OTTAWA — Aspiring judges aren’t the only ones who need to know more about sexual assault law, the members of the House of Commons status of women committee said Wednesday as they urged the federal justice minister to push for more training.
Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu, who chairs the committee, wrote this week to Jody Wilson-Raybould recommending that access to education on sexual assault law and social context be expanded to include more players in the criminal justice system.
The idea, Gladu said, came from witnesses at hearings about a bill tabled by Conservative MP Rona Ambrose that would require anyone hoping to be considered for a federal judicial appointment to undergo comprehensive training in sexual assault law.
The committee wants Wilson-Raybould to encourage her provincial and territorial counterparts to make such training more widely available.
Ambrose’s legislation, known as Bill C-337, would also require the Canadian Judicial Council to report on continuing education courses dealing with the matter.
“Witnesses appearing before the committee have highlighted the importance of training for all persons who play a role in the administration of criminal justice and who are involved in sexual assault cases, including, but not limited to: superior and provincial court judges, Crown prosecutors, defence attorneys and police forces,” Gladu wrote.
The bill would also change the Criminal Code to require either recorded or written decisions in sexual assault cases.
The committee also wants Wilson-Raybould to press the provinces and territories to work towards making all such decisions publicly available, as a way to bring more transparency and accountability.
The letter urged the minister to “strongly encourage” the provinces and territories “to make the transcripts of the proceedings of sexual assault cases for all courts under their jurisdictions available online in a searchable database, so that anyone with an Internet connection can access the decisions that are currently recorded but not reported.”
The minister would not comment on the letter since she had not yet received it, spokesman David Taylor said Wednesday.
Ambrose, meanwhile, expressed concern that her bill, which passed the House of Commons with unanimous support last month, would not make it through the Senate before the summer break.
Ambrose, who is leaving federal politics now that her time as interim Conservative leader is over, urged senators to put politics aside and pass it.
“This should be beyond partisanship and beyond politics,” she said.