Background

When Statistics Canada released its 2015 crime stats this summer, the news, unfortunately, wasn’t good. After a steady decline, the rate of police-reported crime rose for the first time in 12 years, including a 4% rise is sexual assaults.

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In the 2014 report “A Survey of Survivors of Sexual Violence in Three Canadian Cities” published by the Department of Justice, two out of three survey participants stated they had little confidence in the court process. Further, only half of respondents said they reported their sexual abuse or assault to police themselves or through another individual.

There are instances where judges unfairly questioned the complainant’s character or personal history, examples where judges seemingly didn’t understand the law, and others where they largely ignored the law altogether.

Over the years, unfortunately, little has changed.

The message this sends to anybody involved in a sexual assault case is clear: if you come forward, you may not be afforded the same dignity, compassion, and respect for the proper application of law as other victims of crime.

This outmoded way of thinking can have a far more insidious effect on our justice system. Fearful of having the focus shifted onto them, fewer people may step forward to seek justice in the first place – and even if they do, there’s no guarantee their case will go to trial.

This isn’t a problem with the law – Canada has one of the best legal frameworks in the world to address sexual assault – but rather how that law is applied when judges lack proper training on how to handle sexual assault cases.

This lack of transparency surrounding sexual assault training and education for judges in Canada needs to change. The Just Act will do this.