Release: Coalition intervenes in inquiry into judge’s conduct during sexual assault trial

VANCOUVER – Today, a national coalition of women’s organizations including West Coast LEAF was granted intervener status in the inquiry into the conduct of Justice Robin Camp while he presided over a sexual assault trial in Alberta in 2014. 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 repeatedly as “the accused,” 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.”

The Canadian Judicial Council is investigating a complaint brought by the Attorney General of Alberta that calls for Justice Camp’s removal from the office of Federal Court judge, a position to which he was later appointed.

West Coast LEAF is proud to be intervening in the inquiry in collaboration with the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre (Avalon), 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). The coalition will make arguments about the impact of Justice Camp’s behaviour on survivors and on public attitudes about sexual assault, and about the legal protections for sexual assault complainants that Justice Camp allegedly ignored.

“At this moment in Canadian history, the public has little faith that the criminal justice system will treat complainants in sexual assault trials fairly. Justice Camp’s conduct adds to this distrust and worsens the chilling effect on survivors,” says Raji Mangat, Director of Litigation for West Coast LEAF. “What faith can we have in a system where a judge—the person whose responsibility is to oversee the process impartially—suggests that the complainant is to blame for the attack, that she consented because she didn’t fight hard enough, or that she is less credible because of her sexual history?”

“Justice Camp’s treatment of the complainant turns the clock back on the law of sexual assault,” adds Kasari Govender, Executive Director of West Coast LEAF. “We are here to protect survivors’ right to fair treatment by the courts and equal protection of the law. We know that the vast majority of sexual assaults are never prosecuted, in large part because women do not report for fear of unfair treatment within the justice system. Women will not be safe unless we address this treatment head on.”

The hearing into Justice Camp’s conduct will take place in Calgary from Sept. 6-9.

Read more about our involvement in this case.