Supreme Court of Canada chief justice Richard Wagner speaks during the welcoming ceremony for Justice Sheilah Martin, in Ottawa on Friday, March 23, 2018. Wagner, the chair of the Canadian Judicial Council, says that social context education provides judges with necessary skills to ensure “myths” and “stereotypes” do not influence judicial decisions, on the website. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Judicial council offers up courses for judges on handling sex assault cases

Website includes 10 offerings focused on sexual assault law, as well as one on sexual assault trials

The Canadian Judicial Council has launched a new website showcasing the training courses it is offering to federally appointed judges — including seminars to help judges handle sexual assault cases.

In a statement on the site, council chair Richard Wagner, who is also the Supreme Court’s chief justice, says so-called social context education gives judges the skills necessary to ensure “myths” and “stereotypes” do not influence judicial decisions.

The website includes 10 offerings focused on sexual assault law, as well as one on sexual assault trials.

The latter course includes video-based programs that provide judges with an overview of the sort of issues they’re liable to face.

In one session, experienced jurists discuss “rape myths” and “stereotypes,” and how such myths can propagate “rapidly” during various stages of the judicial process.

Johanna Laporte, the council’s director of communications, said Canada has “extensive” training for judges on a range of issues and the website is intended to inform Canadians of how judges keep up to date with the law and social context.

“While the recent public debate about sexual assault training for judges has cast a light on the need for added transparency, council’s main impetus was to showcase the breadth and depth of judicial education programming,” said Laporte.

“Many courses have elements of social context awareness and sexual assault law woven into them and council hopes that visitors will see that these complex issues are discussed in a variety of settings — not just in a stand-alone course.”

The question of how well-equipped judges in Canada are to handle sexual assault cases has been a hot topic in recent years, most recently after a Nova Scotia judge acquitted a Halifax cab driver, suggesting that even an intoxicated woman can consent to sex.

The federal Liberal government has thrown its support behind a bill, currently before the Senate, that would require judges to take courses in sexual assault law.

Bill C-337 would also limit judicial appointments to those who have completed comprehensive education in sexual assault law and social context.

It would also require the council to report on continuing education seminars in matters related to sexual assault law and change the Criminal Code to require courts to provide written reasons in sexual assault decisions.

The bill was introduced in 2017 by former Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose after Provincial Court Judge Gregory Lenehan acquitted Bassam Al-Rawi of sexual assault, even though police found the partially naked complainant unconscious in the back of Al-Rawi’s cab shortly after the alleged incident.

The ruling — along with Lenehan’s comment in his decision that “clearly, a drunk can consent” to sex — prompted widespread protest. Earlier this year, Nova Scotia’s top court ordered a new trial in the case.

Janice Dickson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Campbell River’s ‘school of hack’ gives kids inside computing edge

Teachers take ‘hacking’ back to its roots with school program

UPDATED: Man survived for ‘days’ trapped in smashed truck north of Campbell River

Duncan Moffat, 23, found by hunter beside Hwy. 19 near Sayward

Gas prices on Vancouver Island to drop six cents

But a ‘volatile’ market could lead to increases in the coming weeks

Helpline assists Campbell River families tackling the dementia journey

No one in Campbell River should have to face the dementia journey… Continue reading

People flocking to Vancouver Island city to see hundreds of sea lions

Each year the combination of Steller and California sea lions take over Cowichan Bay

Protesters confront Environment Minister in B.C.

Protesters wanting more for killer whales confront Catherine McKenna

Humans reshaping evolutionary history of species around the globe: paper

University of British Columbia researcher had the paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society

Toronto ‘carding’ activist Desmond Cole stopped by police in Vancouver

Cole says his experience reveals what daily life is like for black and Indigenous residents

Commercial trucks banned from left lane of Coquihalla

B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation has introduced a new program that hopes to prevent accidents and closures on the Coquihalla Highway.

B.C. on track to record same number of overdose deaths as last year

128 people died of overdoses in September, bringing the total to more than 1,100 so far in 2018

Cowichan school district defends lack of notice to parents following elementary student arrest

Officials with School District 79 stand by their decision not to send out an alert.

B.C. firefighters rescue horse stuck in mud

‘It happens more often than you’d think,’ says deputy chief

Island Corridor Foundation optimistic about restoring rail service

If green-lighted, first priority would be Langford to Victoria route

Most Read