Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Fit To Judge

"What did he get from asking that? What did he expect me to say?"
"He made me hate myself, that I should have done something [to prevent the assault], like I was some kind of slut ... "
"I hate myself that I let that happen, that I let that judge speak to me that way."
"My mom had a very similar story, where she's been assaulted and it's just kinda overlooked. I struggle a lot about where my family has come from and been overlooked by the justice system."
"[I] cleaned up my addictions and I got a job, so that's really good."
24-year-old aboriginal woman -- unnamed rape victim

"Why not -- why didn't you just sink your bottom down into the basin so he couldn't penetrate you?"
"And when your ankles were held together by your jeans, your skinny jeans, why couldn't you just keep your knees together?"
Judge Robin Camp, Alberta provincial court, 2014 court case: Wagar rape trial

"[The question for the 5-member panel is] not whether Robin Camp's shortcomings can or have been remedied, but whether public confidence in the judiciary can be remedied without his removal."
"[The inquiry purpose is to balance] how his comments impact [upon the independence, integrity and impartiality expected of] the judiciary, writ large."
Marjorie Hickey, presenting counsel, Judicial Counsel Inquiry, Calgary
Federal Court Justice Robin Camp arrives with his wife Mariaan, right, and daughter Lauren at a Canadian Judicial Council inquiry in Calgary.
Federal Court Justice Robin Camp arrives with his wife Marian, right, and daughter Lauren at a Canadian Judicial Council inquiry in Calgary. (Canadian Press)
Little wonder that women who have been sexually assaulted often prefer to bear the burden of the criminal act perpetrated upon them, rather than have their verity questioned, become a public figure of disgrace, perhaps be viewed by police and hospital personnel as having been involved in inciting the sexual attack they suffered by some action on their part, precipitating rape. As though the situation isn't difficult enough for any woman; for a then-19-year-old aboriginal woman who already has a number of preconceptions to bear, having the dignity of her right to personal bodily security questioned by a judge must surely have been devastating.

All the more so when the judge found for the accused, judging that insufficient integrity could be found in the  young woman's description of events and what had occurred, preferring to believe that she could have averted the sexual violence had she made the effort, if that was what really had occurred and the sex act was not mutually consented to. The man against whom the young woman brought charges of rape was acquitted by the judge who had already demeaned the victim by his suggestions and further disgraced justice by letting her rapist go free.

The remarks he addressed to the young woman at trial would have been a devastating assault to her fragile self-confidence. For the fact is that when women undergo that kind of intimate violence they are already in a state of psychic delicacy, in doubt about themselves and raging within at the same time that they were violated; ashamed and forever burdened. Canada's criminal justice system, the judges, and the lawyers tasked to find a just solution to a complainant's suffering is at stake relating to an issue much in the news, where other such trials often fail to deliver a verdict reflecting justice.

In this instance, a young woman was raped, her rapist was brought to trial and the presiding justice questioned her veracity and why she, a vulnerable victim, did nothing to stop her attacker, and in the final analysis deciding he was unconvinced that a rape had taken place. She was three times assaulted; once by the rapist and twice by the system of justice that had failed her. But it just happened that Justice Robin Camp's quoted remarks to the young woman made the news and elicited public outrage, and by extension questions arose as to his suitability to sit on the bench.

But not before, soon after this trial, he was appointed to the Federal Court of Canada. He is now struggling to explain himself after having apologized for his lapse of judgement, hoping to save his job and not be removed from the Federal Court where his salary is a generous $314,000 annually to dispense justice at the federal level in the country. This dreadfully inconvenient questioning of his suitability to remain on the bench rather than be removed in disgrace, comes at a most awkward time for this 64-year-old man who is seeing the fruit of his inappropriate and demeaning conduct to a helpless victim being re-visited, this time in a court of judicial review.

His lawyer has stated that his client "will admit some of his thinking was infected by myths", but that he should be forgiven because he is at heart an empathetic and good judge who has since undergone counselling, mentoring and training with a judge, a psychologist and an academic expert on the issue of sexual assault. All of which broaches the thought: why, if he was so egregiously unprepared, was he sitting on the bench in this capacity to begin with?

Judge Camp is now held to have displayed "an antipathy" to the rape-shield portion of the law, exhibited "stereotypical or biased thinking" relating to sex assault complaints, leaning on "discredited stereotypical assumptions", and proceeded to render derogatory remarks aimed at the trial prosecutor, committing unforgivingly to comments "tending to belittle or trivialize" the complainant's allegations and women in general.

The inquiry now being held to pass informed judgement on whether or not this man should continue to sit as a respected and discerning justice on the Federal Court of Canada will determine whether the public has good reason to believe that justice will be meted out when women suffer the most degrading and spirit-destroying assaults possible launched on females from all walks of life in all situations imaginable. It is now up to the committee of three senior judges and two lawyers to make that decision.

Donald Walker and Jessica Daigle
Donald Walker and Jessica Daigle hold signs in support of victims of sexual assault outside the room where the inquiry into Justice Robin Camp's handling of a 2014 trial is being reviewed. (Carolyn Dunn/CBC)

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