B.C. premier calls out ‘corrosive’ victim blaming, female shaming in recent court cases

After another example of victim blaming and female shaming in B.C.’s courts was front and centre last week, the premier says he has full confidence in the work being done to update training within our court system.

Last week, the defence lawyer of a man accused of first-degree murder in the death of a 13-year-old Burnaby girl disputed during his closing arguments the “innocent” portrayal of the victim by Crown prosecutors, saying the depiction was “rose-coloured” throughout the trial.

He argued the version of the girl’s lifestyle presented by the Crown as “at best, a partial picture” and “at worst, a lie.” That came after the defence, throughout the months-long trial, had argued the 27-year-old man “had sex” with the girl, while Crown worked to prove the accused assaulted her, strangled her, and killed her.

In another case, a judge prompted outrage after he cited in his decision that a man’s lack of “marital intimacy” contributed to his crime of using a hidden camera to record a young woman in his home.

“I think it’s so frustrating for people in our province. All the work that goes into encouraging women to come forward, to work with police when they’re a victim of intimate partner violence, when there have been threats against them. And we’ve seen a huge spike in violence against women during the pandemic and afterwards. [It] is more important than ever that people feel comfortable in our system,” Eby said Friday.

He says examples like the ones we’ve seen recently “are corrosive to people’s confidence in bringing forward allegations and participating in prosecutions.”

The premier says he has confidence in the chief judge of the provincial court, Melissa Gillespie, adding she’s been “very aggressive in ensuring that judges receive training.”

“She is very progressive on this issue, especially when we look across Canada to other provincial court judges,” Eby said.

“It is so important that women feel comfortable coming forward, that every institution, whether our courts, our hospitals, our schools, provide the support for people and especially victims of violence and especially vulnerable women, and I’m counting on our leaders in the justice system to make sure that continues to happen.”

Recently, the Law Society of British Columbia rebuked B.C. Attorney General Niki Sharma for speaking out against the judge’s decision in the hidden camera case.

Eby says he fully stands by Sharma.

“Our AG, Niki Sharma, is a champion of women and a champion of equity in our justice system. And she’s going to speak out on the issues that are important to British Columbians and on that critically important issue that women are represented in our justice system, that they receive fair treatment in our justice system. She’s got my backing 100 per cent,” Eby said.

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