Madam Speaker, I rise in support of this legislation. I hope that in this Parliament it will not be blocked again in the Senate and that we can finally implement this important legislation.
Bill C-3 is important. It would ensure that provincial superior court justices would be trained in sexual assault law and in practice with respect to getting rid of the myths that exist in our society around sexual assault, particularly with women. However, this certainly impacts men and the LGBTQ2I community. It would ensure that our legal systems are safe places for victims to share their experiences, that predators are held accountable and that in the future victimization of people can be avoided.
I have been listening to this debate and a number of members have spoken about the statistics. I think most members in the House do so because the statistics are pretty stark. When 30% of women and 8% of men have been sexually assaulted at least once since the age of 15, what kind of society do we live in when this is okay?]
When we compare that to the conviction rate of something like 2%, how can we allow women, boys and others in our society to be assaulted from the time they are 15? If this were any other crime, there would be mass outrage in the country about how this was even possible. I suspect the conviction rate is even lower, because sexual assaults and sexually based assaults are so under-reported in this country and around the world, mainly because of the low conviction rates and because of the re-victimization of victims in the justice system and having to defend that they are not at fault for what happened to them. I would argue that these statistics do not paint the full picture.
As a young woman, I certainly know too many stories of other women being victimized and how often that is ignored or accepted. It is not worth it for them to share their stories, bring their family into it and have others hear about what happened to them. The shame is put on victims instead of on the assailants, where it should be.
In addition to why this training is important and why the conviction rates need to be dramatically increased, I want to share some of the comments that justices in Canada, as well as in the U.S., have made in sexual assault cases and why training and getting rid of the myths need to happen as quickly as possible.
Here are some quotes from justices about victims in cases that they were supposed to be adjudicating: “If you wouldn’t have been there that night, none of this would have happened”; the victim “wasn’t the victim she claimed to be”; “Why couldn't you just keep your knees together?”; the victim was “probably as much in control of the situation“ as the assailant; the body can “shut the whole thing down”; and “It's open season” for intoxicated “women”.
These myths continue to victimize women, continue to keep sexual assault of all genders in the shadows and, more dangerous, continue to allow perpetrators to victimize more people and place fear in those whom they have already victimized.
Human trafficking is a huge issue in this country and around the world. I have often heard from survivors and about their experiences. When the process has gone to court, there has been very little protections with respect to being re-victimized. They have been questioned as to why they are there or how they got into the situation. The defendants in a lot of these cases are still able to contact these victims and pressure them. Therefore, many do not bother moving forward because they have to relive their stories, the assault and the trauma they have gone through in a public way and the re-victimizing.
This bill also talks about making changes to the court process. This was brought up in the earlier question and answer period of this debate, and I am very pleased about that.
It is also important that part of the bill relates not only to the training, but also to the written decisions that will be on the record. There needs to be some public naming and shaming of decisions that have been based on old stereotypes and myths to ensure we have a judicial process that protects victims, not puts them on trial. When it comes to sexual assault, we have seen this far too often.
A big myth in sexual assault cases is the notion of who the real victim is. There are very few other areas of law or criminality where the victim is questioned like in the quotes I read earlier, such as why she was there, or why she drank too much, or why she just could not stop it or she should not have been out so late. It is not a crime for women to wear what they want or be where they want to be. It is as if women have to protect themselves from sexual assault when they need to be protected from predators.
Victims need to be protected from sexual assault. This should be a basic principle in our country and our judiciary should respect that, understand that and should not put the lives of sexual assault victims on trial. Only those who have been accused should be put on trial. They have every right to put up a defence if they have been wrongly accused, but it is not the victims who should have to prove they did not deserve the sexual assault or “had it coming”, which is often attributed to sexual assault victims.
With Bill C-51, as my colleague also brought up in the last round of debate, some of the important changes to amend the Criminal Code have been spoken about in the House, but it is really important to raise such things as an unconscious person being incapable of consenting to sexual activity. This might seem like a basic legal principle. We would not have a valid contract if it had been signed by an unconscious person, yet there was a time in our country where an individual could agree or give consent to sexual activity.
Therefore, it is incredibly important that other changes be made to criminal law as well. This is why continual training is so important, so judges can be kept up to date on our most current laws, that we can ensure that these myths and stereotypes are not repeated, that they are formalized in law, that victims can stop being re-victimized and that people feel safe to come forward, to speak out and to stand up against these predators to help stop further victims from being victimized.
I am very appreciative that the former interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose brought forward a bill on this. I hope that after this second round of debate, we can pass it and have real and substantial change in our country.