Canadian Judicial Council Recommends Justice Camp’s Removal from Office
The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) applauds the March 8, 2017, Report to the Minister of Justice of the Canadian Judicial Council (CJC) recommending the removal of Justice Robin Camp from office.
The CJC Report confirms the findings of the CJC Committee that conducted the Inquiry into Justice Camp’s conduct in a 2014 sexual assault trial. LEAF intervened in the Inquiry as part of a national coalition of women’s organizations to ensure that a feminist voice for survivors would be heard at the inquiry.
Following the Inquiry, the CJC Committee concluded that:
“Justice Camp’s conduct is so manifestly and profoundly destructive of the concept of the impartiality, integrity and independence of the judicial role that public confidence is sufficiently undermined to render the Judge incapable of executing the judicial office.”
The March 8 CJC Report notes that the judge addressed questions to the young, Indigenous sexual assault complainant in the 2014 trial in a “condescending, humiliating and disrespectful” manner. It states that he committed “serious misconduct and placed himself, by his conduct, in a position incompatible with the due execution of the office of a judge”.
Although the Report notes that sometimes apologies and education may be able to restore the public’s confidence in the judiciary, the CJC determined that Justice Camp’s “apologies and efforts at remediation do not adequately repair the damage caused to public confidence”. Indeed, the Report to the Minister confirms the CJC Committee’s finding that a consequence of Justice Camp’s misconduct is that it added to a “public perception that the judicial system is fuelled by systemic bias”.
Although the outcome of the retrial of the 2014 case resulted in an acquittal, the Report notes that “the legal outcome of the first trial and of the retrial is of limited relevance” to the question of whether Justice Camp misconducted himself. The CJC Report is important for its finding that “A judge may render an impeccable legal decision and still engage in misconduct.” The Report properly focuses on the allegations that Justice Camp expressed antipathy toward the legal provisions intended to protect survivors of sexual assault in the trial process.
LEAF Legal Director Dr. Kim Stanton states:
“LEAF has worked hard for over three decades to ensure that the law protects and promotes the equality rights of sexual assault survivors. This decision is an affirmation of the value of equality in Canadian law.”
The Report counters the argument of Justice Camp that “public outrage is not a reliable barometer of the legal concept of public confidence” by noting that: “In gauging public confidence, the focus should be on a reasonable member of the public”. The decision clearly separates arguments of “mob justice” from the continued reproduction of systemic violence in the court system that Indigenous women experience at a disproportionate rate.
The Report states at paragraph 47:
In our view, the statements made by Justice Camp during the trial and in his decision, the values implicit in those statements and the way in which he conducted himself are so antithetical to the contemporary values of our judicial system with respect to the manner in which complainants in sexual assault case should be treated that, in our view, confidence in the system cannot be maintained unless the system disassociates itself from the image which the Judge, by his statements and approach, represents in the mind of a reasonable member of the public. In this case, that can only be accomplished by his removal from the system which, if he were not removed, he would continue to represent.
LEAF is relieved that the CJC Report to the Minister sends a message that women in Canada are entitled to a fair judicial system untainted by myths about women and sexual assault. Further, the fair trial rights that we all value are underscored by equality rights, and these must also be respected.
The CJC has now made its recommendation to the Justice Minister that Justice Camp should be removed from the bench. As noted in the CJC’s news release: “In accordance with Canada’s Constitution, a judge may only be removed from office through a joint resolution of Parliament.”
Justice Camp has announced that he will resign effective March 10. This is an appropriate response to the determination by both the Inquiry Committee and the CJC that he is incapable of executing the judicial office.
About 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, visit www.leaf.ca.
For Media Inquiries:
Dr. Kim Stanton, Legal Director
Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF)