The Barbra Schlifer Clinic will be among a small group of women’s organizations who have been granted an exceptional request by the Canadian Judicial Council (CJC) to intervene in the upcoming inquiry into the conduct of Justice Robin Camp. The hearing will take place in Calgary from September 6 to 9, 2016.
During a 2014 sexual assault trial in Alberta, Justice Camp made numerous comments depicting sincere antipathy toward legislation in place to protect the integrity of vulnerable witnesses and illustrated stereotypical assumptions about how someone, confronted with sexual assault should behave. Repeatedly referring to the complainant, a 19-year-old Indigenous woman, as the accused he now famously asked, “Why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?”
The Alberta Court of Appeal overturned the decision to acquit the accused, stating that the judge’s conduct seriously questioned his understanding of the law governing sexual assault and ordered a retrial, having been persuaded that “sexual stereotypes and stereotypical myths…found their way into the trial judge’s judgment”(1).
Justice Camp was removed from the bench, and later appointed a judge of the Federal Court by the Honourable Peter MacKay, former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. Of concern to the Clinic is the interaction Judge Camp now has with individuals who experience intersecting inequalities, such as race and religion, newcomer status and Indigeneity. While Judge Camp has apologized for making inappropriate and insensitive comments during the 2014 trial, and has voluntarily sought out training and counselling, significant concern remains on the effect biased thinking and discriminatory comments expressed by the judge have on survivors, whose worst fear is that they will not be believed in the criminal justice system.
The Clinic, in collaboration with the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre (Avalon) and Ending Violence Association of British Columbia (EVA BC) is permitted the opportunity to intervene on the basis that no new evidence is submitted or that a position is taken on the merit of the allegations facing Judge Camp.
1 R v Wagar 2015 ABCA 327