OTTAWA -- The Liberal government has picked up a cause formerly championed by senior Conservative Rona Ambrose, bringing in a bill aimed at ensuring judges are trained in sexual-assault law.

The new bill would require all new superior court judges to receive the training, including learning about rape myths and stereotypes and how to make sure biases about race, gender and other social factors do not influence their decisions.

Justice Minister David Lametti said Tuesday the legislation could boost confidence in the justice system among sexual-assault survivors and the Canadian public.

"This is a necessary bill. This is a bill that will make our system more just," Lametti said in Ottawa.

"In this day and age, it is critical that all of us who serve the public are equipped with the right tools and understanding to ensure everyone is treated with the respect and dignity they deserve."

The proposed legislation would also change the Criminal Code to ensure judges put their reasons on the record when they decide sexual-assault cases, one measure aimed at encouraging sitting judges to take the training it would require of new ones.

Ambrose presented a similar bill in 2017 when she was interim Conservative leader. She said at the time her work at a rape crisis centre while in university showed her how victims of sexual assault need support.

The bill was also sparked by some high-profile rulings. Alberta judge Robin Camp asked a sexual-assault complainant in 2014 why she couldn't keep her knees together; Halifax judge Gregory Lenehan said "a drunk can consent" while acquitting a taxi driver of sexual assault on a passenger in 2017.

Camp resigned from the bench after the Canadian Judicial Council eventually recommended he be removed. Lenehan was cleared of misconduct, though a committee examining his decision said his words were "ill-considered."

Ambrose's bill had cross-partisan support, but after being stalled in the Senate, died when Parliament dissolved ahead of the fall federal election.

Ambrose blamed a "group of old boys" in the Senate for blocking passage of the bill, a group that included mainly Conservative senators. Now that it has been reintroduced as a government bill, it will have more heft, Ambrose said.

"It makes a big difference in how the Senate can treat it and how serious, even, stakeholders will take it," she said in an interview Tuesday.

"That the justice minister stood up and said this is necessary sends a huge message ... Every judge in this country is hearing this today."

Far too many women simply do not report these crimes and far too many women see bad outcomes in courtrooms when they do, Ambrose said

She pointed to the trial in the 2011 death of Cindy Gladue, a Metis and Cree woman from Edmonton. The jury repeatedly heard Gladue referred to as a "prostitute" and a "native" in the courtroom. The trial ended in an acquittal. The Supreme Court ruled in May 2019 that the man accused of killing her should be retried for manslaughter but not first-degree murder.

In its ruling, the high court said evidence about Gladue's sexual history was mishandled and that trial judges should caution juries against relying on prejudices against Indigenous women and girls.

"That is not appropriate language and that is clear in the law, so the judge didn't actually know the law," Ambrose said.

Tuesday afternoon, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh tried to get support for a motion to fast-track the bill through the House of Commons -- a move that requires unanimous consent.

Conservatives stopped that but not because they don't support the bill. They are calling for a review of the Parole Board of Canada after a murderer on day parole allegedly killed a sex worker last month in Quebec City.

Conservative spokesperson Simon Jefferies said his party's MPs were "proud" to support Ambrose's original bill but they now want to ensure parole board members also get sexual-assault training.

"In light of the horrific case in Quebec, Conservatives intend to expand the bill to ensure parole officers and parole board members are covered under this legislation."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 4, 2020.