PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 5th, 2020
OTTAWA, ON – On Friday, November 6, Inclusion Canada will appear before the Supreme Court of Canada as an intervener in R v. Slatter, in a critical case which raises the importance of access to justice for women and girls with disabilities in Canada.
Across the country, women and girls with intellectual disabilities are disproportionately targeted for sexual violence and the violence perpetrated against them is under-reported and under-prosecuted. If these cases do get to court, women and girls with intellectual disabilities face additional barriers to having their allegations believed based on stereotypes about their credibility and their trustworthiness as witnesses.
“The legal system must ensure equal access to justice for all Canadians, regardless of ability. As a party and signatory to the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Canada must provide equal access to justice for people with disabilities.” says Robin Acton, President of Inclusion Canada. “As the mother of a young woman with a disability, I know people in Canada have been waiting a long time for this issue to be addressed.”
The complainant in R v. Slatter was a young woman with an intellectual disability who reported sexual assault by a neighbour over a number of years. The trial judge believed her evidence and convicted the accused. The accused appealed to the Court of Appeal for Ontario which overturned that conviction on the basis that the judge should have considered whether the complainant was more suggestible than the average person when he was deciding whether to accept her evidence. Such an inquiry would never be made about a witness who did not have a disability and is the heart of the issue before the Supreme Court of Canada.
Inclusion Canada intervened because women with intellectual disabilities should not face additional hurdles in accessing justice based on assessments of suggestibility that would never be applied to another witness. Adding an additional barrier to the acceptance of the complainant’s testimony is discriminatory denies women and girls with intellectual disabilities in full protection of the law.
“R v. Slatter is a precedent setting case that has the potential to change the relationship between the criminal justice system and witnesses with disabilities,” says Krista Carr, Executive Vice President of Inclusion Canada, “The Court has the opportunity to address stereotypes about women and girls with disabilities and make sure that perpetrators of these crimes are held accountable.”
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Media Contact: Marc Muschler, Senior Communications Officer, Inclusion Canada, firstname.lastname@example.org
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. We lead the way in building an inclusive Canada by strengthening families, defending rights, and transforming communities into places where everyone belongs.