Two new bills propose to amend Judges Act and Criminal Code
New legislation proposes to require newly appointed provincial superior court judges to engage in continuing education in sexual assault law and social context.
The proposed bill, introduced on Sept. 25, seeks to amend the Judges Act by imposing training, delivered by the National Judicial Institute, to ensure that judges hearing sexual assault cases treat everyone in the courtroom equally and respectfully and make fair decisions not influenced by myths and stereotypes. Another goal is to improve public confidence in the criminal justice system.
“It will also help judges understand the social context in which they hear all matters, and the factors that may affect individuals’ engagement with the justice system,” said David Lametti, federal justice minister and Canada’s attorney general, in a news release.
The legislation proposes to amend the Criminal Code’s sexual assault provisions by obligating judges to provide the written reasons for their decisions or to enter them into the record for increased transparency in sexual assault proceedings.
It also directs that seminars on sexual assault law developed by the Canadian Judicial Council should involve prior consultation with sexual assault survivors and related organizations. The council should also give the minister an annual report containing details on seminars on sexual assault law, for tabling in Parliament, to improve accountability and to incentivize participation.
The bill adheres to the principle of judicial independence, which dictates that the judiciary has control over the training and the education of judges.
The contents of the proposed bill are those of Bill C-5, An Act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code, introduced on Feb. 4 in the 1st session of the 43rd Parliament. It also reflects Bill C-337, a private member’s bill introduced by Rona Ambrose, including the amendments adopted by the House of Commons and proposed by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. Bill C-337 was unanimously approved in the House of Commons, but was not passed by the Senate before the dissolution of the 42nd Parliament.
“This legislation will help ensure that our legal and justice systems treat survivors of sexual assault with greater dignity and respect,” said Maryam Monsef, minister for women and gender equality and rural economic development, in the news release. “COVID-19 only adds greater urgency to our efforts.”
In Budget 2017 the federal government set aside $2.7 million over five years, as well as $0.5 million for every year after that, for the Canadian Judicial Council to improve judges’ access to professional development such as gender and cultural sensitivity training.
Bill reintroduces amendments to medical assistance in dying legislation
A bill reintroduced on Oct. 5 by the federal government proposes the following changes to the Criminal Code provisions on medical assistance in dying:
- The requirement that a person’s natural death should be reasonably foreseeable to be eligible for medical assistance in dying will be removed
- There will be a two-track approach to procedural safeguards, which will depend on whether a person’s natural death is reasonably foreseeable
- Some safeguards will be made easier, if an eligible person’s death is reasonably foreseeable
- New safeguards will be introduced in the case of an eligible person whose death is not reasonably foreseeable, while existing safeguards will be modified
- Persons suffering solely from mental illness will no longer be eligible
- Final consent may be waived in the case of an eligible person whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable and who may lose capacity to consent before medical assistance in dying can be provided
- A federal monitoring regime will improve data collection on medical assistance in dying in the country
These amendments were previously proposed by Bill C-7 during the preceding parliamentary session.