STOP SENATE DELAYS: Train judges to rule fairly on sexual assault

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“Why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?”

“Clearly, a drunk can consent.”

“We can say she is a little overweight, but she has a pretty face, huh?”

It would be shocking for anyone to say this kind of thing to (or about) a sexual assault survivor. But these are all recent quotes from Canadian judges presiding over assault trials.

Why It’s Critical

This is about more than basic decency. Statistics Canada found that only 1 in 20 people who’ve been sexually assaulted report going to the police. Fears about being believed or fairly treated stopped many of the rest.

That’s partly due to common but misguided ideas about how survivors should act. Every year, top neuroscientists and psychologists understand more about the complicated ways different people respond to traumas like rape. Their research shows how fear and ancient survival instincts can hijack the brain, causing everything from “polite” obedience, disassociation and physical paralysis to fragmentary memories in those attacked.

But not all judges know the science about sexual assault—so they risk falling back on mistaken, dangerous stereotypes.

This puts survivors through another horrible experience. Which stops people from coming forward.

Which helps perpetrators get away with it.

A Solution Everyone Can Agree On

That’s why in May 2017, former Conservative Party leader Rona Ambrose put Bill C-337 before Parliament. It would make training about sexual assault law and myths mandatory for federal judges. The bill passed unanimously through the House of Commons, backed by the Bloc, Conservatives, Greens, Liberals and NDP.

It was one of the rare things every single one of our elected representative could agree on.

But C-337 has since stalled in the Senate. Held up for more than a year by abstract objections from a few senators, it’s been discussed again and again, without really moving forward. And the longer it takes, the more likely MPs will have to start all over again—assuming that’s even possible.

What You Can Do:

We’re calling for the Senate to respect the House’s democratic consensus: they should urgently pass this bill.

Senators might not be elected, but their role includes “giving voice to underrepresented groups like Indigenous peoples, visible minorities and women.” And this bill is all about protecting Canada’s most vulnerable, changing legislation for future generations.

So please help us make sure justices have the facts they need to rule fairly on these life-changing cases.

No one should have to take the stand before a judge who wonders if they were “flattered” by an assault.

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Once you’ve signed this petition, you can help it go even further by sharing the call to pass #BillC337 and promote #traumainformed justice on social media! 

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Bill C-337 wouldn't exist without the tireless work of Rona Ambrose, Helgi Maki and Linda Redgrave. Deep gratitude to them, and the many others who’ve generously helped with efforts to get it passed.  



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