Ambrose decries 'group of old boys' in Senate for delaying sex assault training bill
OTTAWA – Former Conservative leader Rona Ambrose is decrying the Senate's foot-dragging on her private member's bill requiring sexual assault education for would-be judges, laying the blame at the feet of what she called a "group of old boys."
By her count, her proposed legislation has languished in the Senate for 693 days, and the committee that was tapped to study it has cancelled Ambrose's schedule appearance to testify on her proposal five times.
"I know for a fact that there are people in the Senate, literally a group of old boys who want to protect another group of old boys and this has got to stop… times have changed," Ambrose said on CTV's Power Play.
The bill -- 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.
"Sitting judges are not gods, these people are human beings with different pasts… Some of them know sexual assault law. There are some lawyers that are appointed to the bench that now sit across as judges in our country that might be former corporate lawyers, energy lawyers, and now they're actually overseeing sexual assault cases that are extremely complex cases… and they don’t have the training," Ambrose said.
There are just three months left for bills to become law before this Parliament adjourns before the next election. With the clock ticking, Ambrose has taken her cause to social media, imploring her followers to call or write the chairs of the Senate committee to implore them to make the bill a priority before time runs out, and sign the petition she has put up on a website dedicated to the proposed bill.
"I think it would take about one hour to deal with this, and we haven’t been able to find one hour in the Senate to deal with this in the last two years, so I’m imploring the Senators," Ambrose said.
Passed the House in 2017
Back in October 2017, in light of the #MeToo campaign, the House unanimously passed a motion calling on the Senate to speed up adopting the bill, as it had been stalled in the upper chamber for several months at that point, having been debated just under a dozen times at second reading, with various Senators raising concerns about the proposed legislation.
Since then, it was debated three more times before passing into the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee in May 2018 -- a full year after it first passed the House of Commons.
That Senate committee -- comprised of seven male and five female senators -- has still yet to begin studying the bill, as it's been tied up with various pieces of government legislation, including Bill C-76, the elections reform act which has passed, and Bill C-58, regarding changes to the federal access to information regime. Government bills take precedence over studying private members' bills.
Ambrose's introduction of the bill came after several Canadian judges made headlines over their comments about sexual assault complainants.
"I left Ottawa thinking that this was a done deal, because I mean, who doesn't support training for anyone in the judiciary or anyone in the justice system but particularly judges who are the ones that oversee the courtroom and deal with victims very directly. Their words have a huge impact on victims," Ambrose said. "Training can make a big difference."