Canada is Considering a Bill to Make Sexual Assault Case Training Mandatory for Federal Judges

A bill introduced in 2017 to “require federal judges in Canada to undergo training about sexual assault law,” is being considered by the Canadian Senate. However, if the bill is not passed by June 21, it will be discarded.

Global News Canada explains that the bill (Bill C-337: “The Judicial Accountability Through Sexual Assault Training Act“) was passed unanimously in the House, while the Senate has proposed several amendments to prevent the law to undermine judicial independence. 

With the amendments, the bill would no longer require “all applicants for judicial posts [to] undergo training in sexual assault law. Instead, all applicants would be required to commit to undergo continuing education in sexual assault law.” Additionally, the training curriculum would need to be developed in consultation with any groups considered relevant in the matter, not only victim groups. Finally, there would no longer be a requirement to make public the names of the judges that hear sexual assault cases without training. 

Andrea Gunraj, vice-president of public engagement of the Canadian Women’s Foundation believes that the trainings should be conducted by survivors, experts, and women’s organizations. In her opinion, this law could stop gender stereotypes from hindering gender-based violence survivors’ access to justice in Canada. 

Bill C-337 does not apply to provincial court judges. The only province with a Mandatory Sexual Assault Law Education Act is Prince Edward Island, which was passed in March 2019.

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