February 18, 2020

TORONTO, ON – Inclusion Canada urges policy makers to ensure that training for judges proposed in Bill C-5 is inclusive of people with intellectual disabilities, particularly women and girls, who are disproportionately targeted for sexual violence and often denied meaningful access to justice through the Canadian legal system.

Bill C-5, An Act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code, would ensure that all newly (federally) appointed superior court judges undergo training in sexual assault law and social context, and that the Canadian Judicial Council reports on the participation of all sitting superior court judges in sexual assault law education. The Bill is being viewed as a positive step for Canada’s judiciary. Many equality-seeking groups have, however, already stressed the need to ensure the intersection of race, class and sexual orientation in relation to sexual assault need to be included in the mandated judicial training. 

“We want to make sure ‘disability’ is included on that list. We are urging the Minister of Justice and Minister for Women and Gender Equality to take the unique needs of people with intellectual disabilities into account in designing the training under Bill C-5 to ensure inclusive and appropriate judicial training that will advance equal access to the criminal justice system, particularly for women and girls with intellectual disabilities,” stressed Inclusion Canada Board President Robin Acton.

Persons with intellectual disabilities are disproportionately targeted for sexual violence and women with intellectual disabilities  are subjected to sexual violence at a rate almost twice that of women without disabilities. Despite recent increased awareness of sexual violence against women, the myths and stereotypes surrounding women with disabilities distort the criminal justice response to this violence. The result is the criminal justice system ends up being inaccessible to this group of victims. 

“Discussions of judicial education have not acknowledged the unique challenges persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities face in the criminal justice system,” said President Acton, “Stereotypes that infantilize women with intellectual disabilities and place discriminatory burdens on them can lead their evidence to be treated with suspicion and undermine their credibility as witnesses and complainants, despite their disproportionate representation among  victims. We want to ensure intellectual disability is fairly and accurately represented keeping constitutional principles of equality in mind.” 

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Media Contact: Marc Muschler, Senior Communications Officer, Inclusion Canada 

Email: | Phone: 289-983-1898 

Inclusion Canada is a national federation of 13 provincial-territorial associations and over 300 local associations working to advance the full inclusion and human rights of people with an intellectual disability and their families. Inclusion Canada leads the way in building an inclusive Canada by strengthening families, defending rights, and transforming communities into places where everyone belongs.