Ont. judges to be trained on deal­ing with sex as­saults

MAN­DATE DOESN’T IN­CLUDE CUR­RENT MEM­BERS OF THE BENCH

Lethbridge Herald - - HEADLINE NEWS ✦ WEATHER - Al­li­son Jones THE CANA­DIAN PRESS — TORONTO

Train­ing on sex­ual as­sault is­sues will now be re­quired for new pro­vin­cial judges in On­tario, fol­low­ing out­cry over judges’ com­ments about com­plainants in other parts of the coun­try.

A re­cently up­dated On­tario Court of Jus­tice plan spec­i­fies that an ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram for newly ap­pointed judges is now manda­tory.

The pro­gram, which in­cludes in­struc­tion on le­gal and equal­ity is­sues, has al­ways been a key com­po­nent of ju­di­cial ed­u­ca­tion, but pre­vi­ously wasn’t ex­pressly in­cluded in the plan as a re­quire­ment, said a court spokes­woman.

“The newly ap­pointed judges ed­u­ca­tion in­cludes ed­u­ca­tion on sex­ual as­sault is­sues but it is not ex­clu­sively fo­cused on sex­ual as­sault,” Kate An­drew said in a state­ment.

Politi­cians from both the On­tario Lib­er­als and Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives have been push­ing the is­sue at the pro­vin­cial leg­is­la­ture, with two pri­vate mem­bers’ bills seek­ing to man­date such train­ing.

The is­sue has made head­lines re­cently af­ter an Al­berta judge, who has since re­signed, asked a sex­ual as­sault com­plainant why she couldn’t keep her knees to­gether, and a Hal­i­fax judge said “a drunk can con­sent,” while ac­quit­ting a taxi driver of sex­ual as­sault.

There is also a bill be­fore the House of Com­mons from in­terim Con­ser­va­tive leader Rona Am­brose that would re­quire any­one who wanted to be con­sid­ered for a fed­eral ju­di­cial ap­point­ment to un­dergo com­pre­hen­sive train­ing in sex­ual as­sault law.

Though the new On­tario ju­di­cial train­ing re­quire­ment ap­plies to new judges, it does not ap­ply to cur­rent judges. On­tario At­tor­ney Gen­eral Yasir Naqvi said there is on­go­ing train­ing that judges re­ceive, but what ex­actly it en­tails and how much is up to the court.

“The is­sues around ju­di­cial train­ing are to­tally within the scope and the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the ju­di­ciary,” he said. “It’s a very in­te­gral part of our sys­tem to have ju­di­cial in­de­pen­dence. I had com­mu­ni­cated with the chief jus­tice (Lise Maison­neuve), let­ting her know the de­sire of the House that the train­ing for judges be manda­tory, but that de­ci­sion is up to her.”

Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive Lau­rie Scott, who is be­hind one of the two On­tario pri­vate mem­bers’ bills, said it doesn’t in­fringe on ju­di­cial in­de­pen­dence to man­date such train­ing for all judges.

“They have a con­tin­u­ing ed­u­ca­tion plan, it’s al­ready set up, why can’t this be in­cluded as manda­tory?” she said.

“I hear from both vic­tims and po­lice ser­vices... that judges, not all judges of course, are still not un­der­stand­ing the trauma as­so­ci­ated with a sex­ual as­sault.”

On­tario NDP Leader An­drea Hor­wath said the train­ing needs to ap­ply to ex­ist­ing judges too, be­cause the re­cent is­sues that have arisen have sur­rounded cur­rent judges.

“The idea that new judges will get more train­ing, well that’s fine and good, but it’s ex­ist­ing judges that ap­par­ently need some up­grad­ing in their ed­u­ca­tion,” she said.

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