Halifax advocates applaud report recommending sexual assault training for all judges, Mounties

‘Taking Action to End Violence Against Women and Girls in Canada’ report included 45 recommendations.

Published on March 22, 2017

A protest over Judge Lenehan's ruling earlier this month.

©Jeff Harper/Metro

A report from the House of Commons committee on the status of women recommending all judges and RCMP officers receive mandatory training on gender-based violence and sexual assault is being applauded in Nova Scotia.

“We believe that kind of training around gender-based violence is extremely important, not just for judges and law enforcement officers, but for everybody,” said Conor Falvey, provincial coordinator with Sexual Health Nova Scotia.

“I do think it’s an important intervention in the criminal justice system to clear up some misconceptions that may exist around these issues.”

‘Taking Action to End Violence Against Women and Girls in Canada’ was released in Ottawa on Monday.

Among the 45 recommendations included in the 143-page report was a call for mandatory education on gender-based and sexual violence for all RCMP officers.

It also urged the federal government to provide funding to the National Judicial Institute to develop training for judges and to encourage all judges to participate.

“It is critically important, particularly given what we know about the way in which so many sexual assault complainants experience the trial process, that judges are competent in terms of their legal knowledge regarding issues like consent and the rape shield provisions and vigilant in their attempts to reduce the role that rape myths continue to play in these cases,” said Elaine Craig, associate law professor at Dalhousie University. 

“That requires training. In my research, for example, I regularly find cases in which judges permit defence lawyers to introduce evidence that should be excluded under Canada’s rape shield laws.”

Halifax Judge Gregory Lenehan’s handling of cab driver Bassam Al-Rawi’s case earlier this month and his comments that “clearly a drunk can consent” resulted in nationwide condemnation, protests and petitions. The Crown is appealing the cab driver’s acquittal.

“It’s not a subject people are going to stop talking about any time soon,” Falvey said of the Lenehan verdict.

“Definitely what is required is not just a one-off response…but this kind of sustained effort. Hopefully this sort of training (will be) a good example of that.”