Feminist coalition seeks leave to intervene in the Canadian Judicial Council Inquiry regarding the Honourable Federal Court Justice Robin Camp

On May 31st, 2016, the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre (“Avalon“), Ending Violence Association of British Columbia (“EVA BC”), the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women (“IAAW”), Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children (“METRAC”), West Coast Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund Association (“West Coast LEAF”), and the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund Inc. (“LEAF”) filed a motion with the Canadian Judicial Council (“CJC”) to seek leave as a Coalition to intervene in the Matter of an Inquiry Pursuant to Section 63(1) of the Judges Act Regarding the Honourable Justice Robin Camp (the “Inquiry”).

At issue in this Inquiry is whether Justice Camp has become incapacitated or disabled from the due execution of the office of judge for any of the reasons set out in section 65(2) of the Judges Act and should be removed from office. Section 65(2) reads:

Where, in the opinion of the Council, the judge in respect of whom an inquiry or investigation has been made has become incapacitated or disabled from the due execution of the office of judge by reason of:

(a) age or infirmity,
(b) having been guilty of misconduct,
(c) having failed in the due execution of that office, or
(d) having been placed, by his or her conduct or otherwise, in a position incompatible with the due execution of that office,

the Council, in its report to the Minister under subsection (1), may recommend that the judge be removed from office.

This inquiry arises from a complaint to the CJC from Alberta Attorney General Kathleen Ganley. Her complaint followed an initial complaint to the CJC on November 9, 2015 by four university law professors. Both complaints relate to the conduct of Justice Camp when he was a judge at the Alberta Provincial Court, and presiding over a sexual assault trial (R v Wagar). Both the Attorney General and the law professors seek his removal from the bench in their respective complaints. The CJC has convened an Inquiry into the Attorney General’s complaint. The complaint by the law professors is being held in abeyance while the AG’s complaint is addressed. The CJC issued a Notice of Allegations on May 2. The Notice will frame the issues for the Inquiry. Read the Notice. Here are just a few of the remarks made by Justice Camp during the trial that are captured in the Notice:

  • “why didn’t [the sexual assault complainant] just sink [her] bottom down into the basin so he couldn’t penetrate [her]” (page 119 lines 10 to 11).
  • “why couldn’t [she] just keep [her] knees together” (page 119 lines 14 to 15).
  • “if she skews her pelvis slightly she can avoid him” (page 394 line 13).
  • “Sex and pain sometimes go together […] that’s not necessarily a bad thing” (page 407 lines 28 to 29).

 

Why LEAF, in coalition with its partners, seeks to intervene:
As Justice L’Heureux-Dubé stated in her concurring reasons in R v Ewanchuk, the 1999 Supreme Court of Canada decision in which LEAF successfully intervened to ensure a robust standard of consent in Canadian law: “Complainants should be able to rely on a system free from myths and stereotypes, and on a judiciary whose impartiality is not compromised by these biased assumptions.”

The Inquiry Committee’s assessment of the allegations and its interpretation of the Judges Act in this case must be informed by an understanding of the evolution of sexual assault law and its current substantive and procedural requirements governing the conduct of sexual assault trials.

Historically, the common law gave legal effect to prevailing discriminatory myths and stereotypes concerning women and sexual assault. The effect of these common law rules was not only to distort the trial process but also to impose disproportionate and discriminatory burdens on sexual assault complainants, who were treated as inherently more suspect and less worthy of belief than victims of other crimes.  Women who had experienced sexual assault and wished to pursue prosecution of their assailants could do so only at the cost of their own privacy, dignity, and integrity.  Complainants were effectively required to defend their conduct, character and their credibility: they experienced the criminal justice system as putting them, rather than the accused, on trial.

LEAF has worked tirelessly to improve the protections for sexual assault survivors in Canadian law, through our interventions in cases such as Canadian Newspapers, Seaboyer, Mills, Darrach, DAI and NS. When we didn’t succeed in court, we pursued law reform measures to achieve the necessary changes in legislation. All of these reforms were expressly intended to remove discriminatory myths that denied sexual assault complainants equal protection and benefit of the law, and to encourage reporting of sexual assault.

We are at a moment in Canadian history in which the amount of public discussion about sexual assault and the meaning of consent is high but the confidence of sexual assault survivors in the criminal justice system is very low. Indigenous women, in particular, report little faith in the criminal justice process. The conduct of Justice Camp has exacerbated this crisis in confidence. Justice Camp’s conduct contributes to a chilling effect on the reporting of sexual assault offences, an effect that is magnified for individuals, such as the complainant in Wagar, who experience multiple and intersecting disadvantages arising from characteristics including gender, poverty, race, Indigeneity, sexual orientation, age and/or disability.

Not only did Justice Camp engage in stereotyping of the complainant in Wagar, he actively disregarded the protections in the law that were specifically enacted to improve her confidence and the confidence of all Canadians that a woman can testify in a courtroom free of gender-based myths and stereotypes. His conduct and its impact on the complainant resonated far more widely than the Wagar trial.

The Coalition intends to make arguments regarding the systemic impact of judicial conduct such as that of Justice Camp on sexual assault survivors. We want to ensure their voices are heard in this public inquiry.

LEAF is proud to partner with Avalon, EVA BC, IAAW (our partner in the Barton appeal), METRAC, and West Coast LEAF, in our intervention application, which you can read here.

 

About the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF)

Since April 17, 1985, when equality rights were enshrined in sections 15 and 28 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, LEAF has worked toward equality for women and girls. LEAF intervenes in key cases to ensure that when courts interpret equality rights, there will be a systemic improvement in women’s lives. For more information about LEAF, please visit leaf.ca.

About Avalon Sexual Assault Centre

Avalon Sexual Assault Centre is a feminist organization located in Halifax, Nova Scotia which provides services for those affected by sexualized violence, with primary emphasis on support, education, counselling and leadership or advocacy services for women and trans* people. Avalon offers individual therapeutic counselling and group program services for women and trans* individuals, community education, public awareness, legal and professional training targeting the prevention of sexualized violence, and legal support and advocacy to victims of sexual assault. It also runs the Sexual Nurse Examiner program which provides immediate response to sexual assault victims of all ages and genders requiring medical care and the collection of forensic evidence. For more information about Avalon Sexual Assault Centre, please visit http://avaloncentre.ca.

About EVA BC

The Ending Violence Association of British Columbia (EVA BC) works to coordinate and support the work of victim-serving and other anti-violence programs in British Columbia through the provision of issue-based consultation and analysis, resource development,training, research and education. EVA BC’s work is guided by respect for difference, human dignity and equality. For more information about EVA BC, please visit http://endingviolence.org.

About the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Woman (IAAW)

For the past 20 years, IAAW has advanced the rights of Aboriginal women through advocacy, education, research and program development. IAAW is composed of First Nation and Metis Women dedicated to supporting other women in their journey to build individual and family capacity while supporting the development of healthy, safe and caring communities. For more information about IAAW, please visit www.iaaw.ca.

About METRAC

METRAC works with individuals, communities and institutions to change ideas, actions and policies with the goal of ending violence against women and youth. Delivering relevant and boundary-breaking services and programs, METRAC focuses on education and prevention and uses innovative tools to build safety, justice and equity. For more information about METRAC, please visit https://www.metrac.org.

About West Coast LEAF

West Coast LEAF is a nonprofit organization formed in 1985, the year the equality guarantees of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into force. West Coast LEAF’s mission is to achieve equality by changing historic patterns of discrimination against women through equality rights litigation, law reform and public legal education, with a focus on British Columbia. For more information about West Coast LEAF, please visit www.westcoastleaf.org.

For media inquiries, please contact:

Dr. Kim Stanton
LEAF, Legal Director
416.595.7170 x 223
k.stanton@leaf.ca