Posts Tagged ‘sexual assault’

Size as a human right in a #MeToo world

March 5th, 2018 by Celia Chandler

This article was first published on rabble.ca

In May 2017, Quebec court judge Jean-Paul Braun decided on a case in which a 17-year-old young woman was sexually assaulted by a cab driver. Justice Braun said, “you could say she’s a little overweight, but she has a pretty face, huh?” and went on to suggest that perhaps the victim was a “little flattered” by the sexual attention, implying that her size made her unattractive to most men.

We’re living in a time when sexual assault and fat‑shaming are both concepts receiving a lot of attention. While sexual assault has dominated headlines and those headlines appear to be affecting behaviour and in some cases, laws, a larger discussion of fat‑shaming hasn’t quite broken through to the mainstream in the same way.

In Canada, size is still an acceptable basis for discrimination, not protected by human rights legislation. It ought to be. And in certain lights, the two issues are different sides of the same (sexist) coin.

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Signing on to silence: Confidentiality agreements in sexual assault cases

January 29th, 2018 by Michael Hackl

This article was first published on rabble.ca

The case of Larry Nassar, who for years was a doctor for Michigan State University and the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Olympic team, and who has pleaded guilty to seven counts of criminal sexual conduct, is truly disturbing. In the sentencing phase of the trial, 156 victims made statements to the court about the impact of his acts on their lives.

This case also drew attention to situations where an attempt is made to silence victims through a non disclosure or confidentiality agreement. One of Nassar’s victims, McKayla Maroney, reached a settlement with USA Gymnastics (USAG) in December, 2016, which included such an agreement, prohibiting her from speaking about any abuse she suffered at the hands of Nassar. The confidentiality agreement also contained a provision that if Maroney violated the agreement, USAG could “fine” her US$100,000. This raised the question of whether she would, or could, make a victim impact statement at Nassar’s sentencing hearing. Ultimately, USAG confirmed that it would not seek to enforce those provisions if Maroney made a victim impact statement.

As a result of USAG’s decision, in this case the confidentiality agreement will not have prevented Maroney from speaking out. But what about other victims who have signed confidentiality agreements in the course of settling sexual assault claims, in cases when the other party to the settlement agreement will not agree to waive the confidentiality agreement? Are those persons free to speak without any repercussions? Unfortunately, in Canada, the answer is not clear. Read the rest of this entry

The law is settled on sexual assault. When will the legal system catch up?

March 30th, 2017 by Shelina Ali

This article was first published on rabble.ca

Over the past year, the treatment of sexual assault complainants in the justice system has received a great deal of mainstream media attention. Much of the coverage has focused on how unfairly sexual assault complainants are treated. Examples include:

  • The cross-examination of complainants in the Jian Gomeshi case and the judge’s findings that inconsistencies in the complainants’ testimony made them not credible.
  • Comments made by Justice Robin Camp during a sexual assault trial in Alberta — asking why the victim didn’t keep her knees together — that ultimately led to his resignation.
  • A comment by a Nova Scotia judge that a drunk person can consent — in a trial where the complainant was found by police unconscious and undressed in the back of a cab.

And then, just this past week, the Supreme Court of Canada released a one-sentence decision that sums up the exasperation at the failings of the justice system when it comes to sexual assault.

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With judges like Robin Camp, how impartial is Canada’s justice system?

September 29th, 2016 by Shelina Ali

This article was first published on rabble.ca

I was recently listening to a radio program featuring racialized lawyers in Ontario discussing the challenges they faced in the legal profession and was struck by my reaction. I thought: how unfortunate that this was all being shared publically. Unfortunate, not because I did not believe the experiences of these individuals or sympathize with the challenges they were describing, but because I didn’t want people to know about the challenges. Why would anyone hire a racialized lawyer if they knew that the lawyer felt that there was a higher standard placed on them in court, by judges, as compared with their non‑racialized colleagues?

I wish my reaction was that this was the unusual experience of one lawyer and not a reflection of the justice system’s treatment of marginalized groups generally. Instead, it was one which exposed my own distrust in the Canadian judicial system and its impartiality. And my belief that the justice system as a whole does not provide the same opportunities and access to justice for individuals of colour, women, and other marginalized groups.

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