Hot topics in today’s society, perhaps the hottest topics, are feminism and rape culture. Traces of these subjects can be found almost anywhere we look. From controversy over frosh week chants, to alleged double standards in the Trump vs. Clinton election, to potentially overly-lenient sentencing in sexual assault cases. It can be stated with certainty that debates revolving around the above subjects seem to be taking over our population.
Evidently, each debate or discussion must be viewed on a case-by-case basis. Whether you believe rape culture is a prevalent problem, you don’t believe it exists, or you lie somewhere in between, there are always two sides to an argument. For this reason, I will refrain from classifying this current event as a “victory” for feminism, although that’s how it is being viewed by many.
Controversial Judge Robin Camp of the Federal Court may be removed from the bench after his mistreatment of a sexual assault case in 2014. For those unfamiliar with the story, Camp made headlines when he asked the 19-year-old alleged rape victim why she “couldn’t just keep [her] knees together” during the sexual assault trial. He went even further to ask “Why didn’t you just sink your bottom down into the basin so he couldn’t penetrate you?” (as the alleged rape occurred over a bathroom sink).
Camp was a provincial court judge at the time, but was promoted to the Federal Court in June of 2015.
He also referred to the complainant as “the accused” several times during the 2014 trial, a mistake he made again during the 2016 Canadian Judicial Council inquiry. The inquiry ran from Sept. 6 to 14, and we are now awaiting a recommendation from the Council’s three Superior Court judges and two senior lawyers.
The complainant testified during the inquiry that Justice Camp “made me hate myself,” also adding that “he made me feel like I should have done something… That I was some kind of slut.” A new trial as been ordered for the sexual assault case in light of Camp’s apparent bias in acquitting the accused, Alexander Wagar.
According to Karen Busby, a law professor at the University of Manitoba, inquiries like this one are “fairly rare.”
The Canadian Judicial Council was founded in 1971, with the mandate to “promote efficiency, uniformity, and accountability, and to improve the quality of judicial service in the superior courts of Canada.” This includes reviewing all complaints and allegations against federal court judges.
Busby said that although upwards of 200 complaints are made to the Council each year, only 11 public inquiries have been held since it’s formation, and only two of those inquiries have resulted in judges being recommended for removal. In both cases, the judges resigned from the bench before Parliament was asked to decide their fates.
Camp has not heard a case since November of 2015, and since that time has undergone gender-sensitivity training, which he arranged and paid for himself. This training involved working with a Superior Court judge, an expert in the law of sexual assault, and a psychologist. He feels that as a result of his training, he is now “better equipped to judge cases with the empathy, wisdom, and sensitivity to social context to which all judges aspire.”
Having been educated in South Africa and focusing his experience as a lawyer in Canada on bankruptcy and trust law as well as oil and gas litigation, Camp’s knowledge of Canadian criminal law was minimal prior to becoming a provincial judge in 2012. One of his mentors, Justice Deborah McCawley, feels that Camp is not a misogynist. Testifying at the inquiry, she stated that he was unfamiliar with the history of Canadian sex assault laws and did not understand how rape myths are detrimental to complainants.
Camp’s lawyer, Frank Addario, told the inquiry in his closing submission that Camp should be allowed to remain on the bench because his misconduct was limited to one case, and that it was “the result of a knowledge deficit and a failure of education, not animus or bad character.”
Addario further stated that “[Camp’s] counselling has given him insight into the impropriety of these statements and the connotation they carry in the light of the discriminatory history of sexual assault law.”
Will this judge be a judge no more?