As March roared both in and out like a lion, the world of criminal law in Canada saw some important legislative changes and Supreme Court decisions, among other news-worthy cases.
For those with even a passing interest in the news or the criminal justice system, it would seem that the Canadian courts are now overrun with problematic sexual assault cases and judges. We recently saw Robin Camp resign as a federal court judge, after infamously asking why a complainant failed to 'keep her knees' together. A case in Halifax has the public outraged as a judge asserted that even drunks can consent. As public confidence in our court system seems to be shaken, the federal government has cast its gaze on judicial education as a response.
This past weekend, the Criminal Lawyer's Association hosted a conference in Toronto for women defence counsel. The well-attended event provided female defence lawyers, and some students, lots of practical tips and food for thought of our role in the criminal justice system. The conference, now in its third year, grew out of a need for a space for female defence lawyers to talk about specific issues that affect women in private practice. In 2016, the CLA released a report with respect to the Retention of Women in Private Practice, which illustrated the various challenges facing women defence lawyers, from the financial logistics of taking time off to have a child, to the gendered difference of treatment by those in the court system. The conference was one way for defence lawyers to connect and talk about these challenges, while providing space for women to share and celebrate some of their successes.