Mandated judicial education for judges on sexual assault law

I saw this terrible article this morning and had no choice but to do a blog post. Angela Chaisson, a criminal lawyer, is quoted:

“We’re having a lot more realization, and a lot of really good case law, coming out about bringing a racial lens to criminal law in particular, but we’re not having the same feminist lens brought to case law,” she added, stressing that the criminal justice system has been “bad for women” for decades.

“Now we have the chance to do one tiny thing to make the system more fair. For me, the balance on the scales absolutely weighs in favour of increased training,” she said…

…“I deal with sexual assault cases almost every day and I see the way misused stereotypes continue to pervade the courtroom every single day,” Chaisson said, adding that some people may think she’s exaggerating.

Minister of Justice Lametti is quoted:

“This would ensure that there is both accountability and incentive for those already serving to participate in this important training,” he added, noting that Bill C-5 would “improve the transparency of decisions by requiring judges deciding on matters of sexual assault to provide their reasons in writing or enter them into the record.”

Not to be outdone:

The Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development, Maryam Monsef, also spoke, noting that the bill requires the training to be “developed in consultation with sexual assault survivors.”

“This step and every step our government has taken to address and prevent gender-based violence has been informed by survivors and their families. We thank you for your courage,” she added.

Like Ms. Chaisson and everyone else quoted in this article, I’m all for education. I have nothing wrong with judicial education regarding sexual assault law – particularly if it includes education surrounding wrongful convictions – specific to the area of sexual assault. Note Ms. Chaisson’s excellent articles where she points out how commonly lies are told and how difficult it is to assess credibility – one would think this sort of training should be part of the judicial education proposed – alongside victims’ perspectives and feminist perspectives.

Do we know who’s designing the curriculum proposed for judicial education? Is it going to be made public? Are any advocates of accused persons or wrongfully convicted persons (specific to sexual assault offences and otherwise) going to have input, or is it going to be all victims’ advocates and feminist legal scholars?

Published by Efrayim Moldofsky

I am a junior criminal defence lawyer in Calgary, Alberta. Read my observations here.

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