Ambrose accuses Conservatives of blocking judges' training, UNDRIP bills
Former Conservative Party of Canada interim Leader Rona Ambrose participates in discussions on the modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement, in Toronto on Friday, September 22, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov
Published Thursday, June 13, 2019 6:04PM EDT
OTTAWA -- Former interim leader of the federal Conservative Party Rona Ambrose is accusing her former caucus colleagues of blocking her private member’s bill requiring sexual assault education for would-be judges to ensure that another bill about Indigenous rights does not pass.
In a tweet on Wednesday Ambrose said she was told the Conservatives will “block” her Bill C-337 to make sure that another private member’s bill requiring Canadian laws be in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples “never passes.”
After Ambrose decried a “group of old boys” in Senate for delaying her bill, it was dealt with at committee in the Senate, and amendments were made that she welcomed.
Now, the bill is awaiting two votes and a final round of debate in the Senate before it can be passed and sent back to the House, but Ambrose says that might not happen now because of members of the party she used to lead.
The legislation -- formally titled C-337, Judicial Accountability through Sexual Assault Law Training Act -- would require comprehensive training on sexual assault, including rape myths and stereotypes associated with sexual assault complaints, and how trauma can affect memory, for anyone seeking a judicial appointment by the federal government.
Bill C-337 would also require the Canadian Judicial Council to report on continuing education on sexual assault law, and require courts to provide written decisions in sexual assault cases, rather than oral rulings.
“Politics are standing in the way. Where is the political support for sexual assault survivors?” Ambrose tweeted. “Sad day.”
Bill C-262, The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, is sponsored by NDP MP Romeo Saganash. It is also awaiting final rounds of debate and a vote after passing a Senate committee without amendments.
Back in April the House of Commons sent a message to the Senate urging them to pass this bill, alongside Ambrose’s.
As The Canadian Press has reported, Conservative senators—who are part of the Conservative Parliamentary caucus—have denied ragging the puck on these bills, saying that Independent senators are to blame for the tight timeline, and that the Conservatives’ focus is on government bills.
Asked to comment on Ambrose’s accusation, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s office did not confirm or deny that the Conservative are blocking her bill, saying that the party agreed with the unanimous passage it received in the House of Commons.
Spokesperson Daniel Schow places the blame for the bill’s current predicament on the Liberal majority.
“The responsibility to pass this bill ultimately falls to them,” he said in a statement.
Assembly of First Nations Grand Chief Perry Bellegarde, who was a member on the NAFTA advisory council with Ambrose, tweeted his support for the bills and called on the Senate to pass them.
“Conservative Senators have the power to pass these two bills,” he said. “Conservative Senators are not fulfilling the democratic principles that the Senate was founded on. Everyone has a role in Reconciliation.”
Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett is also siding with her former political foe, tweeting: “Indigenous peoples and survivors of sexual assault are counting on Andrew Scheer to do the right thing, stand with them, and support the passage of Bills C-262 and C-337, in this Parliament.”
There are six sitting days left in the House and 10 days left in the Senate. In this time more than a dozen government bills need to pass, and those take precedence over private members’ bills.
While the Conservative Senators may not be moving on these bills, Conservative Senate Whip Don Plett tweeted Thursday evening that his caucus would support passing two government bills that seek to affirm Indigenous rights: Bill C-91, the Indigenous Languages Act, which is aimed at reviving Indigenous languages and would create a new Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages; and Bill C-92, which seeks to assert that Indigenous people have jurisdiction over child and family services in their communities.
“Working hard to get important legislation passed,” he said.