Ambrose bill overdue

I was disappointed to see Rona Ambrose decline running for the Federal Conservative Party leadership. She is well-spoken, smart, and showed she could handle the job as interim party leader. She also seems to have integrity, pushing forward on an important issue, even when the bill would be credited to her political opponents. 

Just this past week, the federal Liberals introduced Bill C-5, the bill calling for mandatory sexual assault training for judges. This bill is the government’s version of Ambrose’s private member’s bill, which died while under review by the Senate when the last election was called. The bill is rare in that it has all-party support. It is great to see all sides standing together to improve justice for rape victims.

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Most everyone I know has a story of a friend who was raped but she either never reported it or never pressed charges. Some say that there is so little confidence in the system that only five per cent of sexual assaults are even ever reported. The brave sprinkling of women who have actually thought that justice would serve them and reported the crime have had their hopes betrayed by a system ill-equipped to deal with sexual assault cases. The reporting and court process is so invasive and difficult that most women look at the odds of getting a conviction and decide to just get on with their life instead of subjecting themselves to a process that seems to cause more grief than it relieves.

Statistics Canada, reporting for the period 2009 to 2014, found: “Overall, one in five (21 per cent) sexual assaults reported by police led to a completed court case within the six year reference period. This is compared with nearly double the proportion (39 per cent) of physical assaults.”  The conviction rate is only about 10 per cent. This is a dismal prognosis and something needs to be done to improve justice.

The efforts to implement mandatory sexual assault training for judges began after several judges made horrifyingly stupid and ill-informed statements, like: “Why didn’t you just keep your knees together?” 

Can you imagine being robbed or physically assaulted, only to be berated for not being strong enough to protect yourself? The judge who said it, Robin Camp, did resign as judge. However, he has been able to resurrect his legal career by being reinstated as a lawyer. One can only hope that the woman who was insulted by him has likewise been able to rebuild her life.

So with all the acrimony we frequently see in the House of Commons and during elections, the passage of this bill will prove, again,  that our politicians can work together when they know that there is overwhelming support for change. One would hope that we could see that kind of cooperation happen more frequently, but perhaps the cooperation we saw was due to Ambrose’s skillful handling of the issue, and that makes me doubly sad that she is not running. 

 

Her constituents, and all of Canada, are fortunate to have her. Ambrose shows us that you don’t need to be in power to have power. That we can, given what we have and are willing to do, do good, right where we are.

 

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