Alberta Attorney General Kathleen Ganley has forced an inquiry into the conduct of Federal Court Justice Robin Camp after his controversial remarks during a sexual assault trial surfaced late last year.
By asking the Canadian Judicial Council to move the complaint to a formal inquiry, the council will skip the review panel phase of its investigation.
Ganley said the decision wasn't an easy one to make, but in light of all the public attention on the former provincial court judge, she feels it is important to maintain confidence in the province's justice system.
"The concern is that that will have an effect on the way people perceive not only the judicial system but the way that complainants may feel about coming forward with these sorts of allegations. So we felt that it was really important and in the public interest," Ganley said.
The judicial council's three- to five-person committee will recommend whether Camp should remain on the bench at the Federal Court even though the conduct in question occurred when he was a provincial court judge in Calgary.
University of Calgary law professor Alice Woolley, who was among the first to complain about Camp, says she welcomes the inquiry.
Committees typically comprise three or five people. The majority are judges who are members of the council. The council says it has invited federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to select a lawyer for the committee. Hearings are usually open to the public.
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Moving forward with an inquiry committee, which happens once a provincial attorney general requests one, means the judicial council will no longer pursue the review panel it announced last month.
That may well come as a relief to the council. New rules that came into effect last summer stipulate the panel must have a member who is a regular citizen. So far though, there is no process in place for selecting the lay person.
Woolley says skipping the review panel means the process will speed up somewhat.
"It goes straight to a body that has the ability to make a recommendation to the council about whether or not Justice Camp should be removed, but it's still a long way from a final determination of the issue. The inquiry panel has to consider everything and then it goes to the judicial council that has to consider it and then it would go to the federal minister of justice and then Parliament."
The case in question involved the alleged rape of a 19-year-old woman by a Calgary man, whom she accused of sexually assaulting her over a bathroom sink during a house party.
During the trial Camp repeatedly called the woman "the accused" and asked her, "Why couldn't you just keep your knees together?" and, "Why didn't you just sink your bottom down into the basin so he couldn't penetrate you?"
Camp acquitted the man but Alberta's Court of Appeal overturned the ruling last year and ordered a new trial. The three judges wrote that Camp's comments gave rise to doubts about his understanding of the law governing sexual assaults.
By then, now-former Justice Minister Peter MacKay had promoted Camp to the Federal Court.
Camp has since apologized and committed to attending gender-sensitivity counselling. The Federal Court has announced Camp won't be hearing any cases for the time being.