The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that our criminal justice system protects Canadians, holds offenders to account, upholds the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and shows compassion for victims.
The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Jody Wilson-Raybould, introduced legislation yesterday that would remove 20 criminal offences that are outdated or invalidated by court decisions, offering victims of sexual assault better protection as part of a long-term plan to modernize our criminal justice system. Bill C-51 calls for the law to explicitly state that a sex assault complainant cannot consent to sex while unconscious and that a person’s sexual texts and other communications are irrelevant to the question of consent.
The proposed bill is in keeping with the Liberal government’s commitment to update the Criminal Code and other laws to reflect the latest legal developments in common-law, the law that is shaped on a case-by-case basis by judges.
“Bill C-51 would make Canada’s Criminal Code fairer and more clear when it comes to what constitutes sexual assault,” said Pam Damoff, Member of Parliament for Oakville North-Burlington. “It will ensure that someone accused of sexual assault could not claim the mistaken belief that the victim consented to sex and make clear that a person is incapable of consent while unconscious. Having studied the issue of violence against women and sexual violence extensively as part of my work on the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, I am so pleased that the government is responding to the Committee’s recommendations by taking concrete action to combat rape culture and support survivors who choose to pursue legal action.”
The proposed bill would also clarify that texts or emails or any other communications or private records, such as a therapist’s records, are not admissible in a rape trial unless the accused can prove they are vital to a fair trial and key to disproving the allegations. In addition, complainants would clearly have a right to their own legal counsel in the legal proceedings where such “rape shield” questions are decided. Courts would inform them of that right and be required to hear their objections to having their private records or emails or photos dragged into court.
“This proposed legislation is another milestone in our ongoing efforts to make our criminal laws fairer, clearer, more relevant, accessible and compassionate,” said Minister Wilson-Raybould. “I am hopeful that the proposed changes to the sexual assault provisions will go a long way towards ensuring that complainants are treated with the compassion, dignity and respect they deserve.”