Justice Robin Camp should be removed for sex assault trial mistakes, inquiry hears in closing arguments

Justice Robin Camp has a "strong moral compass" and his mistreatment of a complainant in a sexual assault trial in 2014 was due to ignorance that has since been rectified, his lawyer told a Canadian Judicial Council inquiry Monday, in a bid to save the judge's job.

Judge's lawyer says 'education and denunciation' sufficient for his client, who has 'strong moral compass'

Federal Court Justice Robin Camp arrives with his wife Mariaan, right, and daughter Lauren at a Canadian Judicial Council inquiry in Calgary. (Canadian Press)

Justice Robin Camp has a "strong moral compass" and his mistreatment of a complainant in a sexual assault trial in 2014 was due to ignorance that has since been rectified, his lawyer told a Canadian Judicial Council inquiry Monday in Calgary, in a final bid to save the judge's job.

But lawyer Marjorie Hickey, who is tasked with presenting the case against Camp to the inquiry, said there is sufficient evidence to remove him from the bench.

In her closing arguments, Hickey said Camp "failed in the due execution of the office of the judge" and called on the panel of five Superior Court judges and senior lawyers looking into Camp's admitted misconduct to recommend to Parliament that he be dismissed.

Much of the controversy surrounding the the 2014 trial, when Camp was a provincial court judge, surrounds a comment he made to the alleged rape victim, asking her why she "couldn't just keep [her] knees together."

Camp has since been elevated to the Federal Court, but now faces the potential of being removed from the bench, pending the final recommendation of the panel, which has spent five days hearing testimony.

Hickey noted Camp also said during the trial that "sometimes sex and pain go together," a comment she said must have been "particularly belittling" to the complainant.

Camp testified at the inquiry on Friday, and said he's "very sorry" for the "hurtful" comments he made and that he's learned from his mistakes.

In his closing submission, Camp's lawyer Frank Addario told the inquiry the judge should keep his job because his misconduct was limited to one case and was "the result of a knowledge deficit and a failure of education, not animus or bad character."

In addition, Addario argued that ignorance about the social context surrounding sexual assault law is "widespread" and said there is more public value to in the "education and denunciation" of Camp, rather than his termination.

"His counselling has given him insight into the impropriety of these statements and the connotations they carry in light of the discriminatory history of sexual assault law," Addario said.

"He will not make statements like this again."

Judicial council inquiries are rare

Karen Busby, a law professor at the University of Manitoba, said inquiries like this are "fairly rare."

Since the process to review judges' behaviour was established almost 50 years ago, Busby said only 11 public inquiries have been held and only twice have judges been recommended for removal.

Both of those judges chose to resign before the recommendations went to Parliament for a decision on their fates.

"But having said that, between 150 and 200 complaints are made each year to the Canadian Judicial Council," Busby said. "But the vast majority of those are dealt with by informal processes that we don't really know that much about."

Educated in South Africa

During testimony on Thursday, a law professor testified that Camp, who was educated in South Africa, didn't know the history of sexual assault law in Canada and at times made "rude and stupid" comments during the trial, but she told the inquiry she believes he has learned from the experience.

Kim Stanton, legal director with the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund, told CBC News the problems with Camp's comments go well beyond the devastating impact they had on the complainant in the 2014 trial.

"It's terrible that sexist language was used; it's much more terrible that the public may have a perception that they will go into a courtroom and the judge won't apply the law," she said Friday during a break in the proceedings.

"He showed disdain for the protections that were hard-fought to bring in, in the Criminal Code in the '80s and the '90s, to protect sexual assault complainants when they bring a complaint forward."

At the end of the sexual assault trial, Camp acquitted the accused, Alexander Wagar, but the Alberta Court of Appeal overturned the ruling and ordered a new trial, citing concerns over the judge's understanding of sexual assault laws.

Follow the proceedings via our reporters at the inquiry. On our CBC News app? See the latest updates here.

With files from Carolyn Dunn, Raffy Boudjikanian and Bryan Labby