In light of 'MeToo' campaign, Commons urges Senate to pass sex assault training bill
Published Thursday, October 26, 2017 2:36PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, October 26, 2017 2:58PM EDT
OTTAWA – In light of the #metoo campaign, the House of Commons is pushing the Senate to speed up its passage of former Conservative leader Rona Ambrose’s bill requiring sexual assault education for would-be judges.
On Wednesday, Bloc Québécois MP Rhéal Fortin got unanimous consent on a motion to have the House of Commons call on the Senate to move on adopting Bill C-337. Fortin cited the momentum behind the #metoo campaign, a worldwide trend raising awareness about the scope of the problem of sexual harassment and assault, as his reason to want to see the bill come into law soon.
"Given the scale of the #metoo campaign, launched by male and female victims of sexual assault and harassment, that the House call on the Senate to consider the victims and promptly adopt Bill C-337, the judicial accountability through sexual assault law training act," the motion reads.
The bill 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.
The bill 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.
Ambrose— who left federal politics in June and is now a member of the government’s advisory council on NAFTA—pushed hard before vacating her seat, to see the bill advance.
MPs voted unanimously in May to fast-track the bill to the Senate. However, since passing into the Senate, it’s been debated just under a dozen times, with Independent and Liberal Senators raising concerns about the proposed legislation.
"Just because a bill has commendable goals, it does not mean that it is necessarily a good bill. In this instance, not only do I believe that the bill’s provisions fail to meet its stated purpose, they risk being detrimental to our justice system," said Independent Senator André Pratte during debate on Bill C-337 on Sept. 21.
It has not yet been sent for committee study, where senators can hear expert witnesses on the issue.
During question period on Thursday, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould was asked about the bill by NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau. She said she hopes the bill moves forward.
"We will contine in absence of that, to do everything we can as a government," she said.
Ambrose's introduction of the bill came after several Canadian judges made headlines over their comments about sexual assault complainants, including former Federal Court judge Robin Camp, who asked a sexual assault complainant why she couldn’t keep her "knees together." He has since resigned.
Just this week, Quebec Justice Jean-Paul Braun, came under fire after making comments during a sexual assault trial in May, that a 17-year-old girl who was kissed and groped by a taxi driver was probably "a bit flattered" by the gesture.
With files from CTV News’ Laura Payton, CTV Montreal