EDMONTON, AB: The NDP government should support a forthcoming motion by Wildrose Leader Brian Jean to ensure new judges have completed specific training and current judges and lawyers in Alberta have adequate ongoing training on the current state of the law with regard to any crime of a sexual nature, and myths and stereotypes associated with sexual assault, the Wildrose Official Opposition said.
Concerning examples in both Alberta and other Canadian jurisdictions have demonstrated a lack of understanding surrounding sexual assault from some members of the judiciary. Many appointed to the bench do not have a criminal law background, and as such training needs to be improved. Victims also need to be treated respectfully and competently by lawyers throughout the process.
“Albertans want to know that when a sexual assault victim brings their case to authorities, that it will be handled with care and respect,” Jean said. “The last thing we want is for a sexual assault case to go to trial, only to see proceedings overseen by someone without a full understanding of the law. It’s absolutely unacceptable.”
The Wildrose motion, if passed, would pressure the Justice Minister to require sexual assault training for anyone seeking to be appointed as a judge. It would also have her work with the Law Society of Alberta and the Provincial Court Judges’ Association to ensure all lawyers and judges involved with victims of sexual offences are educated not only on the current state of the law but also regarding myths and stereotypes associated with sexual offence complainants.
“Myths and stereotypes have no place in Alberta’s judiciary, and we sincerely hope that the NDP government will work collaboratively on this important issue,” Wildrose Shadow Justice Minister Angela Pitt said. “Sexual assault victims have the right to a fair trial free of stereotypes and any misunderstandings of current sexual assault law.”
Specifics surrounding training would be up to the Justice Minister and the governing bodies for lawyers and judges in the province, however Wildrose recommends that the law of evidence and conduct of sexual assault proceedings, principles of consent in sexual activity, and myths and stereotypes associated with sexual offences be included.
Audio of the press conference is available here.