A Calgary man convicted of sexual assault evaded a four-year prison sentence last month after a judge hailed his “almost exemplary character.” Despite being found guilty by a jury for forcing a woman to engage in sexual acts without her consent, the man — a former junior hockey player — heard compliments from the judge about his “good character” and was sentenced to 28 months. This is just one example of why, according to former federal Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose, judges should “receive sexual assault law training.”
Canadian judges are not required to go through any education on sexual assault before they preside over such cases. Ambrose has been trying to change that with new legislation but says a group of “old boys” in the senate is stalling on passing the bill in order to “protect another group of old boys.”
Ambrose’s proposed legislation, Bill C-337, also called the JUST Act, would require anyone seeking a federal judicial appointment to go through mandatory training on sexual assault. Justices who preside over sexual assault trials can come from any legal background, from environmental to corporate law. Ambrose’s bill would ensure that all new judges receive training on subjects such as rape myths and how trauma can affect sexual assault victims before they are faced with a sexual assault case in court.
The bill has been delayed in the Senate for 694 days — a count Ambrose has been updating daily on her Twitter account. She’s been sharing live countdown clocks, starting every tweet with “tic-tock.” Using the hashtags #JUSTact and #Bill337, Ambrose has been calling out the Senate for its “shameful” delay of the proposed bill. Ambrose, who resigned as Conservative leader in July 2017, says the bill has been pushed from the Senate agenda, where she would testify in-person about her proposal, five times. She is now imploring the public to put pressure on senators.
Shamefully the @SenateCA has struck the #JUSTact from its agenda for the 5th time. Will you help me encourage them to make #Bill337 a priority by calling the Chairs of the justice committee? Their #s are: Senator Joyal: 613-943-0434, Dupuis: 613-996-2063, Boisvenu: 613-943-4030 pic.twitter.com/3Re6zpRL5J— Rona Ambrose (@RonaAmbrose) April 9, 2019
"I know for a fact that there are people in the Senate, literally a group of old boys who want to protect another group of old boys and this has got to stop,” Ambrose told CTV.
"I left Ottawa thinking that this was a done deal, because I mean, who doesn't support training for anyone in the judiciary or anyone in the justice system but particularly judges who are the ones that oversee the courtroom and deal with victims very directly,” she said.
The Senate Committee is made up of seven men and five women. In 2017, a motion was passed by the House for the Senate to review Bill C-337 at the height of the #MeToo conversation, but the committee has yet to study the private member’s bill.
Below is the letter Ambrose has been tweeting out daily to her nearly 69,000 followers to encourage Senators to consider Bill C-337.
https://t.co/Tlph0U8xxO This is a letter you can email to Senator Renee Dupuis to encourage her to do the right thing for sexual assault victims by passing the #JUSTact, which requires sexual assault law training for judges. E: firstname.lastname@example.org #Bill337 #cndpoli pic.twitter.com/BLppsRS875— Rona Ambrose (@RonaAmbrose) April 6, 2019