Legislation has been tabled in Parliament to amend the Judges Act (Bill C-5) whose ostensible purpose is the enhancement of judicial sensitivity to the plight of sexual assault victims in a criminal justice context.  The method adopted is compulsory specialized training (seminars) for candidates to the judiciary, as well as the monitoring of the numbers of judges attending such seminars.  Bill C-5 is highly questionable.

The seminars are to be provided after consultation with “sexual assault survivors” and “groups and organizations that support them”.  The seminars are to address various subjects including the “principles of consent” and the “myths and stereotypes associated with sexual assault complainants”.

Judges must be independent.  They cannot be trained to believe certain types of complaints simply because they evoke sexual assaults.  The subject of myths and stereotypes is decades old, and for the very few judges who sadly, may make inappropriate comments or whose analysis is dubious, our system provides redress by way of appeal.  One cannot put sexual assault complainants on a pedestal to shield them from fair judicial scrutiny.  When questioned, they must tell the truth.  If they fail to do so, as evidenced by, for example, significant contradictions or deliberately vague or evasive answers, they are simply not worthy of credit.

To be fair, the seminars should also be established after considering the cases of the wrongly convicted as well as cases resulting in acquittals to show why, in some instances, complaints are properly rejected.  The gist of the bill is to train judges to convict.  Further, by monitoring, by way of an annual report, the number of judges who attend the seminars, Parliament will begin to police the judiciary, an absolute affront to its independence, which is a cornerstone of our democracy. Bill C-5 is draconian.  It is incompatible with the founding principles of our criminal justice system.