At this moment in Canadian history, there is a crisis in public confidence in the justice system’s handling of sexual assault cases. And for good reason: Justice Robin Camp’s well-publicized remarks during a 2014 sexual assault trial in Alberta show that the judiciary is by no means immune from the rape myths and sexist stereotypes that permeate our society as a whole.
Justice Camp asked the complainant, an Indigenous woman who was 19 years old and homeless at the time of the alleged assault, “Why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?” He also referred to her as “the accused” throughout the trial and remarked that “sex and pain sometimes go together […] that’s not necessarily a bad thing” and that “young wom[e]n want to have sex, particularly if they are drunk.”
Such statements are based on discredited and discriminatory myths; spoken from the bench, they threaten survivors’ access to the equal protection of the law and undermine women’s equality rights. That’s why West Coast LEAF has joined a national coalition of women’s organizations to intervene in the inquiry into Justice Camp’s conduct that will determine whether he will be removed from his current position of Federal Court Judge.
In coalition with the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre, Ending Violence Association of British Columbia (EVA BC), the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women (IAAW), Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children (METRAC), and Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund Association (LEAF), West Coast LEAF will speak out about the serious consequences of Justice Camp’s behaviour for survivors, for public attitudes about sexual assault, and for fairness in the justice system.
The coalition will argue that Justice Camp’s conduct shows complete disregard for hard-won legal reforms that protect sexual assault complainants from unfair attacks on their credibility and unfounded assumptions that they gave consent. Letting his behaviour go unchecked would deepen survivors’ distrust of the criminal justice system and create additional barriers to reporting and prosecuting sexual assaults. Women will not be safe unless we demand a legal system and judges free from sexist, damaging stereotypes.
The Canadian Judicial Council’s inquiry into Justice Camp’s conduct will take place in Calgary from September 6 to 9.
Read more about West Coast LEAF’s involvement in this case.