Judicial council fears 'special interest groups' shaping sexual assault training

May 17, 2017
Article Source
Toronto Star

The Canadian Judicial Council is pushing back against the idea of having sexual assault survivors and support organizations help develop training for aspiring and sitting judges, fearing it could interfere with the independence of those on the bench.

The requirement was a recent change to proposed legislation introduced by Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose, whose Bill C-337 calls for would-be federally appointed judges to first undergo comprehensive training in sexual assault law.

Once enacted, the legislation would also require the council to report on continuing education courses on sexual assault law, including telling the government how many sexual assault cases were heard each year by judges who lack the training.

The Canadian Judicial Council issued a statement Tuesday saying it still believes the bill, which was sent to the Senate with all-party support Monday, goes too far.

"While the council has been clear from the beginning that it finds the objectives of the bill laudable, we continue to have some concerns about the constitutionality of some aspects of the proposed law which may infringe on judicial independence," spokeswoman Johanna Laporte wrote in an email.

"Specifically, reporting the number of sexual assault cases heard by judges who have never participated in seminars and opening the door for special interest groups dictating the kinds of education judges should adopt."

The council hopes to be able to engage with the Senate as they examine the bill, she added.

New Democrat MP Sheila Malcolmson first proposed that the training and continuing education amendments be "developed in consultation with sexual assault survivors, as well as with the groups and organizations that support them."

She said that came after the Commons status of women committee, which studied the bill, heard from several witnesses who said the training needed to involve the voices of people who have lived through sexual assault, as well as the groups that work with them, in order to be effective and relevant.

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