Justice Robin Camp made ‘stupid’ comments and didn’t know history of sex assault law: professor

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Judge Robin Camp did not know the history of sexual assault law in Canada and at times made “rude and stupid” comments during a 2014 sexual assault trial in Calgary, a professor of law testified Thursday.

Camp is expected to testify tomorrow at the Canadian Judicial Council inquiry into his handling of the case. The panel hearing the case will decide whether Parliament should be asked to remove Camp from the bench.

Now a Federal Court judge, the South African educated Camp was an Alberta provincial court judge at the time of the sex assault trial.

The third day of the inquiry into Camp’s conduct began with testimony from Brenda Cossman, the director of the University of Toronto’s Centre for sexual diversity studies.

After five two- to three-hour sessions with Camp discussing the history of sexual assault law in Canada and assigning reading to him, Cossman believes she has successfully educated the judge who asked an alleged rape victim why she “couldn’t just keep [her] knees together.”

Although he made “egregious” comments, Cossman said she believes Camp was addressing issues that had been raised in the trial by the Crown and defence lawyers.

Camp questioned the woman about why she hadn’t done more to fight off her attacker. He also made comments that Cossman described as “insensitive to the lived experiences of survivors of sex assault.”

“Sex and pain sometimes go together … that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” reads part of the trial transcript.

“[The complainant] knew she was drunk…. Is not an onus on her to be more careful,” said Camp at another point in the trial.

At the end of the trial, Camp acquitted Alexander Wagar, but the Alberta Court of Appeal overturned the ruling and ordered a new trial citing concerns over the judge’s understanding of sexual assault laws. By then, Camp had been elevated to the Federal Court.

When the two began working together, Cossman said Camp did not know the history of the law of sexual assault, and why that law historically discriminated against women.

The inquiry’s panel of five Superior Court judges and senior lawyers has already heard from the complainant at the 2014 trial who testified the judge’s comments made her hate herself.

Cossman told the panel there was “core” reasoning behind Camp’s comments, but said he used poor language.

‘Wants to understand his errors’

Dr. Lori Haskell, a psychologist with expertise in trauma suffered by abuse victims who also worked with Camp on sensitivity training, told the inquiry that work had been fruitful.

Haskell said she found Camp’s comments at the 2014 trial to be “disturbing” and she initially expected him to be “resistant and arrogant” during sensitivity training, but actually found him to be open and receptive.

“He’s very motivated,” she said. “He wants to understand his errors.”

Jessica Daigle, however, isn’t satisfied with Camp’s contrition.

A survivor of sexual violence herself, Daigle said she felt compelled to stop by the Calgary hotel where the inquiry is taking place to express her point of view on the judge’s behaviour.

“I’m here to send a message because I’ve been keeping track of this whole public hearing, and I do believe that despite the fact that Justice Camp has, you know, expressed some remorse, I don’t believe that ignorance is acceptable,” she said.

Donald Walker and Jessica Daigle

Donald Walker and Jessica Daigle hold signs in support of victims of sexual assault outside the room where the inquiry into Justice Robin Camp’s handling of a 2014 trial is being reviewed. (Carolyn Dunn/CBC)

Daigle said her sexual assault happened more than two decades ago when she was 19 years old.

“One of the things I was told at that time by the detective working on the case was that when you go to court … they strip you apart even though you’re the victim,” she said.

“And that, to me, was not something at that time I was prepared to deal with.”

Camp had been scheduled to testify Thursday but the panel of judges overseeing the inquiry agreed to his lawyer’s request that his testimony begin Friday morning instead.

After hearing all of the testimony, the panel will decide whether to recommend to Parliament if Camp should be removed from the bench.

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Justice Robin Camp made ‘stupid’ comments and didn’t know history of sex assault law: professor

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