OTTAWA – A Federal Court justice who once asked a sexual assault victim why she couldn’t keep her knees together is under review by the Canadian Judicial Council.
The council announced on Monday it will review a 2014 decision made by Robin Camp when he was a provincial court judge in Alberta.
“I’m very pleased that the judicial council is looking at it,” said Alice Woolley, a University of Calgary law professor and one of three legal academics who filed the complaint.
“I hope that they will look at all of the issues raised by his decision — not only his treatment of the complainant, which was truly appalling, but also his disregard for the law.”
In June 2014, Camp acquitted a man of sexual assault of a 19-year-old woman after deciding that the accused man’s version of the events was more credible. Camp’s verdict was overturned on appeal and a new trial ordered.
But Woolley and her colleagues, Elaine Craig and Jocelyn Downie from Dalhousie University, accuse Camp of relying on “myths” long discarded in Canadian law, among which is that a woman cannot be raped against her will.
“Why couldn’t you just keep your knees together”? Camp is quoted as saying in the court transcript.
He questioned the woman’s morals and called her “unsavoury.” He suggested her attempts to fight off her attacker sounded like “a very ineffectual attempt.”
He suggested “sex and pain sometimes go together … that’s not necessarily a bad thing” although he later conceded her pain was not enjoyable.
He referred to the woman as “the accused” throughout the trial.
Woolley said a complaint to the council was necessary because of the discretion the Canadian legal system allows its judges.
“There’s a relationship of trust between Canadian society and the judiciary,” she said. “We depend on them to take that independence and use it wisely and well.
“But sometimes a judge does something that violates the public trust … and this is that kind of case.”
The complaint asks the council to consider removing Camp from the bench.
A statement from Federal Court, to which Camp was appointed last June, says the judge won’t hear any cases involving sexual conduct during the investigation.
Camp is also taking gender sensitivity training on his own time and at his own expense and has released a statement, apologizing both to the victim and to all women who might hesitate before reporting a sexual assault.
“To the extent that what I have said discourages any person from reporting abuse, or from testifying about it, I am truly sorry,” he said. “I will do all in my power to learn from this and to never repeat those mistakes.”
Woolley suggests Camp still doesn’t get it.
“Given one of the issues here is his unwillingness to apply the law, I am concerned about the extent to which the statement frames this as an issue of gender sensitivity.
“His apology is directed toward women, but the fair administration of justice is a concern for every Canadian.”
— By Bob Weber in Edmonton. Follow him on Twitter at @row1960