Justice Robin Camp's concern over the "pain and embarrassment" he caused an alleged rape victim and "damage he had done to the administration of justice" were the motivations behind his efforts to seek counselling and education, according to his mentor.

"He worked extremely hard, I found him to be very amenable to learning," said Justice Deborah McCawley.

"He's not a misogynist, he's not a racist."

McCawley is a judge with the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench and specializes in gender equality education, teaching judges and parliamentarians in Canada and abroad. She testified on Wednesday at the Canadian Judicial Council's inquiry into Camp's conduct during a 2014 sexual assault trial. At the time, Camp was a provincial court judge in Calgary.

After reading the transcript of the sexual assault trial, McCawley said, she was "taken aback."

Throughout that trial, Camp repeatedly asked the complainant why she hadn't fought harder to prevent the attack. He asked her why she "couldn't just keep [her] knees together and several times referred to her as "the accused."

"I was quite appalled at some of the words, some of the language used," said McCawley.

Deborah McCawley

Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench Justice Deborah McCawley has been working with Justice Robin Camp for the last 10 months. (The Winnipeg Foundation)

After hearing evidence at the 2014 trial, Camp acquitted Alexander Wagar, but the Alberta Court of Appeal overturned the ruling and ordered a new trial. By that time, Camp had been elevated to the Federal Court.

In ordering a new trial, the Court of Appeal wrote that the judge's comments raised doubts about his understanding of sexual assault laws.

Sexual assault 101

About 10 months ago, McCawley — who also sits on a judicial education committee and co-chairs the national advisory committee on ethics — was approached to work with Camp. At first, McCawley said, she was skeptical a white South African man in his 60s could be helped, until she spent a day with him.

"I myself was guilty of the kind of thinking I've spent my whole career railing against," said McCawley. "At the end of the meeting, I realized he was sincerely committed to learning what had gone wrong."

The two attended several courses including "sexual assault 101" and "how to conduct a sexual assault trial." She also assigned reading and research.

McCawley said the two worked closely and told the panel sex assault trials were complex and "not easy even for an experienced judge."

Camp is facing possible removal from the bench. A panel of five — three Superior Court judges and two senior lawyers — will hear evidence throughout the week before deliberating whether to recommend to Parliament that he be removed from the Federal Court.

Alberta Attorney General Kathleen Ganley called for the inquiry in January after a complaint made by two law professors at the University of Calgary and Dalhousie University. 

After the initial complaint, the council received dozens of others.

The panel must determine whether Camp's conduct in the trial fell so far outside the bounds of acceptable judicial conduct or is so impossible to remediate that the judge must be removed from his current office.

The panel that will determine Camp's fate after hearing evidence over the next several days in a conference room at the Westin Hotel in downtown Calgary.

Camp is fighting hard to keep his job. He will testify himself later this week.

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