Why Robin Camp Must Be Removed from the BenchNSRLP
Over the past few weeks I have watched with a growing sense of unreality as leading members of the legal establishment have stepped forward to defend Robin Camp, and argue for him to remain a member of the Canadian judiciary.
In case you missed it, Robin Camp (whom I shall not call Justice Camp) is the judge who displayed complete ignorance of Canadian law on sexual consent in a rape case in which he asked the rape victim (whom he referred to as “the accused” on several occasions) why she hadn’t just kept her knees together, or sunk down into the basin she was being forced against, in order to avoid being penetrated.
I have been shocked – almost, but not quite beyond words – at the defence mounted by the establishment, including some leading feminist icons, of Robin Camp. This is yet another depressing reminder to me of the enormous chasm of understanding and awareness between the public, and even the progressive forces of the legal establishment.
22 establishment figures have testified in support of Robin Camp. On the other side, just one witness – the rape victim whom Camp traumatized and insulted at the trial – has testified in support of his removal from the Bench.
How is this type of completely uneven process even possible in our country?
Why the CJC process has no credibility with the public
I have for several years criticized the toothless and downright embarrassing protectionist procedures of the Canadian Judicial Council (CJC). Based on my knowledge of what happens to complaints, I feel a responsibility to advise members of the public to not to bother wasting their time making a complaint.
Why? A brief review of the statistics (and see https://representingyourselfcanada.com/2015/11/24/beyond-the-justice-camp-debacle-when-the-public-asks-judges-to-be-accountable).
The CJC receives approximately 500 complaints from members of the public each year.
One third of these are immediately dismissed as falling outside the CJC “mandate” (that is, they implicate the decision-making of the judge).
- A further one third of the complaints received are deemed either “irrational”, or classified as unnecessary to respond to.
- Of those complaints that remain – 176 Panel Reviews (considering disciplinary action but not removal) were conducted from 2011-2014, and just 2 upheld the complaint against the judge.
- And of 11 Inquiry Committees (struck to consider serious complaints that might result in the judge’s removal) since 1971, only 2 have recommended removal of a judge for misconduct.
In this blog I shall set out the real reasons why Robin Camp must be removed from the Bench, and expose the decoy reasoning being deployed by his defenders.
- Judges must treat all parties including victims with respect
This is a minimal requirement for those whom we elevate to the Bench.
The victim in the 2014 rape case was a 19-year old homeless First Nations woman. Camp himself admits that he was “rude and facetious” to her. She says he made her feel like a slut. For example,
- He called the young woman “the accused” several times (and unbelievably, repeated this during the CJC hearing)
- He asked her why she could not have just kept her knees together to avoid the rape?
- He told the accused man that he should tell his friends to be “more gentle” with women in order to “protect themselves”
- In addition Camp remarked to the female Crown attorney who was concerned about his manifest ignorance of the law, “I hope you don’t live too long, Ms. Mograbee.”
How is it even possible that a judge can speak to participants in a trial like this, let alone a rape victim?
- Judges need to know the law in the area in which they make decisions
A radical notion?
Apparently so in the case of Robin Camp, who it is acknowledged (by one of his defenders and private tutors, Professor Brenda Cossman) was unaware of either the purpose or the history of Canadian law-reform efforts meant to overcome discrimination against women (including the rape shield law and changes to the law on sexual consent).
But apparently, say his defenders, he gets all this now, so not to worry….
It’s too late for Robin Camp to be taking private tutoring in sexual assault law from one of Canada’s experts.
- Robin Camp’s prejudice against the rape victim has nothing to do with his ignorance of the law
There has been an intentional conflation – or perhaps a deliberate distraction – in the enquiry that has suggested that Robin Camp’s remarks and treatment of the woman in his court were due to his ignorance of the law. And so if he learns the law now, the misogyny and bigotry displayed in his remarks does not matter.
Nice try, but no.
Victim-blaming, slut shaming and rape myth (all in evidence in the case of Robin Camp) have nothing to do with whether or not the same person can take and pass a test on the law of sexual assault.
They flow from fundamental attitudes and bigotry and an abject failure to understand what it means (in this case) to be poor, vulnerable, and subject to sexual violence.
- Public confidence in the legal system and the judiciary is at an all-time low
What amazes me the most of all about this case is that the CJC and the legal establishment appear to imagine that they can get away with exonerating Robin Camp. They cannot.
The Canadian public – those struggling to represent themselves in the courts because they cannot afford legal counsel, those being treated rudely by judges and lawyers, those making complaints to law societies and the CJC which are dismissed summarily – will not stand for this much longer.
I am not alone in finding surreal the tolerance of this level of disrespect and its impact on public confidence.
n the recent Deziel case (in which a judge who had admitted to committing election fraud was exonerated and permitted to remain on the Bench: see https://representingyourselfcanada.com/2015/12/08/public-confidence-in-canadian-justice-a-rough-week), Chief Justice Derek Green of Newfoundland and Labrador in a remarkable dissent wrote about “judicial integrity”, describing it as:
“…(T)he central judicial quality, more important than wisdom, learning, experience, diligence or intelligence. Without integrity, no other judicial qualities are even significant ….” He continued: “There is thus a direct connection between public confidence in the judicial system and the image of the integrity of the judge.”
I am grateful to some of my colleagues (for example, http://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/columnists/the-case-of-justice-robert-camp-bigotry-does-not-belong-on-the-bench) who have been making the same, entirely obvious points over the last few weeks.
But we need to be shouting this from the rooftops.