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Women's coalition gets status at hearing into judge's sex assault comments

Last Updated Jul 11, 2016 at 2:40 pm EST

CALGARY – A coalition of women’s groups says it has been granted intervener status at a public hearing for a federal court judge who asked a sexual assault complainant why she couldn’t keep her knees together.

A Canadian Judicial Council inquiry scheduled for September is to determine whether Justice Robin Camp should be removed from his job.

Camp, who was a provincial court judge in Calgary when he made the comments in 2014, has said he wants to keep serving on the bench and plans to apologize at the hearing.

West Coast LEAF, which advocates for equality of women in the justice system, says it has joined with several other women’s groups and will make arguments about the impact of Camp’s comments.

The other groups include the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women and the Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children.

The coalition also plans to talk about legal protections for sexual assault complainants that it says Camp ignored.

The hearing is to take place in Calgary from Sept. 6 to 9.

The judge acquitted a man of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old girl after deciding that the man’s version of events was more credible.

Court transcripts show Camp questioned the woman’s morals, suggested her attempts to fight off her attacker were feeble and described her as “the accused” throughout the trial.

He asked her: “Why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?” and said “pain and sex sometimes go together.”

The verdict was overturned on appeal and a new trial was ordered.

“At this moment in Canadian history, the public has little faith that the criminal justice system will treat complainants in sexual assault trials fairly. Justice Camp’s conduct adds to this distrust and worsens the chilling effect on survivors,” Raji Mangat, director of litigation for West Coast LEAF, said in a statement Monday.

“Justice Camp’s treatment of the complainant turns the clock back on the law of sexual assault,” added Kasari Govender, the organization’s executive director.

A notice of response outlining Camp’s position was posted on the judicial council’s website last week. It said he has undergone training and counselling with a superior court judge, a psychologist and an expert in sexual assault law.

“Justice Camp understands his insensitive and inappropriate comments were hurtful towards sexual assault survivors in particular and Canadians generally. He will not make these types of comments again.” the notice said.

An inquiry committee made up of three council members and two senior lawyers is to weigh the allegations against Camp.

Among other things, it’s alleged he made comments that “reflected an antipathy” toward laws meant to protect vulnerable witnesses, engaged in “stereotypical or biased thinking” and asked the complainant questions that relied on “discredited, stereotypical assumptions” of how one should behave following a sexual assault.

The Federal Court has ordered Camp to no longer hear cases until further notice.