Politics

Ambrose to join Liberal ministers in re-introducing bill on sexual assault awareness training for judges

Two Liberal cabinet ministers and former interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose are getting together to re-introduce legislation to require judges to undergo sensitivity training before they can preside over sexual assault cases, CBC News has learned.

Bill also would require courts to issue written decisions in sexual assault cases

Former Conservative interim Leader Rona Ambrose will join Minister for Women and Gender Equality Maryam Monsef and Justice Minister David Lametti Tuesday to reintroduce a bill requiring judges to take sexual assault sensitivity training. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

Two Liberal cabinet ministers and former interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose are getting together to re-introduce legislation to require judges to undergo sensitivity training before they can preside over sexual assault cases, CBC News has learned.

Minister for Women and Gender Equality Maryam Monsef and Justice Minister David Lametti are joining Ambrose Tuesday morning in Ottawa to bring back the former Conservative MP's private member's bill, according to a senior Liberal source.

Before stepping down as an MP in 2017, Ambrose introduced the Judicial Accountability Through Sexual Assault Law Training Act.

The legislation would have required that anyone up for an appointment to the bench in Canada undergo comprehensive training in sexual assault law.

The bill also would  have required the Canadian Judicial Council to report on continuing education courses in matters related to sexual assault law, and change the Criminal Code to make courts provide written decisions in sexual assault cases.

The legislation was introduced in early 2017 and passed the House of Commons with bipartisan support before being tied up in the Senate.

Ambrose told CBC News Network's Power & Politics in late 2018 that the lack of progress in the Senate was frustrating.

"We passed it within four months in the House of Commons and it's been stuck in the Senate for almost two years," she said. "Because it's already been studied in the House, it's possible this could be done quite quickly."

Ambrose has said that the law was not about assigning blame, but rather was crafted to prevent judges who believe in sexual assault stereotypes from presiding over such trials.

It was inspired in part by the example of former Federal Court Justice Robin Camp, who was forced to resign from the bench after the Canadian Judicial Council ruled that he "showed obvious disdain for some of the characteristics of the regime enacted by Parliament in respect of sexual assault issue."

That edict came after the CJC conducted an inquiry into a 2014 sexual assault trial in which Camp asked the alleged victim of a sexual assault, "Why couldn't you just keep your knees together?"

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