Ontario Judges Must Undergo Mandatory Training on Sexual Assault Laws

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The issue of sexual assault has been making headlines in recent months, with several judges across the country coming under fire for controversial comments made during sexual assault trials, or verdicts issued in those trials.

Recently, Ontario’s Attorney General announced that any new judges called to the bench will have to undergo additional training, including training on sexual assault laws. The Attorney General has credited Lise Maissonneuve, Ontario’s Chief Justice, for taking the first step in this new initiative.

Sexual Assault Laws Training for Incoming Ontario Judges

The Attorney General’s announcement comes in the wake of mounting pressure from both victims’ groups and Ontario Members of Parliament after controversial comments made by various judges. Recently, a judge in Alberta asked a woman at the centre of a sexual assault trail why she had not kept her “knees together” to prevent the attack. Another judge in Nova Scotia acquitted a taxi driver who was accused of sexually assaulting a passenger, after the judge ruled that it was “possible” the woman, who was severely intoxicated at the time of the assault, had consented.

Some critics have noted that the new initiative, which involves an education plan, only encourages judges to attend criminal law seminars that include an option of sexual assault training, but does not mandate the sexual assault component of the training. The Attorney General has noted that the government could not introduce any mandatory legislation out of respect for judicial independence, but that the importance of the training in sexual assault law specifically has been emphasized.  The new training will include “legal and social context issues (around sexual assault)”, which will be integrated into a number of programs.

Possible Training for Incoming Federal Judges

At the federal level, Members of Parliament from across all parties have also pledged their support for a bill introduced by Rona Ambrose which would likewise require new federally appointed judges to take part in training on sexual assault issues.

We will continue to monitor developments in this area and report on any updates as they become available. In the interim, If you are facing sexual assault or related charges, contact the skilled defense lawyers at Affleck & Barrison online or at 905 404 1947. We offer 24-hour phone services and a free confidential consultation and our office is within steps of the Durham Consolidated Courthouse.  We are available when you need us most.