Two more Canadian judges under fire for sexual assault cases

  • 17/09/2016
Two more Canadian judges under fire for sexual assault cases

Two more Canadian judges are under review for decisions they made during sexual assault trials, following the high-profile case of Judge Robin Camp.

Mr Camp asked a victim in a 2014 sexual assault trial why she didn't keep her knees together and "skew her pelvis" to avoid forced penetration, as well as repeatedly referring to her as "the accused".

Mr Camp may lose his job over the comments, and this week made an apology in front of a disciplinary committee.

The 19-year-old complainant is indigenous and was homeless at the time of her rape, which University of British Columbia law professor Emma Cunliffe says are "compound vulnerabilities" that Mr Camp should have understood.

Legal experts are urging greater diversity on the bench, as two more Alberta judges are under review for how they handled recent sexual assault cases.

In one case, Justice Pat McIlhargey acquitted a 16-year-old boy accused in 2015 of raping a 13-year-old girl in a park.

In his decision, Mr McIlhargey wrote that on the day of the incident "she did not scream, she did not run for help. She ran to the Co-op and called her friend and told her she could not meet her friend. At no point did she ever mention this to a friend, no complaint to a friend".

In another case, Judge Michael Savaryn acquitted a 15-year-old boy who reportedly groped the breasts and buttocks of a girl, also 15, in a high school hallway and tried to kiss her.

Kathleen Mahoney, a University of Calgary law professor, says education on gender, race and other sensitive topics should be compulsory for judges.

"You can't take for granted that judges are going to be sensitive to context as much as they should be," she said.

"So often you rely on myths and stereotypes to help you understand what another person's shoes feel like when you put them on."

Mr Camp said he had an "education problem, not a character problem," and that he endeavoured to learn about the issue.