On Sept. 7, 2016, the Canadian Judicial Council released the transcript of R v Wagar, a sexual assault case heard in Alberta in 2014. The transcript was an exhibit at the hearing into whether Federal Court Justice Robin Camp, who had presided at that trial, should keep his job.
The Globe and Mail has pulled out several excerpts from this transcript that have been central to the inquiry, including instances where Justice Camp mistakenly referred to the complainant – whose identity is protected under a publication ban – as “the accused.”
People whose names appear in the excerpts include the defendant, Alex Wagar; his brother Lance; Skylar Lee Porter, a witness; a friend of the complainant named Dustin; and Crown agent S. E. Clive.
The trial of R v Wagar involves a homeless youth accused of raping a homeless 19-year-old woman in a bathroom. Justice Camp was a provincial judge at the time.
Much of the evidence at Justice Camp’s hearing comes from the transcript of this case. In it, Justice Camp asks questions of the alleged victim that prompted a formal allegation that he was ignorant of sexual assault law.
One remark that has garnered much criticism came when Justice Camp questioned the complainant during her testimony on June 5, 2014:
Throughout the trial, Justice Camp also mistakenly referred to the complainant as the accused. The first instance occurred on Aug. 6, 2014, when the judge was questioning Mr. Wagar’s lawyer, Patrick Flynn, during Mr. Flynn’s final submissions:
Justice Camp did the same thing twice more later in the day while questioning Crown attorney Hyatt Mograbee during Ms. Mograbee’s final submissions:
This mistake was then repeated another eight times while Justice Camp read out his reasons for his judgment on Sept. 9, 2016:
After the trial, Alberta Court of Appeal ruled that Justice Camp had relied on discredited stereotypes, and threw out the acquittal. Four professors then researched the case and brought it to wide public attention in a comment article for The Globe, leading to a rare disciplinary hearing convened by the Canadian Judicial Council in which Justice Camp faces the possibility of dismissal.
The proceedings began on Sept. 6, 2016. A panel of three judges and two lawyers was brought in to decide whether Justice Camp’s continued presence would so undermine public confidence in the country’s judges that he must be removed.
Before the inquiry, the 64-year-old married father of three publicly apologized for his insensitive language, and underwent training with a senior Manitoba judge, a psychologist specializing in how abuse victims experience trauma, and a feminist law professor. His defence is that he did not intend to treat the complainant as less worthy of belief than the accused, applied the law correctly in spite of his insensitive language and is committed to improving his knowledge of sexual-assault law.