'Knees together' judge resigns from federal court
Published Thursday, March 9, 2017 1:27PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, March 9, 2017 9:56PM EST
A judge who asked a sexual assault complainant why she couldn't keep her “knees together” confirmed he will resign after the Canadian Judicial Council recommended his removal.
Justice Robin Camp issued a statement Thursday in which he said he will resign from the Federal Court of Canada effective Friday.
“I would like to express my sincere apology to everyone who was hurt by my comments,” Camp’s statement went on.
"I thank everyone who was generous and kind to me and my family in the last 15 months, particularly my legal team."
The Canadian Judicial Council’s report called Camp’s conduct “so manifestly and profoundly destructive of the concept of impartiality, integrity and independence of the judicial role that the judge was rendered incapable of executing the judicial office."
Justice Camp’s lawyer Frank Addario had argued that removal was not necessary to preserve public confidence in this case. Four of the council's 23 members did not support removal.
Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould was in the process of moving forward on the council’s recommendation in Parliament Thursday when she learned of Camp’s resignation.
Wilson-Raybould later told reporters that the extremely rare removal would have been needed “to ensure the integrity and public confidence in the justice system and the judiciary.”
“Sexual assault and gender-based violence is in no form acceptable and we will continue to stand up for victims of sexual assault and gender-based violence,” Wilson-Raybould added.
Norman Sabourin, Executive Director and Senior General Council at the Canadian Judicial Council, told CTV News Channel removals are recommended when the “public has lost confidence in a judge’s ability to discharge the duties of office.”
“The report of the council emphasizes that all judges have to know the law but also have to possess empathy, have to understand that people who come before them are often vulnerable people and they have to treat them with a degree of civility and deference,” Sabourin said.
Camp, who was appointed to the federal court in 2015, faced judicial review after it was revealed that he had stated in a 2014 Alberta provincial court decision that "pain and sex sometimes go together” and asked the complainant why she didn’t just “keep her knees together.” He also said, "Young wom[e]n want to have sex, particularly if they're drunk."
Alexander Wagar was acquitted by Camp.
Alberta’s Appeal Court ordered a new trial and last month Wagar was again acquitted.
The complainant, who was 19 at the time of the first trial, told the disciplinary hearing last year that Camp's comments had made her hate herself. She said she had contemplated suicide as a result of her experience.
After Thursday’s decision, the complainant said "I was feeling so unhopeful and pretty down and not very hopeful about the justice system but it has kind of turned around by this.”
Alice Woolley, the University of Calgary law professor who complained about Camp’s conduct, said she was pleased with the decision.
“Actors within the legal system can make really terrible decisions and terrible mistakes and in his case engage in real misconduct,” she said.
“But the legal system orients towards progress,” she added. “It tries to get it right in the end.”
Kathleen Mahoney, who is also a law professor at the University of Calgary, told CTV News Channel that she believes the removal is a “watershed moment” in how courts treat sexual assault.
“I think this is a very strong statement from the judges of Canada that the time has come that gender bias in these kinds of decisions will no longer be tolerated,” she said.
Mahoney added that she believes the case highlights the need for mandatory judicial training focusing on gendered issues such sexual assault, domestic violence and sexual harassment.
The Conservatives have introduced legislation that would require better training for judges in handling sexual assault cases. The justice minister agreed Thursday that judges need to be properly trained.
Camp’s decision is not the only recent case to raise questions about how judges handle sexual assault.
In Halifax earlier this month, Justice Gregory Lenehan acquitted a taxi driver accused of sexually assaulting a passenger so intoxicated that she passed out.
Lenehan said in his ruling that “clearly, a drunk can consent.”
With a report from CTV’s Glen McGregor and files from The Canadian Press