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Government urged to ensure better training for judges

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OTTAWA - Opposition MPs called on the government to ensure judges get better training in the wake of a controversial ruling by a Manitoba judge in a sexual assault case.

During an appearance at the House of Commons status of women committee by Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, Liberal MP Anita Neville and NDP MP Irene Mathyssen both raised the decision by Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Robert Dewar last month in Thompson.

In his ruling - which has already triggered several complaints to the Canadian Judicial Council - Dewar issued a lighter sentence to a convicted rapist because Dewar said the victim had dressed provocatively and sent the wrong signals to her attacker.

"This is a different case than one where there is no perceived invitation," Dewar said in his sentencing ruling. "This is a case of misunderstood signals and inconsiderate behaviour."

Neville asked Nicholson if Dewar’s message was consistent with the government’s and asked whether he would ensure judges get better training on the real issues affecting women.

Nicholson said he cannot comment on the case because it is within the 30-day appeal period. But he said the government doesn’t tolerate violence against anyone, including women.

He said judicial training is done at the provincial level but said he is speaking to his provincial counterparts about it.

"This is a priority and it will continue to be a priority," Nicholson said.

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

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