CALGARY – A Canadian Judicial Council committee says a judge’s apology for asking a sexual assault complainant why she couldn’t keep her knees together doesn’t offset the damage done and Robin Camp should lose his job.
“We conclude that Justice Camp’s conduct is so manifestly and profoundly destructive of the concept of the impartiality, integrity and independence of the judicial role that public confidence is sufficiently undermined to render the judge incapable of executing the judicial office,” the five-member panel wrote in a unanimous decision released Wednesday.
Court transcripts show Camp called the complainant, an indigenous woman who was 19 years old and homeless at the time of the alleged assault, “the accused” throughout the trial — a phrase he repeated during a September judicial council disciplinary hearing before quickly correcting himself.
He also told the young woman “pain and sex sometimes go together.”
Camp acquitted Alexander Wagar in the 2014 trial, but the verdict was overturned on appeal and a new trial was ordered. Testimony in the retrial wrapped up earlier this month.
Camp was a provincial court judge in Calgary during the initial Wagar trial, but he was promoted to the Federal Court the following year.
The committee said Camp “relied on discredited myths and stereotypes about women and victim-blaming during the trial and in his reasons for judgment.”
Camp has 30 days to make a written submission to the Canadian Judicial Council, said executive director Norman Sabourin. After that, the council will make a recommendation to Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.
Sabourin said he’s optimistic a recommendation will be on Wilson-Raybould’s desk in January. A judge may only be removed from office by joint resolution of Parliament.
Kim Stanton, with the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund, said the committee’s conclusion was heartening.
“The decision … really does send a strong message to other judges that they must adhere to the principle of equality in their courtrooms,” she said. “It is simply unacceptable to show antipathy toward laws that are designed to protect vulnerable witnesses.”
Camp declined to comment on Wednesday, but his lawyer, Frank Addario, said Camp “is grateful to the inquiry committee for its thorough consideration of the evidence and his submissions.”
At his disciplinary hearing in September, Camp apologized for what he called his rude and insulting attitude toward the complainant.
“I was not the good judge I thought I was,” Camp said. “Canadians deserve more from their judges.”
The committee heard that Camp had undergone sensitivity training and counselling with a superior court judge, a psychologist and an expert in sexual assault law. He admitted in testimony that he had made mistakes, but said he was willing to learn from them and wanted to remain on the bench.
Addario argued removing Camp would send the wrong message to other judges who seek to improve themselves.
But the committee said Camp’s apology and educational efforts after the trial don’t make up for his comments.
“In our view, given the seriousness of Justice Camp’s misconduct, his apologies, though sincere, do not alleviate the harm done to public confidence.”
The committee also raised concerns about another message Camp’s behaviour sends to other judges: If they find in favour of the accused in a sexual assault trial or question the credibility of a witness, they may be labelled sexist.
“Justice Camp’s misconduct in the trial adds to the public perception that the justice system is fuelled by systemic bias and it therefore courts the risk that in other sexual assault cases, unpopular decisions will be unfairly viewed as animated by that bias, rather than by the application of legal principles and sound reasoning and analysis.”
Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley, who asked for the inquiry, said Wednesday’s recommendation is an important step.
“The decision for a victim of sexual assault to come forward can be very challenging and it is crucial that they know they will be treated with respect and dignity and not subjected to sexual myths and stereotypes.”