First of all, let me thank all of you for allowing me this occasion to attend here and give you some information about the judicial education that we offer to Canadian judges.
The National Judicial Institute, NJI, is a not-for-profit independent organization dedicated to developing and delivering high-quality professional development to all Canadian judges, federal, provincial and territorial. The NJI is bijural and recognizes the importance of incorporating indigenous legal principles into our training.
One of the NJI's fundamental principles is that judicial education must be judge-led. This is consistent with the International Organization for Judicial Training declaration on judicial training, which states that “the judiciary and judicial training institutions should be responsible for the design, content, and delivery of judicial training.”
We have available for you the NJI's 20 principles of judicial education. One of the primary and fundamental ones is the necessity that judicial education be judge-led.
It is important that everyone involved in a trial is treated with respect, as the fundamental role of a judge is to be fair and impartial. This ensures that the rights of all participants, whether they are the complainant, the accused or witnesses, are respected.
Since 1990, the Canadian Judicial Council has required that all of these essential programs include social context education to ensure that judges, particularly newly appointed judges, are aware of the challenges faced by vulnerable groups in society.
From January 2014 to January 2020, the NJI offered 42 sessions dealing with sexual assault law, the skills required in sexual assault trials and the context of witnesses in these cases. Some sessions consisted of multi-day programs, while others were part of a larger program. Some of these sessions consisted of national programs and others were offered at specific provincial superior courts.
In addition, 15 other sessions focused on related issues such as domestic violence, trafficking in persons, victims' rights and trauma-sensitive approaches.
From the date of their appointment, all judges have immediate access to NJI's Internet site, which houses a series of videocasts on issues related to sexual assault cases. This suite of videos continues to grow. It includes videocasts not only on the laws and on the skills judges need to manage their cases, but also on the reality of vulnerable witnesses in sexual assault cases.
I'm now going to talk for a few minutes about the education for federally appointed judges, then provincially appointed judges. I'll explain to you why I'm making that distinction.
For the federally appointed judges, pursuant to the professional development policy of the Canadian Judicial Council, each judge is expected to take 10 days of education. Two kinds of programs are available: national programs, which the NJI designs and delivers; and their own court-based programs, which we also assist in delivering.
For new judges, within their first year of appointment, they are mandated to take two weeks of education, one spring, one fall. During those 10 days of education, two days are dedicated to criminal law. That, of course, addresses in part sexual assault cases. In addition, they take a session on social context. One of the parts of that addresses myths and stereotypes in sexual assault cases as well.
Then in their second year to their fifth year, all federally appointed judges are expected or mandated to take a course called “Judging in Your First Five Years: Criminal Law”. This is a five-day course on, start to finish, how to manage and run a criminal trial. Because sexual assault trials are technically very challenging trials, the hypothetical examples that run throughout the week, which the judges use to practise their skills, are both sexual assault hypotheticals.
We've run this course twice now, in 2019 and in January 2020, and each time, 60 newer federally appointed judges attend it.
In the course, the judges practise their skills. These include how to address issues in cross-examination. They watch on video a cross-examination of a complainant and an accused. They sit at tables with senior criminal judges and academics and discuss when the cross-examination went out of bounds, when lawyers were asking inappropriate questions such as about a complainant's past sexual history, and so on, and how to manage those particular cases.
In addition, during the week, to ensure that judges understand the needs of vulnerable witnesses, we have sessions that address particular groups. In the offering of last January, we were very fortunate to have Commissioner Marion Buller, Counsel Christa Big Canoe and Elder Kathy Louis, all of whom worked on the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls commission. They talked to us about the particular challenges that are facing indigenous women, who face an overrepresentation of violence, both sexual violence and family violence, from the historical issues we all are so familiar with.
The session was hosted by two indigenous judges from British Columbia: Justice Len Marchand, from the B.C. Supreme Court; and Judge Alex Wolf, from the B.C. Provincial Court.
There was also a session on children, and children as witnesses, because, of course, they have particular vulnerabilities. As the course develops throughout the years, we will be offering additional segments to the judges on other vulnerable witnesses, such as those with handicaps, recently arrived immigrants to Canada and so on.
It is a mandated program that the judges must take. In addition to this program, from that point on, for the rest of their judicial career, they have available to them the curriculum from the NJI, which contains sessions and courses on sexual assault law.
The annual criminal law course treats not only sexual assault cases, but also related issues. For example, in 2019, a portion of the criminal law course was on human trafficking. Of course, human trafficking can be for many things, and one of them is for sex.
Evidence, again, is an intensive course where judges work through hypotheticals. The criminal law hypothetical is a sexual assault case: a camp counsellor and one of his charges.
We also do programs with the Canadian chapter of the International Association of Women Judges, which often treats these issues.
In addition, the courts have their own programming, twice a year. Often, issues involving sexual assault trials are part of those programs.
Many of the courts have developed what they call “101” courses for their new judges. One of the 101 courses that we assist with is on sexual assault cases.
That's a bit of a laundry list of what's available to the federally appointed judges. Let me turn to the provincial court judges now, because this is important.
We don't have exact figures, but we estimate that about 95% of sexual assault cases are heard by provincial court judges. NJI works with the Ontario Court of Justice, and there is training in sexual assault trials within its training program. However, I think it's fair to say that for provincial and territorial judges, in total, they do not have access to the same amount of education, because of a lack of resources from their governments.
Provincial and territorial judges may attend NJI programs, but it's rather restricted. For example, the intensive program that I explained to you that's mandatory for federally appointed judges, that addresses sexual assault cases in detail, is not available to provincial court judges because of the funding mechanism for designing and delivering that course and because of the demand we now have amongst our federal judges. They can attend other programs, but again, because of the funding model, their attendance is restricted.
In conclusion, I would like to make three points.
First of all, from my meeting with and working with judges across Canada every day, judges recognize the importance of education and recognize the importance of education in sexual assault cases. They particularly recognize that they need to understand the context of all the people who come into their courtroom.
Second, it's important that we, as an institute, along with the Canadian Judicial Council, recognize that provincial and territorial judges are in need of this training, as well. They conduct most of the sexual assault cases in the country.
Finally, the NJI, along with the CJC, has committed to working with the federal government, as we can, to strengthen our justice system in Canada.
Thank you very much, and I'll turn it back over to Mr. MacDonald.