Judicial Accountability through Sexual Assault Law Training Act

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


Rona Ambrose  Conservative

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


In committee (Senate), as of May 31, 2018

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


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.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2017 / 12:25 p.m.
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Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-51. The stated purpose of the bill is to streamline the Criminal Code of Canada by removing certain provisions that no longer have any relevance in contemporary society.

I agree with many of the revisions, such as the removal of clause 41 of section 365 of the Criminal Code, which states, “Every one who fraudulently (a) pretends to exercise or to use any kind of witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration”; and clause 4, the removal of section 71 pertaining to duelling in the streets, “Every one who (a) challenges or attempts by any means to provoke another person to fight a duel, (b) attempts to provoke a person to challenge another person to fight a duel, or (c) accepts a challenge to fight a duel”. These are a number of the provisions to be removed.

I suppose the government may argue that the provisions against duelling have worked, because it has disappeared from our streets. Therefore, people certainly got the message a long time ago. Witchcraft and neighbourhood duelling no longer have any bearing on our society today. That is one point on which we can agree.

The Conservative Party is also aligned with the strengthening of the provisions of the sexual assault legislation and, indeed, has led the way for supporting victims of sexual assaults by, among other things, the private member's bill introduced by former Conservative leader, Rona Ambrose, Bill C-337. The bill would make it mandatory for judges to participate in sexual assault training and ensure awareness in the judiciary in addition to education about the challenges sexual assault victims face. Her bill was designed to hold the Canadian judiciary responsible for the ongoing training of judges and the application of law in sexual assault trials.

Essentially, Bill C-337 would ensure the following. It would require that lawyers receive training in sexual assault as a criterion of eligibility for a federally appointed judicial position; that the Canadian Judicial Council provide an annual report to Parliament on the details of the type of sexual assault training offered and judicial attendance at the training, as well as the number of sexual assault cases heard by a judge before having received adequate sexual assault training; and that judges provide written reasons on decisions with regard to sexual assault.

As we will remember, this bill was passed in the House of Commons, and we were all very grateful to see it passed. It is now in the Senate and I hope the Senate will get the message and move forward on the bill, which has the support of this chamber and, I believe, Canadians across the country.

We are pleased the Liberals have followed our lead with regard to strengthening sexual assault provisions in the Criminal Code surrounding consent, legal representation, and expanding the rape shield provisions. The Conservative Party always stands up for the rights of victims of crime and have done so consistently, among other things, including the Canadian Victims Bills of Rights passed in 2015.

Bill C-51 would amend, among other things, section 273.1 to clarify that an unconscious person is incapable of consenting. Again, as my colleague pointed out, this is a reflection of the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in Regina v. J.A. It proposes to amend section 273.2 to clarify the defence of mistaken belief if consent is not available and if the mistake is based on a mistake of law, for example, if the accused believed that the complainant's failure to resist or protest meant the complainant consented. This, as was pointed out in the earlier speech of the parliamentary secretary, codifies a number of aspects of the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in R v. Ewanchuk from 1999.

As well, the bill would expand the rape shield provisions to include communications of a sexual nature or communications for a sexual purpose. These provisions provide that evidence of a complainant's prior sexual history cannot be used to support the inference that the complainant was more likely to have consented to the sexual activity in issue or that the complainant is less worthy of belief.

In addition, the bill would provide that a complainant would have a right to legal representation in rape shield cases, which I believe is very important. It would create a regime to determine whether an accused could introduce a complainant's private records at trial, which would be in his or her possession. This would complement the existing regime governing an accused's ability to obtain a complainant's private records when those records would be in the hands of a third party.

As I mentioned at the outset, some proposed changes we were adamantly against. As it turns out, thousands of Canadians were also adamantly against the removal of section 176 of the Criminal Code, the section of the Criminal Code that provides protection for religious services.

I would be hard-pressed in my career to know when I have received more emails, or more petitions or correspondence than on this section. When Bill C-51 was first introduced, the government interestingly enough made no mention whatsoever of the fact that it would remove the section that directly protected religious services and those who performed those services.

I was a little taken aback when I read legislation and I saw the removal of section 176. Even though I have practised some criminal law in my career, I had to check exactly what section we were talking about and, indeed, this was the section that said among other things:

(1) Every one who (a) by threats or force, unlawfully obstructs or prevents or endeavours to obstruct or prevent a clergyman or minister from celebrating divine service or performing any other function in connection with his calling, or (b) knowing that a clergyman or minister is about to perform, is on his way to perform or is returning from the performance of any of the duties or functions mentioned in paragraph (a) (i) assaults or offers any violence to him, or (ii) arrests him on a civil process, or under the pretence of executing a civil process, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years. (2) Every one who wilfully disturbs or interrupts an assemblage of persons met for religious worship or for a moral, social or benevolent purpose is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction. (3) Every one who, at or near a meeting referred to in subsection (2), wilfully does anything that disturbs the order or solemnity of the meeting is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

When the government did not mention this was what it would remove, I remember very clearly saying to my colleagues, when this first came up for second reading debate in June, that they should talk to their constituents and ask them if they thought this was a good idea to remove the section of the Criminal Code that directly protected religious services and if they were aware of the fact that the government now wanted to remove the special protection that members of the clergy had. I asked them see what the response was.

I think my colleagues in the Liberal Party must have heard the message. They would have heard the same things I heard when we brought this to everyone's attention. Interrupting a religious service is not the same as a scuffle, or yelling at a hockey game, or disruption of a meeting. Even people who do not attend religious services would agree that this is more serious. This is the message I certainly hoped the Liberals would get, that this section was and remained critical and removing it would have eliminated the provision that completely protected the rights of individuals to freely practise their religion, whatever that religion may be.

Ironically enough during the very week the justice committee was reviewing the government's plans to remove this, the worst mass shooting in Texas history struck an otherwise quaint small town in that state. Gunman Devin Kelley stormed the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs and killed more than two dozen people. The following Sunday, a funeral service was held at the church. The original plan was to hold a small service, but so many people were outraged and moved by this horrible incident that hundreds and hundreds of people came out to show their support for the people of the community. It reiterates the fact that religious freedom is part of the constitution of the United States and it is contained in the First Amendment.

In Canada, our religious freedoms are protected and section 176 of the Criminal Code is part of that protection. Religious freedoms are fundamental to Canadians as well, and the Conservatives are proud to be among the first to stand and support religious freedoms for all faiths.

Faisal Mirza, the chair of the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association, made a point when he appeared before the committee. He said, “We cannot be blind that the current climate of increased incidents of hate, specifically at places of worship, supports that religious leaders may be in need of more, not less, focused protection.” He was referring to the deadly shooting at a Quebec mosque in January, when the lives of six people came to a violent end. Among the victims were parents, civil servants, academics, and people who had left their countries of war to seek a better life in Canada.

Religious crime knows no borders and has no respect of persons. This is why I am pleased to say that, after hearing testimony from faith communities across the country, justice committee members voted to keep section 176 of the Criminal Code in place.

I would like to thank those thousands of Canadians who wrote or emailed their respective members of Parliament. I indicated in my opening comments that I did not remember receiving as much feedback as did on this. I think all members have experienced the same kind of push-back on this, that the protections provided in section 176 are there for a particular purpose.

Again, I disagree with the comments made by my colleague, the parliamentary secretary, when he pointed out that the Minister of Justice said that these things were still offences under the Criminal Code. It is not the same thing. Disrupting a religious service is not the same as creating mischief somewhere and it is not the same as causing a disruption at a hockey game. Most Canadians would agree with us on this side of the House that this is more serious, and that it should continue to have protection within the Criminal Code.

Again, I find it ironic that when this bill was presented to the public, there was mention of duelling and witchcraft, but not one mention of the fact the government would remove the specific protection for religious services and religious officials.

There was one other section of the Criminal Code I did not agree with the Liberals removing. This is the section that has specific protection if someone attempts to attack the Queen. Some of my colleagues said that these sections were not used very often, or one of my colleagues said that the Queen would not be visiting here very much in the future. Again, I believed this was a bad idea.

When I was at the University of Windsor, I will always remember that one of my law professors pointed out the sections in the Criminal Code with respect to treason. He said that it was great this section was very seldom ever used in Canada, but it did not mean it should be removed. I do not go along with the thinking that if nobody commits treason, then we better get rid of that section in the Criminal Code. That is not how it works. This is still a very serious crime. Again, if anyone attempts to attack the Queen, as Canada's head of state, in my opinion it is not the same as getting into a fist fight at a bar some night. It is important; it has significant aspects.

I have to point out that the timing of this is terrible. This is the 65th anniversary of when the Queen took the throne. Nobody has a better record anywhere of public service in the world today than she has.

It has been consistently going on since before she assumed her reign in 1952 and in her service during World War II. That is what she has done, and again this is the year the Liberals decided they would remove this specific protection against someone who is attempting to attack her.

That being said, I am pleased that the government caved on section 176. I am very pleased with respect to the clarifications with respect to sexual consent. I am very pleased as well that a number of the sections that are taking up space in the Criminal Code that no longer have any particular relevance are being removed. However, one of the things that something like this has taught us on this side is we have to be very careful. This is the lawyer in me. We have to read the fine print, and the fine print removing the protection for religious services and religious officials is something that we have to be very aware of. I can assure my colleagues on the other side that we will look at all legislation to see if what are supposed to be unintended consequences are in fact consequences of a very serious nature. Again, my heartfelt thanks go out to all those religious institutions, all those Canadians, and all those individuals who spoke up in support of section 176.

JusticeOral Questions

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


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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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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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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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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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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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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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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The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu


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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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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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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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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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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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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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.

May 11th, 2017 / 9 a.m.
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The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

On NDP-3 the ruling for this one is that it's not admissible. Bill C-337 amends the Judges Act to restrict eligibility for judicial appointment to individuals who have completed comprehensive sexual assault education. The amendment seeks to establish an education program for persons who play a role in the administration of criminal justice beyond the one that the bill contemplates for judges. As House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, states on page 766:

An amendment to a bill that was referred to a committee after second reading is out of order if it is beyond the scope and principle of the bill.

In the opinion of the chair, this amendment introduces a new concept that is beyond the scope of the bill. Therefore, I am ruling the amendment inadmissible.

May 11th, 2017 / 8:50 a.m.
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Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

I propose a subamendment to Liberal-1.

Liberal-1 says that Bill C-337, in clause 2, be amended “by replacing line 28 on page 2 with the following”. My subamendment is in proposed subparagraph 3(b)(i), after the words “education in sexual assault law that”. I would insert the following new words, and this is mostly what is written in NDP-1:

has been developed in consultation with sexual assault survivors, as well as with groups and organizations that support them, and that includes

May I speak to that?

May 11th, 2017 / 8:50 a.m.
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The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. We are pleased to be here today for the clause-by-clause review of Bill C-337, an act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code, regarding sexual assault.

We'll begin our clause-by-clause. Pursuant to Standing Order 75(1), the consideration of the preamble and clause 1, the short title, is postponed.

(On clause 2)

If you refer to the amendments that were sent out, you'll see that there is a Liberal-1 amendment. I want to inform the committee that if Liberal-1 is adopted, then NDP-1 cannot be moved, because there is a line conflict there. Just be aware of that.

Liberal-1 says that Bill C-337, in clause 2, be amended by replacing line 28 on page 2 with the following:


(i) education in sexual assault law that includes

Also, that clause 2 be amended by replacing line 32 on page 2 with the following:

associated with sexual assault complainants, and

(ii) social context education.

Is there discussion on the amendment?

May 2nd, 2017 / 9 a.m.
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Executive Director and Senior General Counsel, Canadian Judicial Council

Norman Sabourin

I would just say, Madam Chair, that in the CJC position paper on Bill C-337 we do map out from a quantitative perspective that the CJC intends to publish the title, description, and overview of all education seminars approved by the CJC in the preceding year. We propose to publish the dates and duration of each seminar, and we propose to publish the number of judges who attend each seminar.

On a qualitative basis, I think that to start talking about 22% of sexual assault training would be a grave error, because we are taking a very comprehensive approach to social context education. As Justice Kent has pointed out, you might have a course on evidence that has integrated into it clear objectives of social context education, such as gender-based inequality and the intersectionality of the issues that surround gender-based issues.

May 2nd, 2017 / 8:45 a.m.
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The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

Good morning, colleagues.

We return to our study of Bill C-337, an act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code with respect to sexual assault.

We're happy to have with us again, from the National Judicial Institute, the Honourable Madam Justice Adèle Kent, the executive director.

We also have with us Marc Giroux, Deputy Commissioner at the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs Canada, and Norman Sabourin, Executive Director and Senior General Counsel at the Canadian Judicial Council.


We'll begin with Ms. Kent for five minutes.

April 13th, 2017 / 10:10 a.m.
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Chad Kicknosway Senior Advisor on Justice and Human Rights, Native Women's Association of Canada

I just want to add that the current Judges Act in section 62 grants the council powers to establish ongoing seminars for existing judiciary. My concern here is that this bill only impacts newly appointed judges. I would suggest incorporating into the current Bill C-337 some sort of transitional provision or some other provision that compels the council to make it a priority that all judges, even the old ones, take the mandatory comprehensive education on sexual assault.

April 13th, 2017 / 9:55 a.m.
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Lise Martin Executive Director, Women's Shelters Canada

Thank you for the invitation and the opportunity to share our thoughts on Bill C-337. Women's Shelters Canada, formerly known as the Canadian Network of Women's Shelters and Transition Houses, brings together 14 provincial and territorial shelter organizations representing over 400 shelters across Canada.

We believe that the introduction and, more importantly, the implementation of Bill C-337 is an important step in the right direction. We congratulate all MPs who are working across party lines to make this a reality. Following the numerous testimonies that you have heard over the last 18 months as members of this committee, I do not need to convince you that the systems intended to respond to violence against women are broken.

Recent court decisions in Alberta and Nova Scotia involving sexual assault and domestic violence have spurred public outrage. Clearly, Judge Lenehan and former Justice Camp demonstrated a clear disregard for and a lack of understanding of sexual assault and definitions of consent as defined in the Criminal Code.

In November 2016, Judge Deborah Paquette of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador downplayed the severity of strangulation in a domestic violence case, treated the perpetrator as the victim, categorized domestic violence as a private matter, and sentenced the RCMP officer to only 14 days' house arrest for assaulting his former girlfriend. This was in November 2016.

These recent examples, which are by no means exceptions, demonstrate how Canadian courts are failing to send the message that sexual assault and all forms of violence against women are unacceptable. For decades, advocates in the violence against women sector, and survivors, have fought to make domestic violence and sexual assault a visible and socially significant issue. Despite this, we continue to see our work undermined by Canadian judges, who label domestic violence as a private matter and misunderstand the basic ideas and laws about consent and sexual assault.

Enacting Bill C-337 to ensure training for judges working on cases of sexual assault is a demonstration of the Government of Canada's commitment to ensure that our legal system believes survivors. Training, however, must go beyond federal judges. Police, lawyers, crown prosectors, and judges all need training on sexual assault and domestic violence. For victims of sexual assault, police officers are their first interaction with the justice system. Since fear is the main barrier to victims' reporting sexual assault and domestic violence, we need systems that support victims and do not cause them further harm.

Our understanding of the proposed bill is that it only covers federally mandated judges. This is an example of why we need a national action plan on violence against women. A national plan could cover judges mandated by the provinces and territories and begin to ensure that women in all areas of the country have access to comparable levels of services and protection. This is not the case today. This is an area where federal leadership is called for.

In conclusion, mandatory and ongoing education that includes the neurobiological impacts of trauma, the power and control dynamics of violence against women, the role of intersectionality, and the experiences of survivors, with input and participation of women's organizations, would go a long way.

At Women's Shelters Canada, we would like to see training for judges broadened to include not only training on sexual assault but also training on domestic violence and the gendered nature of violence against women; training to better understand colonization and intergenerational trauma, with a focus on their impact upon Canada's indigenous peoples; training for the judicial committees that oversee the appointment of judges; collaboration with women's organizations in developing training, including trauma-informed approaches; and finally, training that is shaped by the perspective of survivors, as they are indeed the true experts.

That concludes my presentation.

April 13th, 2017 / 9:45 a.m.
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Francyne Joe President, Native Women's Association of Canada

Good morning Madam Chairperson, committee members, guests, and distinguished witnesses.

My name is Francyne Joe, and I am the interim president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada. I would like to first acknowledge that we are on Algonquin territory and we are meeting here on this beautiful spring day.

I am honoured to have worked alongside Ms. Martin of Women’s Shelters Canada on the 16 days of activism to end violence against women campaign. I thank all of today’s witnesses for their commitment to supporting the empowerment of women and advocating for policies that address the roots of violence against women.

I am here today with Mr. Chad Kicknosway, NWAC’s senior adviser on justice and human rights.

We thank you for the opportunity to present to you today on such an important subject. As a woman of first nations descent and a national representative of first nations and Métis women, it is my primary goal to advocate for policies that improve our well-being. This includes social, economic, cultural, and political spheres. The issue of violence against women extends into each of these areas.

I believe that the reported rate of one in three women living in Canada experiencing sexual assault in their lifetimes is a low estimate, when low reporting rates are taken into account. For indigenous women, the rate is at least three times higher. The launch of the national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls marks the official recognition that violence against our women has reached pandemic proportions.

Indigenous women face multiple barriers to receiving justice after being assaulted. The first is the fear of coming forward. This may be a fear of retaliation, but it is commonly a fear of not being heard or believed. There is no question that the general practice of victim-blaming stops many women from coming forward. Indigenous women face not only the sexist aspects of the system but the practice of racism as well. It is well documented that indigenous women have been questioned aggressively, unfairly judged, humiliated, and even assaulted while reporting their assaults and even while in custody.

It may no longer be the practice of the media to criticize a woman for her lifestyle when reporting on cases of sexual assault. However, the decisions and comments made by judiciary officials have continued to perpetuate the racism and sexism that contribute to the propagation of violence against indigenous women. In the case of Cindy Gladue, a judge allowed graphic genital photos of the victim and a physical sample from the body to be shown in court. The fact that she was a sex worker was given undue bearing in the proceedings. The court’s prejudice had an impact on the jury’s judgments on consent and led to the ultimate acquittal of the man who killed her. Such errors in judgment, coloured by ignorance, bias, and outright racism, send indigenous women and perpetrators of violence against indigenous women a message that indigenous women’s lives are not valued.

Indigenous women need to be shown that they are loved and that they are valued.

Our justice system needs to address this by passing bills that will strongly discourage light sentencing against perpetrators of violence against indigenous women, consider being an indigenous woman as an aggravating factor when sentencing an offender, and address the systemic racism and sexism that keeps indigenous women silent, which encourages a perception that they are vulnerable.

This bill comes at a pivotal time in Canada’s history as we move toward reconciling with the first inhabitants of this country, the indigenous population. The passing of Bill C-337 would send a clear message that the justice system refuses to play a role in further violence against indigenous women and that indigenous women are respected, loved, and valued.

We thank you for this invitation to offer our input on the specifics of this bill and its implementations.

Therefore, on behalf of the Native Women's Association, I’m pleased to state our support for this bill and elaborate on our recommendations and concerns.

The proposed addition to the Judges Act to make it mandatory for newly appointed judges to complete comprehensive education in sexual assault law is a positive move forward. It must be expected that NWAC would bring forth the recommendation that this comprehensive education include a distinct section, or course, or chapter that discusses indigenous women exclusively. NWAC has done extensive work in this area already, and we are ready to offer our continued expertise on this matter. This could take the form of developing a comprehensive educational tool kit that brings awareness to the unique issues that indigenous women experience.

My first recommendation for the committee to consider is incorporating into subclause 2(2) of the bill, a reference that specifically addresses violence against indigenous women. Therefore, tail end of the proposed amendment of subsection 3(b) of the Judges Act would read, “as well as education regarding myths and stereotypes associated with sexual assault complainants, and education regarding the unique experiences of sexual violence against Indigenous women.”

I believe this inclusion will add value to the reconciliation process between Canada and the first inhabitants of this country.

A shortcoming of the bill that may have been brought to your attention appears to be that the bill's requirements of the comprehensive education in sexual assault law would only apply to newly appointed judges.

Subclause 2(2) of the bill is clear, that candidates in consideration of judicial appointment need to undertake education and “instruction in evidentiary prohibitions, principles of consent and the conduct of sexual assault proceedings, as well as education regarding myths and stereotypes associated with sexual assault complainants.”

There's nothing the bill—

April 13th, 2017 / 9 a.m.
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Jackie Stevens Executive Director, Avalon Sexual Assault Centre

Thank you. Good morning.

I am Jackie Stevens with the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre. I want to acknowledge that I am presenting to you today from unceded Mi'kmaq territory here in Halifax.

Avalon Sexual Assault Centre is a feminist, trauma-informed organization that provides services for those affected by sexualized violence. Avalon's primary emphasis is on support, education, counselling, and leadership and advocacy services for women and trans and/or non-gender-binary people.

Avalon offers trauma-specific, individual, therapeutic counselling and group program services for women and trans and/or non-gender-binary individuals, aged 16 and older, in relation to sexual assault or abuse. We provide community education, public awareness, and legal and professional training targeting the prevention of sexualized violence, intervention, and support of victims and survivors.

Avalon also operates the Avalon sexual assault nurse examiner program, which provides an immediate response to sexual assault victims of all ages and genders requiring medical care and the collection of forensic evidence.

Avalon has expertise and experience directly serving individuals who have experienced sexualized violence as well as in advocating for an equality-focused community response to sexualized violence. We've engaged in legal advocacy and education on these issues in Nova Scotia since 1983.

Avalon has expertise in substantive equality, sex-based, and gender-based discrimination and sexual assault law. The presentation is intended to provide the Standing Committee on the Status of Women with further points of analysis and consideration regarding Bill C-337.

Avalon has a substantial interest in this bill and the work of the standing committee because of its importance to the development of sexual assault jurisprudence and the impact of this jurisprudence on women's substantive equality, including the women directly served by Avalon centre.

Here are some points that I would like you to consider as you review this bill.

First, high-profile examples of systemic failure at all levels of the legal process have resulted in low rates of sexual assault reporting, and victims deciding not to participate in or to continue with the legal process after sexual assault or abuse has occurred.

Second, there is a level of distrust and lack of faith in the sexual assault criminal justice process, not only by victims but within the general public.

Third, there is a perception that the rights of the accused are more important than the rights of victims, and that justice is not possible for victims of sexualized violence under the current justice process.

Fourth, the issues brought forth to the public as a result of many high-profile cases have increased the number of individuals who are going public with their experiences before the courts and who are seeking systems and legal-based support and advocacy.

Finally, sexual assault advocates are not adequately resourced to provide ongoing court watch and court support as well as address the need for reform and change, both at an individual victim level and societally and systemically.

Criminal justice reform should continue to be based within the history of sexual assault law reform in Canada and in Parliament's intention to exclude discriminatory myths and stereotypes about women from judicial decision-making.

Past and present judicial statements, such as those of Judges McClung and Lenehan, and Justice Camp, demonstrate a disregard for women who have been targeted for sexualized violence. Their comments are rooted in misogyny, gender stereotypes, and sexual assault myths. Their decisions also demonstrate discrimination based on age, race, and the perception of what is deemed appropriate behaviour.

What is critical to note is that their decisions also demonstrate a lack of understanding of sexual assault and consent under the Criminal Code of Canada and/or blatant disregard for the laws.

Reformative processes should reflect a gendered analysis of the experiences of sexual assault victims and survivors, both when victimized and before the court. Sexual assault and abuse is committed from a position of power and control, and some victims are targeted because of gender, or racial or societal marginalization. Sexual assault laws under the Criminal Code are not gendered. However, how they are administered and interpreted is almost always based on societal perceptions of gender, race, age, disability, and so on.

Many sexual assault cases are investigated, tried, and decided on the basis of looking at the victim's pattern of behaviour and actions to determine consent or to refute that sexual assault occurred, rather than on the basis of looking at the accused's patterns of behaviour that demonstrate predatory, intentional, or criminal actions.

Reforms should apply to all levels of court, not just Canadian superior courts, and should be reflective of all forms of sexual assault or abuse under the law.

Separate from Bill C-337, I would like the committee to consider what practices are in place to ensure that existing policies, laws, and mandates pertaining to judges' training and decisions are being adhered to, and how this committee can influence or improve those current processes.

April 13th, 2017 / 8:55 a.m.
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National Executive Director, DisAbled Women's Network Canada

Bonnie Brayton

Good morning, again.

Hello, everyone.

Thank you.

I would again like to acknowledge the Algonquin people.

I was invited here to speak to the proposed Bill C-337, and I'm confident that others who will come before you will focus their remarks on the content and the substance of that bill, which as we know is about the important need to have a judiciary that is well informed in the area of sexual assault.

With limited time, we have instead chosen to focus on the Supreme Court decision that we believe makes it clear why judicial training is essential. We will also suggest that a thorough review of the content of this training is required to ensure that it has a fully developed curriculum to include the range of accommodation required to support all women.

On February 10, 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada released its judgment in the case of Regina v. D.A.I. LEAF and the DisAbled Women's Network of Canada intervened in that appeal. Through this Supreme Court of Canada decision, Chief Justice McLachlin, writing for the majority, described sexual assault as an evil and acknowledged that women with mental disabilities are targeted for this offence at alarming rates. The court confirmed the importance of hearing the voices of women with mental disabilities in the court. The court acknowledged that the testimony of women with mental disabilities is essential to stopping sexual abuse and ensuring that sexual offenders are brought to justice.

The legal question before the court was how to interpret subsection 16(3) of the Canada Evidence Act, which permits witnesses who can communicate the evidence but are unable to understand an oath or affirmation to testify unsworn on a promise to tell the truth. Lower courts have developed a practice requiring mentally disabled witnesses to explain the meaning of abstract concepts like promise, truth, and falsehood. No other category of witness—not even convicted perjurers—is subjected to such a pre-testimonial inquiry.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruling clarifies that persons with mental disabilities are not required to meet a more onerous test than any other witnesses before they are even allowed to take the stand. If a witness can communicate her experiences and if she can describe what happened to her, she can testify after saying she promises to tell the truth.

The Supreme Court judgment noted that in the past, mentally disabled victims of sexual offences had frequently been precluded from testifying, not on the ground that they could not relate what happened but on the ground that they lacked the capacity to articulate in abstract terms the difference between the truth and a lie.

Women with intellectual and cognitive disabilities, including women with brain injuries—frequently acquired as a result of violence—experience staggering rates of sexual assault and are seen as easy targets. Abusers believe that disabled women are powerless to complain or will not be believed even if they do complain. The Supreme Court, in rendering this decision, acknowledged this reality and confirmed that their testimony is essential to any realistic prospect of prosecution.

The Supreme Court majority recognized that the testimony of women with mental disabilities promotes the truth-seeking function of the criminal process, particularly given the undeniably high rates of sexual assault and the interests of society in the reporting and prosecution of abuse. As the Supreme Court itself said, excluding evidence would effectively “immunize an entire category of offenders from criminal responsibility”, with devastating harm to the abused women and to society as a whole.

The Supreme Court of Canada decision also notes that the questioning of mentally disabled adults may require accommodation of each individual's particular needs, so that their evidence is best communicated in court. This aspect of this ruling is in step with international law in other international jurisdictions. The U.K., for example, is currently far ahead of Canada in terms of providing for witness intermediaries who assist persons with communication or mental disabilities in accessing the justice system at all stages, from reporting to police to giving evidence in court. Creating and supporting a roster of witness intermediaries in Canada is a logical next step for the federal government.

The decision is also consistent with Canada's international human rights commitments. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities points to the need for our country to uphold its promise under article 13, where we are to have equal access to justice, and under article 16, which commits state parties to ensure that instances of exploitation, violence, and abuse against persons with disabilities are identified, investigated, and where appropriate, prosecuted.

In Canada and around the world, this decision is regarded as a major victory for women and all people with disabilities, and provides opportunities for appeals across jurisdictions around the globe.

April 13th, 2017 / 8:50 a.m.
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Bonnie Brayton National Executive Director, DisAbled Women's Network Canada

Good morning, everyone.

I'd like to begin by acknowledging that we're gathered on the territory of the Algonquin people and that we are in a time of truth and reconciliation with the first peoples of Canada. I was invited to speak to the proposed Bill C-337. I'm confident that others who will come before you will focus—

April 13th, 2017 / 8:45 a.m.
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The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

Good morning, colleagues.

We are returning to our study of Bill C-337, an act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code regarding sexual assault. We're very fortunate today to have a large group of witnesses. We begin with the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity. We have Jeremy Dias, who is the executive director, and Katerina Frost, who is the government affairs coordinator.

We also have from the DisAbled Women's Network Canada, Bonnie Brayton, who is the national executive director.

From “WomenatthecentrE”, we have Nneka MacGregor and Mandi Gray.

From the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre, by video conference from Halifax, Nova Scotia, we have Jackie Stevens, who is the executive director.

I want to welcome all of our witnesses today. Each of you will be able to begin with your five minutes of comments.

We'll begin with Katerina for five minutes.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

April 11th, 2017 / 10:20 a.m.
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Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, the question is timely because this morning at committee we are studying Bill C-337, which is to require sexual assault training and gender sensitivity training for judges, following on the just terrible headlines. The few women who report sexual assault, the few women who get police to agree that their assault was real and that there should be criminal charges, then have these terrible headlines about judges who show disrespect, who do not understand the law. We are very afraid that this is going to have an inhibiting effect on women's willingness to report. It is so important that this is an all-party commitment that we get judicial training right.

The evidence we heard at committee this morning is that the judicial training is really great right now and that it is going to be a lot better in the next few months, which is awkward, honestly, because if it were really being done well, we would not have these calamitous headlines about how some victims and survivors of sexual assault have been treated.

However, it does remind me of the testimony we heard at the same committee around gender-based analysis, which is the focus of this report, that although successive Auditor General reports had given both Liberal and Conservative governments a fail on implementing gender-based analysis, the current government now had taken internal measures and things were going a lot better inside some of the government departments.

I will say again that, until this is legislated, we will not have the transparency we need to know how the government is making its decisions in relation to its gender commitments.

April 11th, 2017 / 10:10 a.m.
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Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

One of the things we heard in our violence against young women and girls study is that different groups of women experience violence differently. I noted that Ms. Hendel talked about factors of privilege. I know Professor Koshan has written on myths and stereotypes, and Dr. Craig on The Inhospitable Court. We heard this significantly as a deterrent for women in seeking justice.

One of the key issues is that there is an intersectionality with different identity groups. LGBTQ women, indigenous women, those living with disabilities, newer immigrants, and other identity groups have even more difficulty. I noted that in Bill C-337 there isn't a specific lens in terms of intersectionality.

I'll start with Ms. Hendel, and then I'll let others respond. Do you think it would be an improvement to the bill if we were to include a necessity for that? Also, are you aware whether this kind of training already exists, or is this something that's already absent?

April 11th, 2017 / 10:10 a.m.
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Marc Serré Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

Thank you.

My question is to Professor Craig. You indicated that your experience is in constitutional law, and you spoke about written and provincial responsibility. In your opinion, does Bill C-337 create any provincial jurisdiction issues, and also, does the bill undermine a judge's independence?

We have 30 or 60 seconds.

April 11th, 2017 / 9:30 a.m.
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Karen Ludwig Liberal New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Thank you very much.

I found your presentations very interesting and informative. Thank you for all the work you're doing in terms of the training of judges, and for sharing that with us.

In looking at the current form of Bill C-337, in your experiences, what would be the unintended consequences of this current piece of legislation? You've identified some of them. If it were passed, what might be some of the unintended consequences that we want to avoid?

April 11th, 2017 / 9 a.m.
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Marc Giroux Deputy Commissioner, Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs

Madam Chair, thank you for this invitation and the opportunity to make a few remarks on Bill C-337.

I am the deputy commissioner for federal judicial affairs and I am now also fulfilling the role of commissioner.

Before commenting on Bill C-337, I would like to speak briefly about the role of the commissioner for federal judicial affairs. Pursuant to the Judges Act, the commissioner acts as the deputy of the Minister of Justice in administering part I of the act, which speaks to the appointment, compensation, and benefits of judges.

The commissioner has other responsibilities, which include, under subsection 74(1)(d), to do other things the minister may require for the proper functioning of the judicial system in Canada. This is where our office is delegated the role of administering the judicial appointments process on behalf of the minister. I would be pleased to explain this in greater detail if there are questions later.

Essentially, our role is to prepare the list of judicial vacancies, oversee the application process, support the 17 judicial advisory committees that assess candidates, and prepare for the minister a list of eligible candidates from which to appoint. Because of the principle of judicial independence, the commissioner and the office are also independent from the Department of Justice.

I would now like to speak to the issue at hand, Bill C-337. Let me first say that, personally speaking, it is completely fair and appropriate, in light of certain cases, that questions be asked about the training of judges in sexual assault law. I certainly understand your interest in the issue and I think the objective of the training is entirely valid and important.

Actually, the issue at stake is finding out the best way to achieve the objective. As part of your discussion on this, we are of the opinion that this deserves some considerations and I would like to highlight two practical points.

The bill, as it currently stands, would have those who wish to become judges complete education in the area of sexual assault law before they are appointed. In the administration of the judicial appointments process, our office receives over 500 applications per year generally. This year we have received 700 applications in less than six months. If education is to be provided before applicants become judges—that is, during the assessment process—and to a large number of candidates, our concern is that it will be more difficult to ensure they are properly educated, and that such training will not be exhaustive enough.

The important priorities of, on the one hand, ensuring an efficient assessment process for candidates, and on the other, ensuring that candidates are properly educated in the area of sexual assault law may come into conflict, and one or both of these priorities may suffer as a result. The effects in essence could be twofold: the assessment of candidates may be delayed, and on the other hand, the education candidates receive on sexual assault law may be less than adequate.

If the objective is to determine the best manner in which to educate judges in the area of sexual assault law, which we agree is very important and worthy, doing so at the assessment stage may not be sufficient. It seems it would be best to provide such education once judges are newly appointed. They can then sit down in a class and take a course—perhaps approved by the Canadian Judicial Council as the responsible body under the law, and designed by NJI and its experts—and that course can be longer.

There's a second point that I would like to very quickly raise. In the Judges Act, the commissioner is mentioned only in part III. The commissioner is never mentioned in sections 1 to 72 of the act. Part III states that he is the “deputy of the Minister”. If the bill is passed as is, however, anyone who's appointed judge should have completed, to the commissioner's satisfaction, a refresher course on sexual assault law. That could create a potential conflict between the commissioner and the Minister of Justice, if the two have different opinions about how that training should be achieved. While in all other cases under the act, the commissioner acts as the deputy of the minister, with the bill, he would have a new responsibility independently from the minister, and as part of an appointment process that is not set out in the legislation. That potential conflict should be avoided.

These are my remarks, Madam Chair.

Thank you very much. I would welcome any questions.

April 11th, 2017 / 8:55 a.m.
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Adèle Kent Executive Director, National Judicial Institute


Good morning to you all. Thank you for allowing the National Judicial Institute the opportunity to come here to give you some information about judicial education in Canada, an initiative we're just starting with respect to sexual assault training.

Before I do that, I want to say a couple of things to you that I think we likely all agree on.

First of all, when sexual assault cases come into the courtroom, myths and stereotypes risk impeding the judicial process. These risks, we know, persist despite Parliament's effort at amending the Criminal Code and the guidance we have from the Supreme Court of Canada.

The dialogue that Bill C-337 has begun, along with the work this committee has done through your report on violence against women and girls, is a dialogue that the NJI welcomes. When sexual assault trials go wrong, the consequences, we know as judges, are serious for everybody involved.

For me, judicial education is the preventative key to these mistakes' being made. We know that errors will be made. There is appellate review available, but the real way to avoid the trauma that can result from appeals and retrials and that sort of thing is judicial education.

Bill C-337 proposes measures to improve the justice system when dealing with allegations of sexual assault. The NJI applauds the spirit of the act. We have some concerns about some of the methods, and I'd be happy to answer any questions about that in the question period.

With those two things said, let me get to an explanation of how we train judges. I'm going to speak first about federally appointed judges. There are two ways they get training.

First of all, almost all federally appointed judges attend NJI training in their court-based program. That's local to their various courts. Second, in addition, most of these judges also will attend one of the nationally planned NJI courses that we put on.

We know that the courts themselves also do some training. We also work closely with the Ontario Court of Justice, which, as you know, is the largest provincially appointed criminal trial court in the country. Along with the Canadian Association of Provincial Court Judges and the Ontario Court of Justice, we run a new judges school for provincially appointed judges. In all, last year NJI ran 180 days of judicial education.

NJI has been training judges about the dangers of rape myths and stereotypes and the complexity of sexual assault trials for years. Sexual assault trials first are tackled in new judges school, but that training is available throughout judges' careers, either in stand-alone programs that address sexual assault trials or as part of broader training in criminal or evidentiary programs.

Gender-based violence, equality, and discrimination issues are key parts of our broader social context programming. Social context requires judges to take into account the context of the cases they hear and not be influenced by attitudes based on stereotypes, myths, or prejudice. Because of these and other programs, I'm proud to say that we are a world leader in judicial education.

Judicial education must be led by judges; we work with judges throughout Canada to plan our programs. But it's not just judges. We call on academics to provide judges with their legal and social scientific scholarship and information about the impact of our decisions on society broadly. We also call on members of the community. Input from them ensures that NJI's goal of teaching judges the context of the people we serve is brought to the judges.

For sexual assault training, we have worked over the years with police, victim support workers in domestic and sexual assault violence, psychologists and psychiatrists, members of the indigenous community, and other diverse communities, just to give you some examples.

With all of this, can we do more? Absolutely we can.

First, going forward we want to share more information with Canadians about judicial education.

Second, NJI was pleased with the acknowledgement in the recent budget that money is necessary for the education of judges, to make that education even more robust.

Last week, NJI received additional funding from the Canadian Judicial Council. The plan with that money is to fund some videocasts on sexual assault trials, which will be put on our website, thereby making them available to all Canadian judges. I would be happy to explain more about this project to you again during question period.

With that, thank you very much for the opportunity to appear here today.

April 11th, 2017 / 8:50 a.m.
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Norman Sabourin Executive Director and Senior General Counsel, Canadian Judicial Council

Thank you very much.

Madam Chair, members of the committee, on behalf of the members of the Canadian Judicial Council (CJC), I sincerely thank you for your invitation.

The Council was created in 1971 to ensure better administration of justice, to exercise clear authority in overseeing judicial conduct and to assume explicit responsibility with respect to the continuing education of judges.

The independence of the judiciary requires judges to be in charge of the professional training of judges. In return, that requires the judiciary to ensure public trust in the competence of the judges.

The CJC has been a leader in professional training, including in bringing awareness to social issues such as sexual violence.

I am confident that in collaboration with the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs, the National Judicial Institute, and others, the CJC has put in place an outstanding system of judicial education, one that is internationally recognized for its quality.

Unfortunately we've done a very poor job of explaining this publicly, of telling the success story, so I'd like to give just a few highlights about what I think is a success story.

In 1989 the CJC, in its annual report, identified a concern with regard to the treatment of sexual assault cases by judges. The report outlined that a new training program was needed on gender issues so that judges could address gender issues with justice and with sensitivity. Other issues surfaced—aboriginal justice, poverty, mental health, racism—and the CJC created at that time a committee on equality in the courts.

The CJC worked with scholars, with the CBA, with government, and with community groups and adopted, in 1994, a policy of comprehensive, in-depth, credible education programs on social context issues. In 1997 chief justices of the council committed to providing the time and opportunity for all judges to take part in social context programs. As these programs developed, the CJC directed the NJI to include social context education in all of its programming, and that's where we stand today.

To ensure that we continue on this path of comprehensive education for judges, the CJC adopted just last week a resolution for mandatory participation in the seminar for all new federally appointed judges. This is in addition to the long-standing policy of the CJC requiring all judges to devote at least 10 days to professional development each year.

I conclude by emphasizing that professional development is for judges an ethical obligation. It's something that we take very seriously at the CJC. Failure to uphold that ethical obligation may well require a review of the judge's conduct.

I think Bill C-337 provides an opportunity to increase transparency in this area. The CJC has some ideas about the proposed legislation. For example, we think that the objectives sought in proposed subsection 2(2) would be met more effectively by requiring candidates for the judiciary to sign an undertaking on their application form to abide by CJC policies on judicial education, something that we will propose to the minister shortly.

I would also respectfully suggest to the members of the committee that if you want any views, advice, or suggestions when you enter the clause-by-clause review, I am at your disposal.

I look forward to your questions.

I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.

April 11th, 2017 / 8:50 a.m.
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The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

Yes, it would be in order to put it in writing and then we'll go from there.

All right. Now we turn our attention to private member's Bill C-337, an act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code (sexual assault).

We're extremely pleased today to have, from the Canadian Judicial Council, Norman Sabourin, who is the executive director and senior general counsel there. We also have, from the National Judicial Institute, Adèle Kent, who is the executive director. And from the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs, we have Marc Giroux, who is the deputy commissioner.

Welcome to you all.

I'm going to begin with Norman.

Norman, you have five minutes for your comments and then we'll go from there.

JusticeOral Questions

April 7th, 2017 / 11:25 a.m.
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Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, a few weeks ago, the NDP secured all-party support to fast-track Bill C-337, put forward by the hon. member for Sturgeon River—Parkland, regarding sexual assault training for judges. Women rarely report sexual assault, and, when they do, sadly the justice system often fails to handle these cases properly.

Unfortunately, the Minister of Status of Women does not appear to support this idea, and it sounds like she is washing her hands of this important piece of legislation.

Could the government please tell the House whether it supports this important bill?

April 6th, 2017 / 10:35 a.m.
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The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

The discussion was about how we were going to hear all of the witnesses on Bill C-337 by April 13, and we wanted the committee members to have the two weeks that we're in the constituencies to consider all of that. We thought that if we had all the briefs by then, they'd have the whole package. If the committee has the will to extend it to the 21st, I don't have an issue with it.

Ms. Vecchio.

April 6th, 2017 / 10:35 a.m.
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Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

For Bill C-337.

April 6th, 2017 / 10:35 a.m.
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The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

For Bill C-337 or the economic security?

April 6th, 2017 / 10:30 a.m.
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The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

That brings us to the end of our time to hear witnesses today. We have a little bit of committee business to take care of.

I want to thank our witnesses. You are both a wealth of information. Thank you for the work you do. I would invite you, if you have any other comments that you think would be helpful to the committee, to feel free to send those to the clerk. We appreciate them.

In terms of the business we have as a committee, you will have received the eighth report of the subcommittee. It basically considered the work we're going to do on Bill C-337 and said that there's a budget of $9,000 for it. There is a press release that we were going to send out to ask for briefs on it.

There was a decision by the subcommittee that we want to include all of the testimony we heard on violence against women and girls. Because there was a lot of overlap and a lot of testimony that pertained to the judicial training, we want to make sure it's included in the study so that we don't have to recall all those witnesses, in an attempt to narrow a bit.

The subcommittee also decided that we should set aside two days, April 11 and April 13, for all of the witnesses we've agreed upon—and there is a work plan for you to review—and that we would then undertake clause-by-clause on May 4.

That was the first part.

The second part had to do with the economic security study that we're now doing. We wanted to reissue the press release to make sure that we can extend and get more briefs. Then we talked about how, as we go along here in this study, we have noticed that questions may come up or there may be witnesses we have not heard from, so we wanted to have an opportunity to put forward some more witnesses to fill in any of the gaps.

Originally, we were thinking we would do so today, but I would propose, if the committee is happy to do it, that we allow some time for people to submit those names, because it's not as though we're in a hurry. We're continuing this study into the fall. It would be great if we could get the list of any additional witnesses people want to hear by the end of April.

I would be looking for a motion to adopt the subcommittee report.

That is so moved by Ms. Damoff.

Is there any discussion?

April 4th, 2017 / 8:50 a.m.
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Rona Ambrose Conservative Sturgeon River—Parkland, AB

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you to all the members of the status of women committee for all the great work that you do. As the opposition critic for status of women, I watch closely and I wanted to commend you right off the bat for the great report you just produced. I thank you for all of your great efforts and advocacy inside and outside this House.

I would like to thank the committee for having me today. This is an excellent opportunity to talk about an issue that is extremely important, not just to me, but also to Canadians.

Now, this all started when I was a university student. I volunteered in my spare time at a rape crisis centre, and that obviously had a profound impact on me. But at the same time, I participated in a research project with another advocacy organization called the Status of Women Action Group. It was doing a lot of good work on behalf of women, but one of the projects they were working on was a court watch program. This was many years ago when I was in university in British Columbia. 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. The whole point of that program was to amass evidence necessary to convince, at that time, the British Columbia government to mandate training for judges on sexual assault and sexual abuse. Well, here we are many years later, and we still don't have that.

Some things have improved, but I think we have a long way to go. Some of the things that I saw in the courtroom were shocking then, and sadly we still see these kinds of things. 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.

These kinds of stereotypes still exist, these kinds of mythologies continue, and we see them in our courtrooms. I don't have to raise some of the high-profile cases that you've seen. The truth is, the reason we know about those cases is that there happened to be a reporter in the room. That's the only reason we know. These kinds of things do go on day in and day out. I think there's an opportunity for us to make a change.

We've seen examples where judges seemingly didn't understand the law or didn't apply the law. It was as upsetting then as it is now. Unfortunately, as I said, it's still happening.

In the past few years, I have noted a disturbing number of sexual assault cases that have shaken the public's confidence in our justice system. These are cases in which those whom the justice system was supposed to serve, especially women who were victims of sexual assault, were harmed by comments, attitudes, or the application of the law.

What Bill C-337 proposes is very simple. First, the bill would require the Canadian judiciary to produce every year a report detailing how many judges have completed training in sexual assault law, how many cases were heard by judges who had not been trained, as well as a description of the courses that were taken. Second, it would require any lawyer applying for a position in the judiciary to have first completed sexual assault case training and education. Third, it would result in a greater number of written decisions from judges presiding over sexual assault trials.

Let me say how pleased I was to see your recent report, “Taking Action To End Violence Against Young Women and Girls in Canada”. I know that this report, in particular, touched on the need to improve training in the field of sexual assault law for the Canadian judiciary, so it seems that we're thinking along the same, parallel lines.

I wanted to point out that we really strived, in crafting this bill, to keep it effective, while keeping our measures within the realm of the possible. We know that the first test it needs to pass is to demonstrate that it does not interfere with a free and independent judiciary, and we believe it passes that test. These are changes that apply to federal law and are within Parliament's right to amend, namely the Judges Act and the Criminal Code. We do expect and welcome debate on this issue, but in my view, it's time this debate is held out in the open and with representation from all sides. Every time another story of a survivor's case being mishandled by our court system hits the news, there are questions whispered and fretted over, but rarely spoken aloud.

Allow me to address a few of them early on and to tell you where my colleagues and I fall on these issues.

There's a question that comes up quite often. Does this bill unfairly tip the balance in favour of the complainant? We would argue that it does not. The training proposed in this bill is intended to level the playing field. An accused does not have a right to use myths and stereotypes about the complainant. Canada's laws against sexual assault are robust, and there is a responsibility upon our judiciary to ensure that there is clear knowledge of the Criminal Code provisions intended to protect complainants from those myths and stereotypes. By increasing our judiciary's knowledge of Canada's sexual assault law, both sides benefit.

Another question I often encounter is why focus on sexual assault trials over other kinds of crime or assault? My answer, simply put, is because these trials are, in fact, different, and our system already acknowledges that.

We have family courts, youth courts, and courts specifically for drug-related offences. I see no reason not to recognize the distinct nature of sexual crimes as well.

In fact, amendments made to the Canadian Criminal Code in the 1980s took the important step of singling out crimes of this nature. I want to point out that in the U.K., our cousins in parliament, the chief justice actually uses a system called a “rape-ticketing” system, which only allows those who have been trained in sexual assault to oversee these trials. So they are a bit ahead of us.

Finally, while there is an assumption among the public that members of our judiciary are already trained in these sensitive areas of the law, the reality is only half true. Yes, there is training available. It's definitely not mandatory, and it is held over just a two-week period, and it covers multiple areas of law, from contract law to criminal law. Given the low rate of trust among Canadians, and specifically among those who have encountered our criminal justice system in connection with an act of sexual violence, it's clear that more must be done.

Ultimately, we want Canadians to have faith in their justice system. The judiciary, I believe, has not stepped up to ensure that all of its judges are trained and do not unintentionally or intentionally re-victimize sexual assault complainants or, frankly, any party involved in these types of proceedings. This bill would take steps to build a more accountable and transparent judiciary.

That's why we're here today, Madam Chair. I look forward to having a discussion and doing my best to answer all of your questions.

Thanks so much.

March 23rd, 2017 / 9:20 a.m.
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Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON


I'd like to move on to Bill C-337, the “JUST Act” that was put forward by Rona Ambrose. First of all, I would like to know where you stand on this and how you will be voting on Bill C-337, since we recognize that it came from many of our recommendations from the violence against women study.

I would like to have your thoughts on that, please.

March 21st, 2017 / 9:35 a.m.
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The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

Thanks so much to both of the witnesses for the excellence of the work that you do and for your testimony. We are now going to do a bit of committee business squeezed in between this panel and the next one.

First, I want to thank all the committee members for the excellent job on the press conference yesterday. We had some good pickup and that was lovely.

Second, we did such an amazing job on the gender equality bill that they have forwarded to us Bill C-337.

Ms. Damoff.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 20th, 2017 / 3:10 p.m.
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Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of Her Majesty's loyal opposition, I am proud to present a supplementary opinion regarding the status of women study. Important evidence, such as the effects of violence, pornography and the normalization of violence, the models of e-safety in Canada and elsewhere, as well as strong sentencing for perpetrators of sexual assault were things we did not find, which were needed for the recommendations. They were not sought, and we did not have enough information on those, so we have put that in this.

We are also very proud of the private member's bill, Bill C-337, put forward by our leader, which we believe will have a very positive effect on ongoing things with respect to sexual violence.

Judicial Accountability through Sexual Assault Law Training ActOral Questions

March 9th, 2017 / 3:10 p.m.
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Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations, and I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion:

That, notwithstanding the order made March 8, 2017, Bill C-337, an act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code (sexual assault) be withdrawn from the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and referred to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.

Judicial Accountability through Sexual Assault Law Training ActRoutine Proceedings

February 23rd, 2017 / 10:05 a.m.
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Sturgeon River—Parkland Alberta


Rona Ambrose ConservativeLeader of the Opposition

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-337, An Act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code (sexual assault).

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.

I believe we must address this situation by starting with the people responsible for overseeing Canada's justice system.

There is a definite lack of transparency in the federal justice system with respect to how and how often judges get training and education around handling cases that involve sexual violence.

This is about making our legal system fairer for everyone involved in these difficult cases. I hope my colleagues from all parties will take the time to consider the steps we propose here and support my legislation, the judicial accountability through sexual assault law training act or, what we like to call it, the just act.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)