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Alberta Judge Apologizes for ‘Keep Your Legs Closed’ Comment at Sex Assault Trial

One law professor said she had never seen such bad conduct by a judge.
November 11, 2015, 5:53pm
Robin Camp. Photo via Federal Court of Canada

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Alberta federal court judge Robin Camp rakes in more than $300,000 per year and has immense power within the Canadian legal system. That's what makes his comments about sexual assault during a trial when he was a provincial judge so appalling; he asked the alleged victim, a 19-year-old homeless woman, why she couldn't "keep [her] legs closed" and said that "sex and pain sometimes go together [and] that's not necessarily a bad thing."

Camp has now apologized for those comments, and for asking the woman why she hadn't moved her "bottom down into the basin so he couldn't penetrate [her]" during the alleged assault. He will also undergo sensitivity training, at his own expense. On Monday, Camp was put under review by the Canadian Judicial Council.

While he is under review, Camp will avoid judgment of any cases involving sexual assault.

Former Justice Minister Peter Mackay appointed Camp in June. While it is exceedingly difficult to remove a sitting federal court judge (it requires an order of Parliament), CJC executive director Norman Sabourin said judges under review sometimes resign on their own, recognizing the seriousness of what they've done.

One of the three lawyers who lodged the complaint that led to Camp's review and apology is University of Calgary law professor Alice Wooley, who said that she has "never seen any conduct as bad as this in my time as a lawyer or as an academic. It creates a risk that people won't trust that they can go to court to solve their problem."

While that risk definitely already exists and can't be blamed entirely on Camp, the rhetoric he used in court adds to sexual assault survivors' skepticism of the justice system. His apology and willingness to enter sensitivity training may be a small step in the right direction, but they won't undo what he said.

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