Madam Speaker, today, while we are celebrating the International Day of the Girl Child, we are debating a bill that would require judges to take sensitivity training around “sexual assault law and social context”. This is because of men like John Reilly, former judge and federal Liberal candidate who said, “Well, you know, there are sexual assaults and there are sexual assaults”. Reilly then pointed to a case of a man who had digitally penetrated his girlfriend while she was sleeping, saying that a three-year sentence would have been too harsh.
We are also debating this bill because of men like former judge Robin Camp who asked a 19-year-old complainant why she had not done more to prevent her alleged rape and then told her that “sex and pain sometimes go together”.
However, there is something about this bill that really makes me angry. It is absurd to me that we have to spend time figuring out how to train the men in Canada's systemically misogynistic justice system to be sensitive to sexual assault. In so many ways, it is blindly the wrong approach because it is so paternalistic in its design.
Instead of using tax dollars and research to illuminate men on the finer points of how being fingered against one's will while one is sleeping is wrong, or that it is kind of hard to keep one's knees together when one is being overpowered by somebody twice one's size, or the lingering shame and emotional burden these things can cause a woman, why can we not simply appoint fewer sexist women-haters to the bench? If men want to be honoured with a judicial appointment, why can the hiring criteria not be what they have done in their career to remove the systemic barriers women face? Why do we have to train the idiots in society, and why could we not just hire the allies?
This bill would not do much to fundamentally change the systemic misogyny embedded in the Canadian government, whatever the branch may be. There are those who will say that systemic misogyny does not exist in Canada. To these people I would say this: That we are debating this bill today is clear evidence of systemic misogyny.
If people are part of a system that they benefit from at the expense of others due to barriers others experience of stereotypes, bigoted social mores or rigidly traditionalist beliefs about women, and they do nothing to stop it, then they are part of the problem. That is systemic misogyny. If they refuse to look for these issues or address them when they see them because they think it does not exist, then they are part of the problem. If they think that protecting the rights of women will erode their own rights, they are part of the problem. They are lazy and cowardly at best and misogynist at worst. No amount of training will fix that system. Only removing those who benefit from perpetuating it from their position of privilege and power will.
This system has affected me. I regularly receive sexualized death threats. I get microaggressions like being asked by a colleague if I am pregnant because I committed the sin of eating a sandwich during a Zoom meeting, or being called the B-word because I am a woman who unapologetically challenges the dogma of the system. I have had my gender and my brand used as a fig leaf to cover the misogyny of others through tokenization, and there has been so much more.
If this is me, a white straight woman in a position of power, imagine what it is like for a racialized, queer or trans woman. Imagine what it is like for a woman in poverty with children. Imagine what it is like for a woman living on reserve. Imagine what it is like for Nadia Murad and the millions of other woman around the world who have had their bodies used as tools of war while the world refuses to even prosecute their oppressors.
This bill is a good opportunity to take a moment to reflect on the experience of these women, the Yazidi genocide survivors, because the experience of these women really does highlight to me the problems embedded in our system, not only for women on the international stage but their quest for justice here in our own country. As some of the members in the House might remember, several years ago I worked with these women to bring their plight to the attention of Canadian parliamentarians and to get justice and action for their people. It was the voices of these women, these survivors who were seeking justice after experiencing genocide and sexual enslavement, that effected some change.
Imagine what these women went through and then imagine, after all of that trauma, having to come to Canada's Parliament time and time again to push the government to do something when it was obvious that action was needed to do what is right. Take a moment and reflect on that.
Take a moment and reflect on being a victimized woman who was sold as a sexual slave and who had to beg to have her plight recognized by those who sit in this position of power, and then having them wonder if this was going to be politically convenient for them. That is what is wrong with the system, and no amount of training is going to fix that.
After many motions in the House, committee studies, press conferences, news releases and, most importantly, advocacy by the Yazidi community here in Canada and abroad, we were able to get some movement, but it is not close to being enough. We must seek justice for these women, and that includes prosecuting their oppressors. To date, there has been no justice for these women. ISIS has not been brought to trial on the international stage, and day after day the women are revictimized because they have to explain to the world that there is no closure and there is no change without justice being sought.
This issue alone shows that Canada has much work to do on gender equality. We live in a country where human trafficking occurs, and indigenous and first nations women go missing and are murdered. Last year, the national inquiry on missing and murdered indigenous women and girls found a “significant, persistent, and deliberate pattern of systemic racial and gendered human rights and Indigenous rights violations and abuses”, yet the government continues to fail to take meaningful action in creating safer conditions for indigenous women and girls. Instead, the Prime Minister offers up a lot of platitudes on Twitter. He was rightly criticized for that this week. He is more interested in keeping up the appearance of positive change than in actually effecting it.
That is what this bill is about. We cannot speak about the misogyny in the justice system today without recognizing the significant racialized and colonial violence against indigenous women across our country, both inside and outside the courts. We live in a country where we feel we need to educate the ones who are supposed to uphold and champion justice, our judges, not to be sexist. We live in a country where we have to talk about how those meant to care for us in our time of need, nurses and doctors, need sensitivity training.
We saw this intersection of sexism and racism in the heartbreaking tragedy of Joyce Echaquan. It is difficult for us to admit Canada is not as exceptional as we may think. The reality is these systems, which were meant to protect us, often fail many because we are not getting to the heart of the problem. We need to do more to disrupt the systems that perpetuate this aggression.
I will go back to this bill about judges, and training them to be more sensitive. No amount of training, for someone who was privileged enough to finish law school as they were about to get a plum judicial position, will correct a systemically misogynistic system. Everyone needs to change their actions, and it should start here in this place.
People should not be running under the banner of a major political party if they have substantiated harassment allegations. People within the tents of these parties should find the courage to speak up when this happens. The most senior levels of leadership should not be allowed to follow a different set of rules from the rank and file when harassment allegations surface. Women who speak truth to power should not be turfed and labelled as problematic.
I have watched all of this and more happen in this place during my time here. Just this week, I watched the chair of a major parliamentary association stay silent as a group tried to force a Canadian woman off the ballot for the presidency of an international organization. All of these—