This new national seminar has been made mandatory by the CJC and builds on the training provided to newly appointed judges in the spring and fall of each year. Over six days of intensive and interactive work, it provides participants with a comprehensive overview of the process of conducting a criminal trial and, in particular, a sexual assault trial.
The main objective of this seminar is to equip new judges with the knowledge and skills they need in order to manage a criminal trial from the pre-trial stage to sentencing. As sexual assault trials pose some of the greatest challenges for the judicial role, the seminar also serves to ensure that participants understand this complex area of the law and can conduct these trials effectively, efficiently and fairly.
This seminar was led by senior judges drawn from across Canada, with input from legal academics. Two sexual assault fact scenarios helped anchor the issues and allowed participants to practise the relevant skills in small groups, using a blend of courtroom roleplay videos, live submissions by Crown and defence counsel, and sample written filings.
Participants received training in substantive and procedural law and the law of evidence, including the statutory regimes governing third party records and sexual history evidence, as well as Charter motions by the accused. They also developed skills in managing examination-in-chief and cross-examination, exercising the judicial gatekeeping function in respect of proposed expert evidence, and making credibility assessments.
Sessions on myths and stereotypes and dealing with social media enabled participants to understand the social context in which sexual assault takes place and is dealt with by justice system actors and witnesses alike. A special session on the victimization of Indigenous women and Indigenous experiences of the criminal justice system helped participants appreciate the import and ramifications of the Barton appeal at the Supreme Court of Canada and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.