As It Happens

Canadian Judicial Council to review judge for rebuking sexual assault complainant

During a sexual assault trial, when he was a provincial court judge, Justice Robin Camp asked the 19-year-old woman: "Why couldn't you just keep your knees together?" Now, that he's been named a federal court judge, the Canadian Judicial Council is investigating.
Federal Court Justice Robin Camp (Andrew Balfour/Federal Court)

"Why couldn't you just keep your knees together?"

Justice Robin Camp said those words to a 19-year-old woman, at a sexual assault trial over which he was presiding as an Alberta provincial court judge. Last June, Justice Camp was appointed to the Federal Court. 
Now, the Canadian Judicial Council has announced it will review Justice Camp's behaviour in that case. A review that comes after four law professors filed a complaint.

Alice Woolley is one of those professors. She's also Associate Dean-Academic of Law, at the University of Calgary. Dean Woolley tells As It Happens host Carol Off about the case and the review of Justice Camp's behaviour. Here is an excerpt from their conversation.

Associate Dean-Academic of Law Alice Woolley, at the University of Calgary (Courtesy of the University of Calgary)

Carol Off: Dean Woolley, what disturbs you most about Justice Robin Camp's behavior and remarks he made in this case? 

Alice Woolley: His disregard for the law. His unwillingness to apply it and him getting it wrong. And also his direct disrespect for the complainant in this case -- his comments to her that I think she would have experienced as humiliating. He said to her: "Why didn't you keep your knees together?" The sexual incident occurred on a counter with a sink. He asked her why she didn't drop her bottom into the sink to stop the assault from occurring. He questioned why she didn't scream. He questioned why she didn't raise a complaint about the incident right after it happened. He made suggestions that she could have stopped it if she'd wanted to.

CO: And the fact that the man the alleged assailant was about 100 pounds heavier than she is -- that was not an issue?

DW: He was actually -- according to the Crown's argument In the Court of Appeal -- he was 240 pounds approximately. And she was approximately 100 pounds. So there was a huge size differential between the two of them. 

CO: So this wasn't just maybe one chance comment. It's your sense this is the tone of the trial itself? 

This wasn't just one comment which may have been a judge simply misspeaking. This was repeated conduct through the course of the trial. For example the fact that he called the complainant the accused through much of the proceeding even after the Crown pointed it out to him. 

CO: This sexual assault case ended with an acquittal. What do you think should happen to Robin Camp?

DW: We've asked the Canadian Judicial Council to consider recommending his removal. But the most important thing is that the Canadian Judicial Council fully investigate and fully consider the implications of this conduct for the administration of justice in Canada. It's also important that people like the complaint is in this case — vulnerable, 19-year-old homeless women know that they can go to court and not be humiliated, and know that they can go to court and the law that's applied to them will be the Law of Canada.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

To hear the full interview, please click on the Listen audio link above.


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