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Commentary: Justice system must have public confidence

Bill 14 is one of the most important items to come before the Alberta legislature in recent times

The province has introduced proposed legislation making it mandatory for anyone applying to become a provincial court judge to complete sexual assault law and social context issues education before being eligible to oversee court proceedings. 

Bill 14 - the Provincial Court Amendment Act is important and needed legislation – both for survivors of sexual violence and for the community-at-large.

For his part, Premier Jason Kenney says one of the key goals of the legislation is helping protect sexual assault victims throughout the court process.

“This bill will reduce the risk of victims of sexual violence from being re-victimized during the trial,” said Kenney. “It will also help to ensure that all people who come into the courtroom are treated respectfully and fairly.

“A courtroom must be a safe place for victims. It’s should never be a place where people are re-victimized or where they feel themselves that they are on trial.”

The official Opposition is also on board, with NDP critics Irfan Sabir and Janis Irwin calling it “a positive step towards making courtrooms a safer environment for survivors of sexual assault” and that they “hope that this begins a process where survivors will feel safer within the legal system.”

Rona Ambrose, former leader the Conservative Party of Canada, helped spearhead Bill 14. She says another key goal of the legislation is bringing more offenders to justice for their crimes.

“By making the justice system more responsive and better equipped to support survivors it could even encourage more reporting of sexual assaults so that offenders are held accountable for their actions and brought to justice,” said Ambrose.

“Sexual assault survivors deserve to know that judges who oversee their cases are fully educated in sexual assault law and aren’t going to make mistakes and cause long lasting damage and further trauma.”

Bill 14 is one of the most important items to come before the legislature in recent times. Hopefully MLAs of all parties will ensure its quick passage into law.

Dan Singleton is an editor with the Albertan.