Canadian Judge Resigns After Asking Rape Complainant Why She Didn’t Keep Her Knees Together

Rape protester
A woman protests as people walk into the Centre In The Square venue where Bill Cosby was performing in Canada on January 7, 2015. A Canadian federal judge has just resigned over offensive comments he made to a rape complainant. Mark Blinch/Reuters

A Canadian judge has resigned following comments he made to a complainant in a rape case asking her why she couldn’t just keep her knees together. Federal Court Justice Robin Camp asked the question during a trial in 2014, in which a 19-year-old homeless indigenous woman claimed a man had raped her in a bathroom at a house party.

Camp’s resignation came hours after the Canadian Judicial Council concluded its investigation into his behavior, The Guardian reported. The council found that Camp had relied on myth, stereotypes and victim-blaming during the trial and recommended his removal from the bench.

On Thursday, Camp issued a brief statement in which he offered a “sincere apology to everyone who was hurt by my comments.”

His tone is markedly different to the one he took in 2014 during the rape trial. Throughout he referred to the complainant as the “accused” and told her that “sex and pain sometimes go together.”

After the complainant testified that her alleged attacker, Alexander Wagar, raped her in a bathroom sink, Camp asked why she didn’t sit lower in the basin “so [the defendant] couldn’t penetrate you.”

Read more: Why It's Important to Teach About Sexual Consent

At the end of the trial, Camp acquitted Wagar. Two years later, in 2016, the Alberta Court of Appeal ordered a retrial in which the complainant was asked whether Wagar’s large penis—which he flashed at the party—had attracted her. The complainant responded by saying she’s not attracted to men. Despite this, the court acquitted Wagar for a second time.

In September 2016, around the time of the second trial, the inquiry began its review into Camp’s conduct at the first trial. Camp, who was a provincial judge at the time of the trial, said that he had not understood the changes to Canadian law intended to protect sexual assault survivors from discrimination.

He attempted to persuade the council to keep him on the bench, claiming that he had learned from one-on-one counselling sessions and classes with feminist scholars.

This, it seems, was not sufficient for the panel who also heard that Camp had driven the complainant to suicidal thoughts. “He made me hate myself and he made me feel like I should have done something,” she said.

Nineteen of the council’s 23 judges said that the country’s justice minister should remove Camp whose conduct, they said, “was so manifestly and profoundly destructive of the concept of impartiality, integrity and independence of the judicial role that public confidence is sufficiently undermined to render the judge incapable of executing the judicial office.”

Camp is the third justice the council has requested the removal of since its founding in 1971. It is now under pressure to remove a provincial judge in Novia Scotia who acquitted a taxi driver of sexually assaulting a female passenger found semi-naked and unconscious in his car. “Clearly, a drunk can consent,” Judge Gregory Lenehan told the court.