced himself into her mouth and then into her. A roommate called 911, and yet even when four police officers rushed in and shouted at him to stop, they had to pull him forcefully off the naked, screaming victim. It's hard to imagine a more open and shut criminal case. Unlike the vast majority of sexual assaults, there was no possibility of the victim failing to report to the police. Four police officers after all were witnesses, and yet the cross-examination of the complainant stretched over five exhausting days. The defendant's lawyer repeatedly suggested that the victim was lying, even though four police officers witnessed the crime, and forced her to describe the sexual acts. The young woman complied, against her will, to testify, and was so distraught by the grilling she endured on the stand that she refused to return to court. She was then arrested and compelled to return. Halfway through the week-long cross-examination, she tried to admit herself to the hospital, fearful that she was being driven to suicide. The next day, he was questioning the witness about whether she had gone to the hospital because she had overdosed on drugs. Over and over, she expressed agony at having to relive the assault.”

For me, hearing first-hand how these victims have been revictimized really reinforces why this bill is so needed. Additional training could help avoid victims being revictimized by defence lawyers and help improve our system.

The article goes on about what these tactics are called and why defence lawyers use them. It continues, “Multiple scenarios from recent sexual assault trials involve pit bull tactics. Judges hesitate to stop such questioning because they believe they may be uneducated about the law or may hold sexist beliefs themselves. Judges may also hesitate out of fear the judgment will be overturned on the basis that the judge interfered with the right of the defence to question a witness.”

This case is an example of where I believe additional training would help. If there is the possibility a victim does not have to face what this victim has, it is worth it.

I know we have great judges in Canada. I believe the vast majority are appointed to these roles because of the work they have done in their careers and on a personal level. They are good individuals, but there are some who would benefit from a little more training on sexual assault. I am so grateful that, with this change, we would be granting that opportunity to these judges, especially the very small few who may need this extra training.

I would like to also thank the other opposition parties that made this possible. It was a Conservative bill, Bill C-337, introduced by our former leader. I am very grateful to the Liberals and the members who are here today for picking this up and making this a government motion. In a very short time, this will be read a third time and with royal assent become law.

I am so grateful for my role as a parliamentarian and to add my comments to the record on Bill C-3.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

October 8th, 2020 / 1:45 p.m.
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Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, one in three Canadian women will be a victim of sexual assault in her lifetime. What an awful statistic for women and fathers to contemplate.

I have three children, two daughters and a son. To think or imagine that one of my daughters could one day be a victim of sexual assault, or that maybe she has been already but kept silent, or has been a victim of sexual harassment and kept it to herself, is simply awful. It is awful to think that in our society, one in three women will experience sexual assault in her lifetime.

Sunday is International Day of the Girl. I think many parents will take the opportunity to ask questions. I hope we can take that day to reflect on the fact that one in three girls, one in three women, will be a victim of sexual assault in her lifetime.

Sunday will be a day to think about this issue as a family and to reflect on and discuss it with our children to find out what is going on, to make our boys and girls aware, to show openness in order to encourage people to talk, to try and ensure that nothing gets bottled up and that this is something that can be talked about more openly. Unfortunately, if we do not talk about it and it remains hidden, it will continue, and the statistics will not get any better.

For one in three women to be a victim of assault shows that there is a problem with trust in our society. My colleague from Sarnia—Lambton said it so well yesterday.

“Because of a studied lack of trust in our criminal justice system, many women feel unable to even report the assaults they suffered to the police out of fear they will not be taken seriously. They will continue to suffer re-traumatization, and if their cases do advance, their attackers will not face serious repercussions.”

More than two-thirds of women say they are not confident in the police, the court process, or justice itself. As a result, 83% of sexual assaults go unreported. Of the remaining 17% of cases, one in five just gets dropped. The other four are subjected to intense scrutiny. The victims are caught in the middle of a difficult and stressful process that unfortunately has small chance of success. Of these remaining cases, just one in five will go to court. Just one in 10 cases ends in a conviction resulting in a fine or jail time. That means if we start with 100 cases, that number gradually gets whittled down.

We understand that women are afraid to go to court and that they struggle to trust the criminal justice system. That is exactly what the bill before us is meant to address.

Three versions of this bill have been introduced in the House. It was first introduced as a private member's bill by our former interim opposition leader, Rona Ambrose, as Bill C-337. It was reintroduced as Bill C-5, and it has now been introduced as Bill C-3.

Every chance we get to debate the bill is an opportunity for all parliamentarians to educate Canadians, judges and everyone about the reality that women face in this country.

It is important that we talk about it. It is important to talk about it tomorrow, next week and as often as possible. The culture of secrecy, the fear of speaking up, the fear of being ridiculed and the fear of not being believed are all reasons why women choose not to report their assailants.

This is what we are trying to stop. This is what we are trying to do with Bill C-3. Progress may be slow, but we are taking logical, meaningful action.

Madam Speaker, the government rightly reintroduced the Hon. Rona Ambrose's bill, an act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code, also known as the “just act”. This bill includes the amendments that were passed by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs before the last election, which delayed the passage of the bill.

What will this bill do if it is passed? As I said, it will help by requiring new judges to take continuing legal education on sexual assault law.

We have been talking about this bill since the beginning of the day, but those who are watching at home may not be aware of its content. They may not know exactly what this bill is about. I will therefore read part of the preamble to give a good overview of the bill.

The preamble states that “survivors of sexual assault in Canada must have faith in the criminal justice system”. It also states that “Parliament recognizes the importance of an independent judiciary”. Parliament does not want to get involved in cases that are before the courts because Parliament's role and duty are to ensure that people can have confidence in the justice system.

The preamble also indicates that “parliamentarians have a responsibility to ensure that Canada’s democratic institutions reflect the values and principles of Canadians and respond to their needs and concerns”. In the past, we have seen too many cases where judges have rendered decisions based on myths or false precepts. That is not what today's society demands of judges. We, as parliamentarians, are the voice of Canadians across the country and we therefore have a duty to remind judges of these new principles. That is what we are doing right now with Bill C-3.

The preamble also says, “...sexual assault proceedings have a profound effect on the reputations and lives of the persons affected and present a high possibility of revictimizing survivors of sexual assault.” Having to go through the judicial process and relive everything that happened, in front of many people, and strangers at that, can deter women from seeking justice.

The preamble also states that “...Parliament recognizes the value and importance of judges participating in continuing education.” With this additional training, our judges will be better equipped to do their jobs, which could result in greater access to justice for women.

The preamble of Bill C-3 also states, “...it is imperative that persons seeking to be appointed to the judiciary undertake to participate in continuing education on matters related to sexual assault law and social context.” That all makes perfect sense.

I was impressed, and actually very touched, by the speech given by my colleague from Calgary Nose Hill, even as we go about proposing changes and trying to improve things. Here is some of what she had to say:

...there is something about this bill that really makes me angry. It is absurd to me that we have to spend time figuring out how to train the men in Canada's systemically misogynistic justice system to be sensitive to sexual assault. In so many ways, it is blindly the wrong approach because it is so paternalistic in its design. ... If men want to be honoured with a judicial appointment, why can the hiring criteria not be what they have done in their career to remove the systemic barriers women face? Why do we have to train the idiots in society, and why could we not just hire the allies?

Those are harsh words, but they are the words of a woman who, like many of our colleagues here and many women I know, has herself gone through all kinds of ordeals. We need to take this seriously. That is the point we are at. I applaud the women who have had the courage to speak up in the House in support of Bill C-3.

Personally, I fully support this bill. I hope that more and more of our colleagues will talk about it and seize every available opportunity to do so because the more we talk about it, the closer we get to a solution.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

October 8th, 2020 / 1:30 p.m.
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Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Madam Speaker, today it is a great pleasure for me to speak virtually to Bill C-3 for the first time. I would like to take this opportunity to say hello to the interpreters and thank them for doing a really incredible job.

I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-3, especially since I am a feminist. Defending women's rights and social justice are important priorities for me, and these issues are at the heart of this bill.

Members will have heard my Bloc Québécois colleagues say that passing this bill is in the interest of both the judiciary and the public, especially victims of sexual assault. I believe that parliamentarians must act quickly to implement it, but it nonetheless deserves to be studied in committee, particularly since the Quebec bar association has raised certain concerns that I will discuss later.

I want to address my female colleagues and constituents, in particular. Unfortunately, we have all been the victims of disgraceful comments at least once in our lives, whether they were about our physical appearance, our age, our clothes, our way of working or other things. We have also all heard this sort of comment being made about our female friends, colleagues, sisters or mothers.

Unfortunately, this practice is widespread and just as common in our society as in our justice system. Many times, judges have made inappropriate comments during sexual assault trials. Some have even rendered decisions without taking into account the victim and her difficult reality. Although we have a lot of work to do to eliminate this problem in our society, this bill will at least do away with this practice in our courts. That is a big step in the right direction.

There are also many myths and stereotypes associated with sexual assault that may lead some judges to believe that the victims were actually consenting. For example, a judge could find an aggressor innocent because that judge does not really understand the concept of consent.

Let us talk about consent. I want to take a moment to do a quick review, since it never hurts to go back over the basics. All members would agree that in any kind of relationship, the partners' intentions must be clear, free and informed. To give consent is to give permission or authorization. It means saying “yes”. In 2016, the Ghomeshi trial, the Bill Cosby case and the #MeToo movement ignited a complicated and wide-ranging debate over the definition of consent.

Although our society is governed by laws, the Criminal Code is far removed from the bedroom. One situation where we see a nuance in the concept of consent is when a person feels obligated to consent. According to Julie Roussin, a clinical psychologist, consent must be viewed as “an informed decision free from coercion or threat”, which is too often the case in a sexual assault. Therefore, the concept of consent can be considered from both a legal perspective and a psychological one.

I would be remiss if I did not mention some of the appalling examples my colleagues have probably already heard. One judge said out loud during a trial that the victim, who was a minor at the time of the assault, had a pretty face and should feel flattered to have attracted the attention of an older man. An Alberta judge was fired after making sexist and racist remarks about indigenous people, battered women and victims of sexual assault. Another judge said that, because nobody had noticed any signs of assault, the girl, who was between the ages of 6 and 12, was not credible. Victims have been discredited for wearing pyjamas without a bra and underwear, for not immediately leaving when a sexual assault began, for not saying no to some of the things the accused did during the assault, and for not reporting the assault immediately.

Consent has nothing to do with the victim's credibility, looks, age, appearance or social condition. That is why I feel it is not only appropriate but necessary for all judges to receive ongoing training about issues related to sexual assault law and social context.

Although we are well into 2020 and nearly 20 years have passed since the Supreme Court's L'Heureux-Dubé decision, we do not seem to be much further ahead when it comes to the biases associated with sexual assault. Researchers from the Institute of Research on Public Policy recently published a series of articles entitled “Improving Canada's Response to Sexualized Violence”, which seeks to shine a light on the gaps that policy-makers, legislators and the courts need to address.

Fortunately, the federal government has recognized the damage that gender-based violence continues to cause in Canadian society and is committed to developing an action plan to combat this problem that affects all spheres of society. Bill C-3 is part of that commitment and I commend it. It is even an improved version of the previous bill. This bill addresses the criticisms made about the previous Bill C-337, namely that by registering for this type of course, lawyers would be announcing their interest in becoming a judge, which would breach their anonymity. Bill C-3 instead asks lawyers to undertake to participate in the course, which makes sense to me.

I understand that the Conservatives voted against the NDP motion to pass the bill and send it directly to the Senate as they believe that the bill should apply to parole officers and members of the Parole Board of Canada in the wake of the murder of Marylène Levesque.

I sit on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, which began a study of the circumstances of this murder before Parliament was closed and then prorogued.

To refresh everyone's memory, Marylène Levesque is a young, 22-year-old woman who was killed last winter by Eustachio Gallese. This man was on day parole after being incarcerated for about 15 years for the murder of his wife in 2006. Despite his history of violence against women, his parole officers deemed that it was appropriate for Mr. Gallese to go to erotic massage parlours, where he met Marylène Levesque. My colleagues know the rest of the story.

I completely agree that parole officers and members of the Parole Board of Canada should also take mandatory training on the subject. I would go even further and include a broad range of professions. Of course, certain professions do not fall under federal jurisdiction, including police officers and lawyers. However, this kind of training is essential for all professions under federal jurisdiction that are likely to interact with sexual assault victims, such as corrections officers, border services officers and RCMP members.

As the Quebec bar association has pointed out, this bill applies exclusively to federally appointed judges, in other words, those sitting on superior courts, appeal courts, the Federal Court of Canada, the Federal Court of Appeal, as well as the Tax Court of Canada and the Supreme Court of Canada. However, experience shows that the vast majority of criminal offences are handled in provincial courts, so I hope this bill will inspire Quebec, the provinces and the territories to pass their own legislation to make this kind of training mandatory for judges.

I therefore encourage all my colleagues in the Conservative Party and the other parties to introduce legislation regarding similar training for parole officers, members of the Parole Board of Canada and any other professionals deemed relevant.

We have an opportunity to quickly pass Bill C-3, as was almost the case with Bill C-337. I urge all of my parliamentary colleagues to work towards this.

We can always do better, and I hope that our study of this bill will address the call from the Quebec bar to ensure that this bill does not encroach on provincial jurisdictions.

The bar association has also raised concerns that the amendments to the Judges Act and the Criminal Code proposed in this bill could undermine the independence of the judiciary. However, as my colleague from Saint-Jean pointed out last week, judges already receive training on many different topics. Judges receive training throughout their careers, and it makes complete sense that their rulings should be better documented. I sincerely doubt that this training could bring about any biases that would undermine the independence of the judiciary.

As a parliamentarian and as a member of a distinct society, I want to conclude by saying that we must do more to eliminate rape culture. This system of thought that explains, excuses or even encourages rape is everywhere in our society: in our homes, our courts, our children's schools, our workplaces and our streets.

We therefore need to do better and do more. We need to stop trivializing. We need to stop making off-colour jokes about women's bodies. We still hear these sorts of jokes all too often and we encourage them instead of speaking out. Often, without realizing it, we put the responsibility for the assault on the victim and call into question the woman's word. We treat women's bodies as though they were there to service the needs of men. Where then should we start?

I want to quote Pascale Parent, a worker at the Centre d'aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel de Rimouski, who said that we could start “by talking about equality between men and women and also between women, including those with disabilities and indigenous women. Of course, we know that not all men are abusers. Men can decide to fight against this culture and speak out against it with us. They can speak out against sexist jokes and inappropriate behaviour. They can help women who need it and support the women who trust them and tell them about their experiences.”

That would be a good start, just like this bill.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

October 8th, 2020 / 1:15 p.m.
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Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity this afternoon to speak to Bill C-3.

To begin with, I want to thank the government for reintroducing this important piece of legislation in this new session of the 43rd Parliament. Members will recall that the original architect of this bill, when it was presented as a private member's bill, Bill C-337, was the former Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose. I want to thank her for her tireless efforts to support and protect survivors of sexual assault.

In short, this bill proposes to require judges to participate in continuing legal education with respect to sexual assault law. It requires the Canadian Judicial Council to submit an annual report to Parliament on the delivery of and participation in sexual assault information seminars established by it. It requires judges to provide reasons for decisions in sexual assault cases.

That is what the bill does, but what is the bill about? It is about ensuring that trust is maintained in the judicial system. Trust is a very important thing. It takes a long time, often a lifetime, to establish trust, but it only takes a moment to destroy it. It is about ensuring survivors of sexual assault are treated with dignity, respect and compassion by the judicial system when they have the courage to come forward.

Sharing about what led her to introduce the previous version of the bill, also called the just act, Ms. Ambrose spoke about her time volunteering at a rape crisis centre while in university. She also shared about a research project that she participated in, a court watch program, and said, “This project basically had student volunteers like me sitting in courtrooms during sexual assault and sexual abuse cases, taking notes about how victims and complainants were treated. It was shocking.”

She went on to share during her speech one of the troubling scenarios she witnessed. She said, “I remember sitting in a courtroom taking notes when a prosecutor was questioning a little girl—when I say little girl, I mean under the age of 12—about how she sat on a defendant's lap. The insinuation was that she was flirting with this man who was in his fifties.”

I am the father of two daughters and the grandfather of six granddaughters. I cannot imagine how I would feel or how I would react if I were to watch one of my daughters or grandchildren, had they been a victim, being treated like that in a court of law. This is not an impressive experience that any Canadian should have in our judicial system.

Tragically, it is young women aged 15 to 24 who have the highest rate of sexual assaults. It is also more likely for victims of self-reported incidents of sexual assaults than it is for victims of robberies and physical assaults for the offender to be known to them. These realities perhaps contribute to another troubling fact, which is that, according to the justice department, the majority of sexual assaults, 83% of them, go unreported to the police.

By requiring judges to stay current with respect to sexual assault laws, Bill C-3 will make sure that sexual assault survivors are treated with dignity, respect and compassion by our justice system.

In addition to the education component, Bill C-3 will also require judges to provide written reasoning for decisions in sexual assault proceedings. This provision offers those engaged with the justice system, and all Canadians, more transparency. More transparency will build trust, and with more trust will come a greater willingness to seek justice when one has been wronged. Only by restoring that trust and confidence in our justice system can we ensure these young women will have access to the justice they deserve.

In our 2019 platform, the Conservative Party committed to requiring all judicial appointees to take sexual assault sensitivity training prior to taking the bench. This bill requires them to commit to taking training prior to taking the bench and is therefore consistent with our party's commitment to defend victims of crime.

I was pleased to support Rona Ambrose's just act in the last Parliament, because there are still instances where the justice system fails to respect the experiences of sexual assault survivors. We owe it to them to address these failings, and Bill C-3 does that.

I want to take a step back from this specific bill for a moment, because in an ideal world we would not need the just act and we would not need Bill C-3. What we need is to be appointing judges who are people of integrity in the first place, judges who recognize the dignity and value of each person before them, and judges who are sensitive to the tragic circumstances that often lead to individuals attending their courtroom.

I am reminded of the story of two wolves, a popular legend often attributed to the Cherokee people. As the story goes, an old Cherokee man was teaching his grandson about life, and he said, “Grandson, a fight is going on inside of me, and it is a terrible fight between two wolves. One is evil. He is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego."

The grandfather continued, “The other wolf is good. He is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy generosity, truth, compassion and faith. The same fight is going on in you, grandson, and in every other person as well.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute. He then asked his grandfather, “Grandfather, which wolf will win?”

The grandfather used that opportunity very wisely. He said, “The one we feed.”

The point is that each one of us is feeding those metaphorical wolves every day. We choose which one grows in strength, character and stature. We choose which one wins. Many of us will be familiar with the disturbing comments of one Canadian judge, who asked the sexual assault complainant why she could not just keep her knees together.

This goes to show that our judges are not immune to this kind of struggle, and that is why appointing judges of integrity is critical. Appointing judges of good character and proven track record is essential. Appointing judges who have proven themselves to be good, decent and honourable people is the best starting point that we can have, and from there we keep investing in good people with further training and, in this instance, further training on sexual assault law.

Some might ask why we should train. We have heard the arguments that we train them only for them to leave, and that it is a waste of time and a waste of money. The answer to that is, “What if we do not train them, and they stay?” That, of course, is a worse situation. Training is important, and part of what this bill seeks to accomplish is ongoing training and improvement of our justices.

My Christian faith offers a similar sentiment. Jesus, sharing with a group of people, says that no good tree bears bad fruit and no bad tree bears good fruit, for each tree is known by its fruit. Figs are not gathered from bushes, nor are grapes gathered from a bramble bush. The good person that treasures good in his heart produces good, and an evil person that treasures evil produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart, their mouth speaks. We need to start with good people, and from there continue to invest in good people and good judges through training them to disseminate the justice and to do it with compassion.

At this moment, at the very least, this bill will help judges to feed the right wolf. Furthering education around sexual assault law can help develop a judge's humility, empathy and compassion when dealing with sexual assault survivors. Pulling back the curtain on the rationale behind a judge's decision also encourages a fulsome presentation of truth and can empower victims on their journey to find peace. This is what it looks like, at least in part, to feed the good wolf.

On this side of the House we will always look for ways to stand up for survivors of sexual assault. We will always strive to ensure victims of crime are treated with dignity, respect and compassion. I am thankful today for this opportunity for us to come together to discuss this very important bill, and I am thankful that, across all the party lines in the House, we can come together with the common sense of purpose and unity on this bill.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

October 8th, 2020 / 1:10 p.m.
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Parkdale—High Park Ontario


Arif Virani LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, I want to invite the member to perhaps correct the record in reference to some statements that were made in the last 20 minutes by his colleague, the member for Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner. I want to read this quote:

They have an opportunity to show they put victims of sexual assault and women’s issues before political games...

That is a quotation from Rona Ambrose, a woman whose name has been invoked repeatedly on both sides of the aisle in the context of this debate. That is a comment she made in reference to Conservative senators in the last Parliament who blocked Bill C-337 from securing passage and royal assent. That is a statement she delivered to the National Post in June 2019.

The member for Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner clearly attempted to portray the prevention of receiving royal assent on that important piece of legislation as the fault of the Liberal government. I invite the member for Calgary Centre to correct the record and clearly indicate what Ms. Ambrose had said, which is that in fact the obstacles were put in place by members of his own caucus.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

October 8th, 2020 / 1 p.m.
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Greg McLean Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-3.

This was originally introduced as Bill C-337 in 2017 by Rona Ambrose, who was the leader of the Conservative Party at that time, and who has doggedly pursued it even though she is no longer in the House of Commons. We have to give her all the credit in the world for that, because this is a very important bill.

The bill comes to us for the third time, and that is a shame. The reason it is here again is because this government, which initially put it through the paces of the justice committee in the last Parliament, decided to end that Parliament without really good reason. I am not sure, when we end a Parliament, how we decide to keep the good things and throw out the bad things, but we throw out everything. There was a process here that we were going through, and this government decided to end that process on so many good things that had to happen with this country, and this is one of those bills. Now we are starting over, and that is a shame considering how important the legislation is.

As I said, I was on the justice committee in the last session. I am not on the justice committee any more; however, we heard many good reasons for the bill before us from many interested parties that appeared before the committee. I will go through some of the wonderful organizations that presented us with compelling evidence on why we need to proceed with the legislation. We heard from the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers, the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, the DisAbled Women's Network of Canada, the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, the Colchester Sexual Assault Centre, the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre and the Canadian Judicial Council.

These groups were almost unanimous. I am not somebody who buys into group think. I do not think that any of us are: we have to do our own analysis on what comes before us, but there was only one dissenting voice in that group of presenters about how important the legislation was for advancing the needs of women who had been through sexual assault hearings in front of our judiciary. That one dissenting voice was the Canadian Judicial Council, representing lawyers there, saying that it did not think that the government should put its hands in their business, because they had their own process and were smart enough to take care of their own laundry. However, I can tell members that, no, that is not true.

This is our only venue to actually have some influence on how we appoint judges, on what is important in their job and on how to get their job done. We know that, upon becoming judges, they no longer have the influence of Parliament. Having an independent judicial system is a separate part of our democracy, and we want and need to maintain that. Having a separate judiciary means that we have to have a good judiciary. To appoint judges through a certain process, when we have heard the evidence from all the statistics on what happens in sexual assault cases that come before the judiciary, is not something that can keep going on. Imposing an actual education system for the people we are appointing to the bench is our main instrument to try to influence them in how they view victims when they come before them to give testimony. That is what our role here is. With the legislation before us, we need to make sure that the people we are appointing are well educated on what they have to do, that they understand the needs of the victims and that they consider their rights as well.

I appreciate the legal system as much as anybody else. I am not trained in legalities, but in my previous employment I had many dealings with the legal system. Seeing the legal system work, almost like Parliament here, is like watching sausages getting made: It is never pretty. Sometimes, when one goes through the legal system, one recognizes that what is happening is not perfect. It might be one of the best systems in the world, as far as judicial hearings go, but at the same time there are faulty outcomes, and when we look at some decisions judges have made, we sit back and scratch our heads, wondering how on earth that person made that decision given everything they had heard in a hearing.

That is troubling to a rational person. Nevertheless, it is reality. We are all human. In the House of Commons we are all human and not supposed to be perfect. Judges are the same. We appoint judges. We do not expect them to be perfect, but expect them to do the best job they can with the information that is presented to them. Hopefully, we have the best outcome for society at the end of the day. The statistics we have heard clearly show that we are not getting the best outcome for society with what is going on now, so change is important. That is why we are here. We are here to make sure that the changes we impose on the appointment of judges happen very well.

The justice committee was one thing, but let me tell colleagues about the hearings themselves. We heard about women who were not represented. In those cases they went before the judges and felt belittled in the process.

This bill would bring about an important change for society: to make sure that victims of crimes have the ability to be heard effectively. Justice needs to be understood by the public for it to be an enforceable system. If we do not have a system that is open to everyone who feels that they are a victim of a crime, if people feel marginalized and like they should not come forward to present a crime to society, then we have failed as a society. Again, that is our job here: to make sure that we build on that going forward and get this better in the next iteration.

Shutting down Parliament obviously had the effect of stopping the process that we are now starting again. How long is it going to take before we actually get some legislation that matters to Canadians?

We all know there will be small advances. There has been so much going on here, yet much has been thrown out, like the baby with the bath water, as we have gone through this. It is the result of the government having no regard for what we are doing here as far as process goes.

Process means examining legislation and making sure that we get it right, as much as possible. Getting it right means putting the right bills in front of us and getting those bills heard through a process that has been developed over years and years. Then we get to analyze what is right or wrong with it, hear the expert opinions and come to a conclusion about the best path forward. That is not here right now. By shutting Parliament down in the middle of the pandemic, the government effectively said it does not respect this process and that it wants its own process without dealing with others. Therefore, we have to make sure that it is held to account.

I am dismayed that this is before us again. I wish this was not here. I wish it had already received its third reading from the House and been over to the other house and debated there, so that we could move it to royal assent once and for all. It has been held up too many times and prorogued and left to die on the Order Paper with Parliament being closed.

Can we finally get some work done and get Parliament working again?

Judges ActGovernment Orders

October 8th, 2020 / 12:50 p.m.
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Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-3. While important and something I was happy to support in the 42nd Parliament, I am afraid it is just a drop in the bucket in what we as a society must do to fight sexual violence against women.

Bill C-3 will, I hope, like its predecessors Bill C-5 and Bill C-337, find unanimous support as this legislation is a rare product of bipartisan support.

I thank the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada for sponsoring this reintroduction of the bill that found its genesis in a private member's bill created by the Hon. Rona Ambrose, former member of Parliament for Sturgeon River—Parkland and also former leader of Canada's Conservatives and the leader of Her Majesty's loyal opposition.

This legislation is about ensuring that trust is maintained in the judicial system, that survivors of sexual assault are respected by the judicial system when they step forward. The bill, when passed, will require federal judges and those seeking the office to participate in continuing legal education with regard to sexual assault law. It also strives to combat the myths and stereotypes that often cause victims of sexual assault to hesitate to come forward.

Federal judges will also be required to provide written reasoning for their decisions in sexual assault cases in order to promote transparency in the reasons that lead to their decisions. The bill would require the Canadian Judicial Council to submit an annual report to Parliament on the delivery and participation in sexual assault information seminars established by it.

In my mind, to be truly effective, provincial court judges should be required to take this training. I encourage those provinces to take a serious look at the work that has been done by parliamentary committees and listen to the words spoken in the House with respect to this issue and to strongly consider passing complementary legislation in their respective jurisdictions.

It is a shame, though, we find ourselves in this place at this time where we must pass legislation to train arguably the highest educated group of individuals in the country on sexual sexual assault awareness. Where we should be focusing our energy is educating the next generation of men and women to be advocates, especially men, for ending sexual violence and not perpetuating the myths and stereotypes that enable others to think it is acceptable.

Yesterday, the member for Calgary Nose Hill made one of the most impassioned and important speeches I have heard in this Parliament. Our colleague stood here and challenged men to stand up and be a voice for women and men who are victims of sexual violence. Far too often it is women who are forced to stand on their own and shout enough is enough.

Statistically, women constitute the overwhelming numbers of victims of sexual assaults. Adding to the personal trauma, they must often rely solely on their own strength to report these heinous crimes. As men, we have historically dismissed women's voices on these issues or left it to them to demand action. It is time for men to recognize their role in preventing sexual violence in all its forms. Let me be clear: It is not enough for a man to say, “Well, I would never do that so I've done my part.”

We need to do more. We all need to do more. We need to stand with those incredibly brave survivors who are taking a stand to end sexual violence, and not just for women. Men are victims of sexual assault as well and it needs to end for all victims. Men need to challenge the myths and stereotypes about how survivors of sexual assault are expected to behave.

As a father of a young boy, I have a responsibility to guide him in his journey to become a man. There are many things I must teach him, and for him to learn from me and I from him. However, in order for him to take his place as a productive member of society, I need to be that role model. I need to be putting forward the messages and encouraging him to be better.

One of the most fundamental things I need to impress upon him is to respect others. He needs to understand that men should not feel entitled to sexually harass people or perpetuate sexual violence, that every person has power over his or her own body and how to give and receive consent. He needs to understand that men and boys must never obtain power through violence and that the notion that sex is a right of his gender is false. Sexual violence ends when all of us understand the fundamental truth that no one is permitted to sexually harass or invade another individual's body or personal boundaries.

Girls and women are given advice about rape prevention, and we heard this from many members in this place in the ongoing debate today and the debate yesterday, such as not letting their drink out of sight, not wearing revealing outfits or high heels and not walking alone at night.

As a society, we must go beyond what girls can do to prevent being victims. We need to focus on the attitudes that boys have about women and their own masculinity. The next generation of men needs to promote mutual respect for women and embrace equality for all people, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. Working toward ending sexual violence is a constant collective effort and, as men, we all need to do our part.

While Bill C-5 is just a ripple, it is my sincere hope that it will eliminate victim blaming, an attitude that suggests a victim rather than a perpetrator bears responsibility for an assault, that victims' sobriety, or the clothes they were wearing or their sexuality become irrelevant in the courtroom. To end sexual violence, perpetrators must be held accountable. By trying sexual violence cases, we recognize these acts as crimes and send a strong message of zero tolerance.

Canada's Conservatives were proud to support Bill C-337 and Bill C-5 in previous Parliaments. We recognize that far too often the justice system fails to respect the experiences of victims of sexual assault.

The Canadian bench must be held accountable and ensure that judges have the updated training that Canadians expect them to have. That is why we committed in the last election to ensure that all judicial appointees take sexual assault sensitivity training prior to taking the bench. We will always look for ways to stand up for survivors of sexual assault and ensure they are treated with dignity.

I would like to thank Rona Ambrose for being such a passionate advocate for victims of sexual assault and for her work on this very important file. This bill addresses the simple fact that victims going to trial should expect that judges are educated in the law, yet what it does not address is the absolute necessity that all of us, every single person has the same responsibility to be educated in what it means to be human and protect and respect the dignity of our fellow citizens.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

October 8th, 2020 / 12:30 p.m.
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Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and speak to Bill C-3. The original legislation was first introduced in February 2017 as Bill C-337 by the Hon. Rona Ambrose, the former leader of our party as well as the official opposition. I want to thank Ms. Ambrose for the passionate advocacy that she has taken on this important legislation.

I am also pleased to see that the legislation adopted by the Liberal government earlier this year was reintroduced again now as Bill C-3. In 2017, it received unanimous support from the House of Commons and passed quickly to committee. I guess it should come as no surprise then that it would take over two years for it to move through the legislative process despite having all-party support and it would die on the floor of the Senate in June 2019. Despite finishing the legislative process at about the same time as 15-plus other bills that June, it was held back by the Liberal majority government from receiving Royal Assent. Why, people may ask? Some may suggest it is to play the same Liberal games that many Canadians despise and disapprove of, and that is so it can be renamed and called their own.

This is important legislation as it is a step forward toward actually improving our criminal justice system, something that the Liberal government has done little or nothing on for the last five years. This legislation is about ensuring trust is maintained in the justice system and that survivors of sexual assault are respected by the justice system when they do come forward. The bill requires that to be appointed a judge of a Superior Court, an individual must now commit to participate in continuing education on matters related to sexual assault law and social context, including attending seminars.

This would ensure that Superior Court judges are equipped with the knowledge and skills required to address sexual assault trials and ensure that survivors are treated with dignity and respect. It also provides training to not feed into the myths and stereotypes that often cause women to hesitate to come forward. Personally, I would have preferred that, in addition to the new appointments to the bench, all current judges sitting at every level of court that adjudicates sexual offences in this country be required to participate in continuing education on these matters as well, in the same way that this legislation proposes for new Superior Court appointments.

The bill would also require judges to provide reasons for decisions on sexual assault cases. This is good, as it will give more information to victims and improve transparency for the justice system and the public who watch it.

As a former police officer who has given testimony in a wide variety of criminal cases, including numerous sexual assault cases, I have the utmost respect for the significant challenge and burden placed on our judges. Every day they are tasked with appropriately applying the law to determine guilt or innocence as they adjudicate criminal cases. While Canadians enjoy the best justice system in the world, it is not without its flaws. Judges, after all, are human like all of us and are given the incredible responsibility of applying laws written by other humans, namely parliamentarians in the House. We know that sometimes those laws can also be flawed.

We put a great deal of authority and trust in our judges and so ensuring that people who take up this challenging post are properly equipped, we must ensure that they have the necessary training and knowledge to fulfill those responsibilities to the best of their ability and to the expectations of the Canadian public. This training would eliminate misconceptions, myths and stereotypes that often prevent victims of sexual assault, almost always women, from coming forward and pressing charges against their attackers. This is not a minor issue. The number of sexual assaults that occur in Canada and are never reported is staggering.

Statistics Canada reported that only 5% of women who are sexually assaulted come to the attention of police. I suspect that one of the many reasons is because of the women's lack of confidence in our justice system. Far too few of these crimes are reported, and of the 5% that are reported, only 21% have led to a court case. There are many factors in this, including what evidence might be available, how it might be prosecuted, witnesses who are available, any corroborating evidence, attitude of the justice participants, how judges approach the issue, and maybe many others.

Of the 21% that actually get to court, of the 5% who actually reported being assaulted, only 12% of those cases result in conviction. That is 12% of 21% of 5%. In other words, there is a better than 98% chance of not being convicted of sexually assaulting another person in this country. That is unacceptable. Finally, of all those convicted of sexual assault only 7% result in a prison term. These are terrible crimes and they have lasting, lifelong impacts. Getting a conviction on a sexual assault, let alone having someone sentenced, is far too rare. Most victims of crimes of violent sexual assault will usually prefer not to relive the experience over and over again in our courts, living through the trauma multiple times.

Like I said previously, I have investigated many sexual assault crimes. The heartbreaking experiences of victims are further exacerbated by our justice system. The victims feel they are not being believed. The intrusive nature of the evidence-collection process; retelling their experiences, over and over again; sometimes limited victim supports; and lack of convictions reduce the victims' willingness to come forward. If the assailants are convicted, many victims do not feel that the sentence that is given out fits what happened to them.

This bill is the kind of thing that governments should be doing: working to improve our justice system, working to support victims with better services and working so that criminals who assault others are held accountable and put in jail. Support for victims has been sorely lacking in the last few years. There has been lots of support for criminals, including reduced sentences for some serious and violent crimes, but limited support for victims.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police noted in its brief to Parliament on Bill C-75 that for some criminals, if given reduced sentences, it would mean eliminating certain information being entered into the Canadian Police Information Centre system, including DNA. When the conviction is considered a secondary offence, it eliminates critical information that then limits the ability for police to track and catch that criminal if they commit other crimes. As the CACP put it, this would “have a direct and negative impact on police investigations.” I would add, “and on public safety”.

Canadians should not live in fear. Young women should not live in fear. Victims and their families should not be living in fear. They should have trust and confidence in our justice system. Victims and their rights should always be put ahead of the rights of criminals. Canada's Conservatives recognize that far too often the justice system fails to respect the experiences of victims of sexual assault.

It is time that we end comments and attitudes like that of our Prime Minister, where he said that she “experienced it differently”. Those kinds of excuses allow sexual assaults and sexual harassment to be normalized. Calling it out is a duty of all of us. Acting to stop that kind of behaviour is a responsibility of this House.

My hope is that this bill will be the first step in improving the treatment of victims, increasing the conviction of sexual offenders, improving public safety, and developing the trust and confidence of Canadians in our justice system.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

October 7th, 2020 / 5:15 p.m.
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Maxime Blanchette-Joncas Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, I commend my colleague from Sarnia—Lambton on her speech.

Obviously, it is hard to have a perfect bill. We can see some improvements, but there could have been more. I, too, think that Bill C-3 is not perfect.

I have a question about interference in provincial jurisdictions. The Quebec bar association has its own expertise and has conducted an analysis of former Bill C-337, which passed unanimously. According to the association, the administration of justice is a provincial jurisdiction and the proposed changes, both to the Judges Act and the Criminal Code, are likely to encroach on the jurisdiction of Quebec, the provinces and the territories.

I would like to know if my colleague is opposed to any interference in these areas of jurisdiction.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

October 7th, 2020 / 4:20 p.m.
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Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Laurentides—Labelle.

This week, I got to see a comedy called How to Be a Good Wife. The movie made me realize that, not so long ago, women could not wear pants or dress how they liked. I am getting to the point, so please be patient. There is a connection. They were seen as creatures whose marital duty was to submit and be beholden to men. Of course, society has evolved. A woman who wears a short skirt or a low-cut top or who drinks should not be seen as a cheap piece of meat, nor should anyone interpret her attire or actions as signalling that she wants to be raped.

I have worked with women's groups, so it means a lot to me to speak to Bill C-3, an act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code. Everyone seems to agree on this bill.

There are three parts to my speech. First, I will situate the bill in the context of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. Then I will contextualize it from a uniquely Quebec perspective. I will conclude by explaining why I want to see it passed as soon as possible.

Bill C-337, which amends the Judges Act and the Criminal Code with regard to sexual assault, was introduced in the House of Commons on February 23, 2017, by the Hon. Rona Ambrose. It was studied by the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women, which, in its report on the bill, recommended amendments to three clauses and the deletion of one clause. The House of Commons passed the bill with the committee's amendments over two years ago on May 15, 2017. Bill C-337 received first reading in the Senate on May 16, 2017, and was referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs on May 31, 2018. Unfortunately, I was not yet a member of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women at that time.

Bill C-337, whose short title is the Judicial Accountability through Sexual Assault Law Training Act, has three central purposes:

First, it adds a new eligibility requirement for lawyers to qualify to become a judge of a superior court in any province, namely, that they must have completed recent and comprehensive education in sexual assault law to the satisfaction of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs.

Second, it requires the Canadian Judicial Council, or CJC, to submit an annual report to Parliament through the Minister of Justice on the delivery and uptake of sexual assault law seminars established by the CJC.

Third, it requires reasons for decisions in sexual assault cases to be entered in the record of the proceedings or, if the proceedings are not recorded, the reasons must be provided in writing.

Of course, improvements were made to Bill C-337, which is considered to be the forerunner of Bill C-3. However, it is important to remember what was going on in the media when the bill was proposed and what problems it was trying to address.

The legal system's handing of sexual assault cases was often in the news. When she appeared before the the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women, the Hon. Rona Ambrose explained that she decided to introduce the bill after noting that a disturbing number of sexual assault cases had shaken the public's confidence in our justice system.

She was referring to statements made by judges in sexual assault trials or in their decisions. Some felt that these comments were based on discredited stereotypes about victims of sexual assault. In one case, the judge resigned after the CJC recommended his removal because he made comments or asked questions evidencing an antipathy toward laws designed to protect vulnerable witnesses, promote equality and bring integrity to sexual assault trials.

In a case from 2016, a new trial was ordered on appeal after the judge was found to have used myths about the expected behaviour of sexual assault victims to justify an acquittal. In 2017, another judge was roundly criticized for his insulting language towards a woman who was intoxicated at the time of the alleged sexual assault. “She had a pretty face”. “She should feel flattered for getting attention from an older man”. “What were you wearing?” “You should have just kept your knees together”. “He was just a kid”. “She's forgotten bits and pieces, so her testimony isn't credible”. These are the kinds of comments we have heard, but this is 2020: These comments should not be coming out of the mouths of judges during a sexual assault trial.

Senator Raynell Andreychuk, who sponsored Bill C-337 in the Senate, explained that those cases only add to factors that discourage victims from reporting sexual assault.

She pointed out that Bill C-337 seeks to prevent further court cases from being decided on the basis of stereotypes about sexual assault victims and to restore victims' confidence in the judicial process. I would like to quote from the letter sent by the Standing Committee on the Status of Women in 2017.

Based on the testimony heard during the study of the bill, the Committee encourages the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada to express to her provincial and territorial counterparts the need to make training in sexual assault law and social context more broadly available. Witnesses appearing before the Committee have highlighted the importance of training for all persons who play a role in the administration of criminal justice....

Additionally, the Committee wishes for the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada to strongly encourage provincial and territorial governments to make the transcripts of the proceedings of sexual assault cases for all courts under their jurisdictions available online in a searchable database....

The committee was serious about making this more transparent.

The Committee heard from Professor Elaine Craig, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law at Dalhousie University, that “it's inarguable that written decisions provide a degree of transparency and public accountability that's not available with oral decisions.” The Committee requests that the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada inform and advise the Committee at the earliest opportunity of the results and outcomes of these discussions with her provincial and territorial counterparts.

The excerpts I just read are from 2017. Already in 2017, the Standing Committee on the Status of Women sent a letter calling on the Minister of Justice to take action. Then there was Bill C-5 and prorogation. Today, we are still here debating it.

I will now talk about Quebec.

In the meantime, an all-party group of women parliamentarians at the National Assembly are addressing the issue of violence against women. I recently asked one of those members how important the current bill is for helping women who are victims of assault and she told me that it was very important.

This is a very important bill. As I have already discussed this issue with some CALACS, I know that women hesitate to come forward because they do not wish to relive painful memories of an assault at a trial that forces them to relive these moments before a judge that lacks compassion or makes derogatory and inappropriate comments in their presence.

Let me be clear. I am not making generalizations or indicating that all judges are insensitive in sexual assault cases. Most already write very good decisions. That is not the case, and I am not making generalizations.

I believe it is high time that the bill be voted on and studied in committee especially in the context of a pandemic that has exacerbated the problem of violence against women.

During the pandemic, I had the opportunity to speak to someone from the Australian consulate about the importance of training for judges with respect to sexual assault. It is a question of dignity for the victims because it is important to have a good understanding of the sensitive issues involved in sexual assault cases. It is important to place them in their social and family contexts.

During the pandemic, I also had several conversations with a survivor from Quebec. She told me that she has received comments on her blog from women who, like her, have had difficult experiences in court. Here are some of the comments: “They cannot judge something they do not understand”. “They do not understand the victim's emotional state as a result of post-traumatic stress”. “Fragmented memory means people cannot clearly remember the order of events. Memories come back in bits and pieces. It is not deliberate. It is how the brain goes into survival mode”. “Judges need to be able to adapt to the victim's state, not vice versa”.

In many cases, these women are still in a state of shock. The courts expect them to maintain their composure, but how can they? It is not realistic to expect them to calmly testify and provide all the details. That is impossible for a victim of sexual assault.

I can only hope that, in the near future, the bill will be passed and brought into force as quickly as possible. We need to forget about partisanship and pass this bill now so we can fight the myths and stereotypes associated with sexual assault, which is far too common.

There are 600,000 sexual assaults in Canada every year. On average, one in two women will be assaulted at least once in her lifetime. That rate is even higher for women with a disability, not to mention the MMIWG issue.

There are far too many assaults happening. Rape culture has no place in 2020. We must act.