But has there been substantive progress in terms of how these types of allegations are investigated and then adjudicated in the courts?
The track record of sexual assault prosecutions in this country is a not a good one, says Carissima Mathen, a University of Ottawa law professor and a former litigation director of the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund.
Both her majority judgment and the dissent by Justice Claire L’Heureux-Dubé engaged in a thorough analysis about how to balance the rights of defendants to a fair trial with those of complainants in sexual assault proceedings.
The judges agreed that the right of full answer and defence is not supposed to come at the expense of the privacy and equality rights of a complainant in a sexual assault trial.
the old rules which permitted evidence of sexual conduct and condoned invalid inferences from it solely for these purposes have no place in our law.” The statements are not recent; they were made in 1991 and form part of her majority judgment for the Supreme Court of Canada in actually struck down the existing “rape shield” provisions as being overly broad, it also set out a framework for what would be admissible with respect to the sexual activity of a complainant.
In a lengthy judgment that would have upheld the existing provisions, L’Heureux-Dubé detailed many of the rape myths at the time such as suggestions that women fabricate sexual activity out of spite or because they are “fickle and seeking revenge on past lovers.”A quarter of a century later, in acquitting Jian Ghomeshi of all charges involving three women, their post-incident contact with the former CBC host was described by Ontario Court Justice William Horkins as “odd,” “questionable,” and “out of harmony” with what is to be expected of victims of violent sexual assaults.
While courts must guard against “false stereotypes” in this area, it is also necessary to be vigilant against “the equally dangerous false assumption that sexual assault complainants are always truthful,” the provincial court judge wrote in his March 24 decision.
Canada was the fourth country to permit same-sex marriages, after the Netherlands (2000), Belgium (2003) and Spain (2005).
While marriage itself falls under federal jurisdiction in Canada, the provinces regulate the solemnization of marriage (the formal ceremony that is either civil or religious) and grant marriage licenses.