Judicial Accountability through Sexual Assault Law Training Act

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

Sponsor

Rona Ambrose  Conservative

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

Status

Second reading (Senate), as of Oct. 26, 2017

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-337.

Summary

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.

Elsewhere

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.

JusticeOral Questions

October 26th, 2017 / 2:25 p.m.
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Vancouver Granville B.C.

Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, sexual assault is completely unacceptable. Our government has an unwavering commitment to ensuring that victims of sexual assault are treated with fairness, dignity, and respect.

I was incredibly proud to stand with all members of the House to move forward private member's bill, Bill C-337, to the other place. I hope it moves forward to provide the necessary training for the judiciary.

We will continue in the absence of that to do everything we can as a government to ensure that we provide the necessary—

JusticeOral Questions

October 26th, 2017 / 2:25 p.m.
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NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, earlier this year, the House unanimously passed Rona Ambrose's bill on sexual assault training for judges. This training is required to educate judges and to encourage victims to report sexual assault. Now more than ever, it is important to take swift action.

Unfortunately, this bill is being held up in the Senate. It is completely unacceptable and ridiculous that the Senate, with its unelected members, is stalling an initiative that has the unanimous consent of the House.

Will the Prime Minister join us and ask the Senate to move quickly on Bill C-337?

October 25th, 2017 / 3:30 p.m.
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Collective Member, Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter

Hilla Kerner

Thank you.

I'm hoping my accent will be clearer in the beginning.

The women who work in a rape crisis centre did not need the “Me too” campaign to know how common it is for women to experience sexual assault and rape. Being a girl and a woman in this world means we are likely to be sexually assaulted. If we are poor, indigenous, women of colour, or women with cognitive or physical disabilities, we are even more likely to be sexually assaulted. I would say it's almost guaranteed and, yes, me too.

In preparation for this submission, we looked at almost 6,000 cases of sexual assault and rape of women who called our rape crisis centre in the last five years. Twenty-five hundred women were raped by their husbands, boyfriends, or lovers, and another 422 women were raped by their ex-male partner after they broke up with him. Two hundred and thirty-four women were sexually assaulted, most often raped, by their male supervisor or co-worker. Eleven hundred women were sexually assaulted by someone they knew professionally, often through social circumstances like a party, mutual friends, or someone they had a first or a second date with. Three hundred and thirty women were raped by their own fathers when they were young, and another 471 women were sexually assaulted or raped by other family members or family friends. Five hundred and nine women were assaulted by men who were a stranger to them.

We appreciate the Minister of Justice's efforts to advance sexual assault provisions with the amendments proposed in Bill C-51. We have one objection, and that is to the addition of “no consent is obtained if the complainant is unconscious”. Of course an unconscious woman cannot consent, but this is already captured under the existing law which says, “No consent is obtained” if the “complainant is incapable of consenting to the activity”.

The addition can be misused by defence counsels to argue that unconsciousness is a threshold for incapability, and since we too often see cases where judges do not know sexual assault laws, the intent behind the laws, and the intent of Supreme Court judgments instructing the application of the law, there is a serious danger that the judges will accept the defence arguments in this matter.

We support the proposed articulation that no consent is obtained if there is “no evidence that the complainant's voluntary agreement to the activity was affirmatively expressed by words or actively expressed by conduct”.

We also support the expansion of rape shield provisions to include communication of a sexual nature or communication for a sexual purpose. We support the right to legal representation for victims in rape shield proceedings.

About the amendment concerning victims' private records, it has been exactly 20 years since the passing of Bill C-46 which amended the Criminal Code with specific provisions regarding the production and disclosure of records of the accused in sexual assault proceedings.

We have been members of CASAC, the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres, since 1978. Early on, members of CASAC faced the need to protect a record; so in 1981 CASAC members passed a resolution to protect the confidentiality of records and to protect the confidentiality of what women told us regardless of legislation. Seeking women's records from rape crisis centres is a clear and blunt attempt to undermine a victim's credibility and violates their privacy and dignity. It is also a direct attack on rape crisis centres and our role in supporting individual victims, our demands that violent men be held accountable, and our overall fight for women's equality and liberty.

When Bill C-46 passed, the feminists who advocated for it described it as second best, because the full demand was for no records at any time. The current proposed amendments regarding women's records in the possession of the accused gets us closer to that demand, and we support this.

Alas, good laws mean nothing when judges do not know the law and therefore do not uphold the law. We are aware of the recent attempt by Parliament to address this issue, and we are looking forward to speaking to the matter when Bill C-337 is discussed at the relevant committee in the Senate.

Judges' ignorance is only one element in the utter failure of the criminal justice system as a whole to hold men who commit violence against women accountable. Of the 6,000 cases that I mentioned earlier, 1,800 were reported to the police. About 30 resulted in charges, and fewer in convictions.

The common sexism and diminishment of women in all aspects of our private and public lives teach men to see and treat us as things and not as full human beings. Pornography is a devastating and effective promotion and reinforcement of men's sexualized violence against women. Prostitution is a devastating and effective promotion of the sexual commodification of women, where women are used as a commodity that can be bought and sold by men.

The problem is not that men do not know if a woman really consented or if she really wanted to have sex with them; the problem is that they don't care. They are allowed not to care, because they know they can rape women with impunity.

We often use the term rape culture to mean the acceptance, the collusion, the promotion of male violence against women. Men use rape culture to sustain rape structure, a structure that keeps men in domination and keeps us women in submission. The accumulation and the impact of all the individual rapes that men commit against individual women sustain all men's power over all women.

Of course, we know it's not all men. We know that not all men are wife beaters, sex buyers, rapists, or pornographers, but for sure, many are. We know that because of all the women who call our and other rape crisis centres, and because of all the women who are living in our and other transition houses. And now,anyone who pays attention knows it too, because of all the women who say “Me too.”

We believe men can change, but not as long as they get permission and encouragement to violate our bodily integrity and autonomy. We need to shake the pillars of the rape structure and start by holding men who commit violence against women accountable. So far, the Canadian state and its criminal justice system has been failing to do so.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms promises us, “Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law.” It is now 2017, and we women still do not have it, not the equal protection nor the equal benefit of the law.

Thank you.

June 20th, 2017 / 8:50 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

All right, ladies and gentlemen. Here we are with our committee business. It's going to be sort of an interesting meeting today because, as you know, we're supposed to have votes. The bells are supposed to go at 10:05. It's unfortunate that our panel is in the second half, but we'll have as many of them give their opening remarks as we can before the bells go, and the bells could be delayed. You can never predict what's happening in the House.

For our committee business, there are a couple of things. First, we talked last week about the letter that's going to the justice minister on Bill C-337, and we have the final changes. Do any of you have any issue with the draft that was updated and sent to you? Okay, so that can go. Wonderful.

Today, our main topic of discussion is what we will study after the economic status of women. The clerk did email to you the list of all of the things that previously we had suggested. This was so that you could check off what we've already studied and we could look at the ones that are left. However, are there any that you would like to bring forward by way of a motion?

Ms. Damoff.

June 13th, 2017 / 9:35 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

I know. I agree.

The second thing is the Bill C-337 letter. If you remember, there was a letter that we were going to provide to the justice minister on that bill, that she could then give to her provincial counterparts. The draft was sent. Are there any changes that you'd like to see to that?

Ms. Malcolmson.

June 8th, 2017 / 10:40 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

Very good.

Unfortunately, that's the end of our time for today, so I want to thank our witnesses for your excellent work and your help with the session today.

For committee members, I just want to remind you that next week we'll be looking at the draft of the letter for Bill C-337. It will be sent out to you and you can take a look at that. We'll also have an opportunity to do committee business on Tuesday. There's an order in council appointment to discuss, the coordinator for Status of Women, and we have to decide whether we want to interview them or not.

We will see you next week. Have a great weekend.

The meeting is adjourned.

May 18th, 2017 / 9:35 a.m.
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Liberal

Terry Duguid Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Madam Chair, thank you for this brief moment of the committee's time.

We've had Kyna Boyce sitting with us since December 2015. She's policy adviser to the Minister of Status of Women. She also assists the parliamentary secretaries, of which I am the second one. She will be taking a new position with Minister Duclos. I know, particularly on the government side, that she's been an absolutely essential link between the minister and this committee. She worked very hard on Bill C-337 and helped us all get to a consensus on it.

In her new role, of course, she'll be tackling issues such as EI, child care, and housing, some of the things that we know are so important to women. We wish her well in her new position and thank her for all of her service to this committee.

May 18th, 2017 / 9:30 a.m.
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NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

I have some other questions and suggestions as well. I would suggest, partly because the bill is still in process, that we don't need to rush this, but especially I want to make sure that the people who receive this letter really understand what it is we're asking for and why. I would thus rather see an expansion of some of the rationale, because this is really an advocacy letter to catch the other ministers up on what they missed.

In the very first paragraph, then, I think some expansion of what the bill does—some bullet points that summarize the contents of the bill—could be added, so they will understand what Bill C-337 is.

In the second paragraph, I think we need some rationale. What's the imperative for making transcripts widely available? If we simply give the ask without saying why, then I think it will have less impact.

We could, for example, select a piece of witness testimony, if we didn't have anything else that described the imperative. I have one suggestion. Elaine Craig, from the Dalhousie faculty of law, had a quote that we could provide, if that's helpful and if others agree that we need to have a bit of background.

Then, in the paragraph on training I think we should make sure that we are reflecting the vocabulary used in the bill. “Trauma-informed training” is an example: I'm not sure this is the language that ended up being in the bill. Again, if we were able to provide one example—maybe a sample line of testimony....

Finally, I just wasn't clear from the draft to whom we are directing this; whether we're aiming it to the justice minister and saying, “Can you, please, at a government-to-government level, on our behalf convey this to the provincial ministers?”; or whether we're writing to the justice minister and cc'ing all the provincial and territorial ministers. I think we should just have clarity on that before we send the letter.

May 18th, 2017 / 9:30 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

Excellent.

Thank you very much to all our witnesses this morning.

We have a brief bit of committee business to take care of that we're going to sandwich here in the middle—three quick items. The first one has to do with the follow up from Bill C-337, namely, a letter that I believe we agreed we would send to the justice minister so she could distribute it to the provinces. There are three comments about the draft, which I think you received. The first one has to do with paragraph 2, where it talks about—

Member for Sturgeon River—ParklandOral Questions

May 16th, 2017 / 3:25 p.m.
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NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, today we pay tribute to the extraordinary member for Sturgeon River—Parkland and interim leader of the Conservative Party for her service as a member of Parliament, as a minister, and as leader of the official opposition and thank her for the honour, integrity, and passion she has brought to this House over the years.

We learned last night that not only will the member be handing over the reins to a new leader, she will also be stepping down as MP. That news was met with an outpouring of recognition and tremendous gratitude, and rightly so. She will be missed as an MP and as a great leader of the Conservative Party—my personal favourite, for the record.

In less than two weeks, a new Conservative leader will be chosen. We do not know who that will be, but we do know it will not be Kevin O'Leary. I guess for that, at least, we can be thankful.

I thought today I would tell a story that demonstrates why the member for Sturgeon River—Parkland is so widely respected. This House is often filled with passionate debate and disagreement, as it should be. As opposition leaders of often diametrically opposed parties, we frequently have very different perspectives on issues, but sometimes we can find common ground and bypass party differences for the greater good. In March, the leader of the official opposition and I, and ultimately all members of this House, were able to come together and do just that.

A series of shocking decisions showed us once again that our legal system does an abysmal job of addressing cases of sexual assault and protecting the victims. The Halifax ruling made it clear that appropriate sexual assault training for judges was not only necessary, but had become urgent.

The Criminal Code stipulates that no consent is obtained where the complainant is incapable of consenting to the activity. This ruling went completely against the Criminal Code and it became clear that it was necessary to act quickly on this.

The member had introduced legislation, Bill C-337, that would require judges undergo comprehensive training in sexual assault law. I was very impressed with the proposed bill. It is an important step forward for survivors of sexual assault who are struggling in a judicial system that far too often fails them.

It was clear to me that the legislation should receive unanimous support, not only due to the urgency of the problem but also because at that moment in particular, it was critically important that every member of the House come together and say “we believe survivors”.

We reached out to the member and her office and offered to endorse the bill and fast-track it to committee by proposing unanimous consent. That unanimous consent was forthcoming.

It is rare for all leaders of political parties to support each other's legislation and even more rare for leaders to propose unanimous consent for each other's legislation. However, when it comes to how our judicial system handles cases of sexual assault, I am so proud to say that members of the House unanimously agreed to put survivors first.

Quite sincerely, I thank the leader of the official opposition for the tremendous work she did for this bill. I know that this goes back to the hon. member's university days when she took part in a project that looked into how sexual assault complainants were treated in the courts. I know how important this is to her and I am extremely honoured that the House passed the bill yesterday.

I thank the hon. member for being so open to working in a collaborative and non-partisan way. That is what made possible this important accomplishment. I will always be very proud of this moment and I hope she will be as well. I can safely say that the leadership that the hon. member for Sturgeon River—Parkland showed in the House certainly earned her the respect of the entire NDP caucus.

In closing, Catherine and I wish my colleague, the leader of the official opposition, her family and her wonderful spouse, J.P., many years of peace and happiness together.

Judicial Accountability through Sexual Assault Law Training ActRoutine Proceedings

May 15th, 2017 / 3:20 p.m.
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NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, in a moment, I am going to propose a unanimous consent motion. It is in relation to Bill C-337, a private member's bill to provide for sexual assault training for judges to prevent any more of the terrible headlines we have seen in this country on how victims of sexual assault might be treated in the courts.

The amendments that have been proposed by the status of women committee include training that is informed by the work of grassroots organizations that protect, serve, and navigate these victims of sexual violence through the court system.

Mr. Speaker, I believe that if you seek it, you will find unanimous for the following motion:

That, notwithstanding any standing order or usual practices of the House,C-337, an act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code (sexual assault), be deemed concurred in at the report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

May 12th, 2017 / 12:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the ninth report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women concerning Bill C-337, an act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code (sexual assault).

The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House, with amendments.

May 11th, 2017 / 9:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

I do have a proposed amendment, which doesn't have a fancy title like Liberal-3. However, I will provide a copy in writing once I read it for the benefit of the crowd.

Also I believe the French version is available as well, but I handed my copy to another member of the committee. Once I read the English version into the record, I'll share both copies in writing with you and then have a few questions for our department officials.

The new amendment would read that Bill C-337, in clause 5, be amended by replacing lines 21 to 24 on page 3 with the following: “Reasons, 278.92 (1) In proceedings for an offence under section 151, 152, 153, 153.1 or 155, subsection 160(2) or (3) or section 170, 171, 172, 173, 271, 272, or 273, the judge shall provide reasons for a decision that a person is”. As well, it would amend clause 5 by adding, after line 30 on page 3, “Record of reasons”, and this is the key part that differs from the previous iteration, “(2) The reasons shall be entered in the record of the proceedings or, if the proceedings are not recorded, shall be provided in writing.”

Then, similar to what we had previously, it says, “Proceedings before a judge, (3) Subsections (1) and (2), apply only in proceedings before a judge without a jury.”

May 11th, 2017 / 9:30 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

We're back discussing Bill C-337 on the clause-by-clause.

We're fortunate to have as help for us today from our justice department, Gillian Blackell and Uzma Ihsanullah.

Mr. Fraser, we'll go back to you.

May 11th, 2017 / 9:05 a.m.
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NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

My proposal is that Bill C-337 be amended by adding after line 18 on page 3 the following new clause:

4.1 The Act is amended by adding the following after section 74:

74.1 The Commissioner shall, within three months after the end of each fiscal year, prepare and publish on the Office of the Commissioner's website a report on the education in sexual assault law described in paragraph 3(b ), including any observations and recommendations that the Commissioner considers appropriate.