Editorial: No judge is an island

Revolution in the streets is what leads to decisions in the courts, said a sign I saw last week. It surprised and delighted me, as it was a reference to the fact that our ever-evolving social context can inform our judges and vice versa. While in theory there is a delineated line between the judges and legislators, both are informed by the social climate of our time.

Revolution in the streets is what leads to decisions in the courts, said a sign I saw last week.

It surprised and delighted me, as it was a reference to the fact that our ever-evolving social context can inform our judges and vice versa. While in theory there is a delineated line between the judges and legislators, both are informed by the social climate of our time.

Which is why savvy legislator and interim Conservative Party of Canada leader Rona Ambrose has introduced a private member’s bill that would mandate that all new judges receive training in dealing with sexual assault cases.

At first blush, the idea sounds excellent.

After all, public discussion around the treatment of sexual assault complainants by police and in the courts has been receiving widespread coverage.

But, on further examination, the bill itself does not delve into deeper issues, point out critics.

Lorne Sossin, dean of Osgoode Hall Law School at York University, says, “Picking a single, albeit important, dynamic and requiring that education when we otherwise do not make judicial education mandatory may be difficult to justify.”

And defence lawyer Anne-Marie McElroy says providing Crown prosecutors with more resources would be a more effective way to go about achieving the bill’s goals.

The bill is a baby step. While proactive education on sensitive social issues is worthwhile, the malingering issues underneath (such as resourcing of Crowns) is much more complex and difficult to package up as an issue that would gain traction with voters.

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