Rob Anders wants to bring back rape charge

A Conservative MP from Calgary wants to bring the charge of rape back into the Criminal Code. A Calgary sexual assault survivors advocate says that reviving the rape charge is not necessary, but agrees with Rob Anders that stiffer penalties are needed.

Rape charge revival not necessary, says Calgary advocate

Conservative MP Rob Anders says changing the charge from rape to sexual assault has affected sentences. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

A Conservative MP from Calgary wants to bring the charge of rape back into the Criminal Code.

Rob Anders announced earlier Monday his intention to present a private members bill that would revive the old Criminal Code charge and also seek mandatory sentences for anyone convicted of that crime.

However, not everyone feels the charge needs to be revived.

"Unwanted penetration is not the only form of sexual violence that is harmful and hurtful," said Danielle Aubry, executive director of Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse. "I think focusing just on that is a mistake."

Until 1983, it was possible to be convicted of the charge of rape. Parliament then rolled that offence into the more encompassing charge of sexual assault.

At the time, it was thought the stigma surrounding a rape charge prevented many victims from coming forward and that a shift to the broader category of sexual assault could help criminalize a greater variety of hurtful sexual behaviours.

New charge led to lighter sentences: Anders

Anders says changing the charge to sexual assault affected sentences and that convicted rapists aren't being adequately punished.

“What it wound up doing is having rapists get time that gropers would get and so the average sentencing right now is two years in terms of what these people serve," he said.

Aubry agrees there are big problems with how the justice system sentences sex crimes.

She says the issue of short sentences for sex crimes is "shameful" and, in that regard, she does agree with Anders on the need for stiffer sentences for convicted rapists.

"We need to have some leadership that is going to give the message that it's unacceptable for a two-year sentence for sexual assault," said Aubry.

Likely to face constitutional challenges

Anders wants anyone convicted of rape to serve a mandatory minimum of eight years in prison for a first offence and 10 years for each subsequent conviction.

“I ideally would have liked to have seen rapists get 20-years mandatory minimum but because of what we anticipate in constitutional challenges, we decided to go with eight and 10 because it was well within inside the penalties for manslaughter.”

University of Calgary law professor Chris Levy said he does not like the bill's chances of surviving constitutional challenges.

“The degree of fairness involved is highly questionable and this is what's got a lot of the mandatory minimum sentences into trouble," said Levy.

Anders says he will introduce the bill later this month.

On a separate note, a number of Calgarians also came forward earlier this month saying they will challenge Anders for the Conservative nomination ahead of the next federal election. 

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