Panel urges ouster of 'victim-blaming' judge in Canada rape case

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian judge who asked a rape complainant why she could not “just keep your knees together” should be removed from the bench, a committee of inquiry recommended on Wednesday.

Alberta Justice Robin Camp committed misconduct during the 2014 rape trail, relying on “discredited myths and stereotypes about women and victim-blaming,” the five-member panel established by the Canadian Judicial Council, which oversees federal judges, said in its unanimous recommendation.

The full council will now consider whether to recommend Camp’s ouster to Canadian Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, who in turn would then decide whether to ask Parliament to vote to remove Camp from the bench.

Camp made his comments during the 2014 trial of a man accused of raping a 19-year-old woman who said she was sexually assaulted over a bathroom sink during a house party. Among other remarks, Camp asked the woman, “Why didn’t you just sink your bottom into the basin so he couldn’t penetrate you?”

He also repeatedly called the woman “the accused,” and told her that “sex and pain sometimes go together.”

“There’s no talk of real force here,” Camp said in his reason for acquitting the accused man. “There’s no talk of fear. That doesn’t mean that there’s consent. It just means that the accused hasn’t explained why she allowed the sex to happen if she didn’t want it.”

Alberta’s Court of Appeal overturned the acquittal, saying the judge’s conduct and reasons for judgment disclosed errors of law, and ordered a new trial.

Camp’s conduct “was so manifestly and profoundly destructive of the concept of the impartiality, integrity and independence of the judicial role that public confidence is sufficiently undermined to render the Judge incapable of executing the judicial office,” the committee said in its report.

Four law professors last year filed a formal complaint about the judge’s conduct. Alberta’s attorney-general also filed a complaint.

Amid the uproar over his comments, Camp apologized and said he realized his statements “caused deep and significant pain to many people.” He asked to remain in his position, saying he would educate himself and attend gender-sensitivity counseling.

The committee said that would not be enough, saying education “cannot adequately repair the damage caused to public confidence through his conduct.”

Camp can make written submissions before a formal recommendation is made by the council to Wilson-Raybould.

The judicial council has only ever recommended removing two judges since its creation in 1971. Both those judges resigned before the recommendations made it to Canada’s Parliament.

Reporting by Anna Paperny; Editing by Will Dunham