Senate adopts bill to strengthen sexual assault law
Bill C-3 received Royal Assent on Thursday after final approval in the Senate.
A new federal law aims to ensure all newly appointed provincial superior court judges participate in continuing education in sexual assault law and social context.
The focus on training comes in response to comments by certain judges that indicate “stereotypes, prejudices or a poor understanding of sexual assault law,” said Senator Pierre Dalphond, a former Quebec Court of Appeal judge who sponsored the bill in the Senate.
“Going to court can be stressful and challenging. When Canadians interact with our courts, they should not bear the increased stress of confronting harmful myths and stereotypes. Nor should they face a system that lacks awareness of their social context,” Dalphond stated during a speech in the Senate.
“Social context training for judges aims to develop the skills and awareness that judges need to ensure that everyone who interacts with the courts is met with a responsive, respectful and inclusive justice system.”
The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs presented its report on the study of the legislation on April 20 with several observation for the Government’s consideration, including that:
- The link between interpersonal violence and animal cruelty be included in judicial education;
- Adequate funding is available for judicial training on gender-based violence, domestic violence and intimate partner violence; and
- Social context – such as circumstances related to history, sex, race, ethnicity, religion, culture, sexual orientation, differing mental or physical abilities, age, socio-economic background, children and family violence – be underscored as critical in judging.
A previous version of the legislation, a private member’s bill introduced by former interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose, was awaiting third reading in the Senate when Parliament dissolved for the 2019 federal election.
Bill C-3, the Government’s version of the legislation introduced in this Parliament, includes changes proposed by the Senate during its committee study of her original private member’s bill.