National Post

Tuesday, March 09, 1999

Judge shuns spotlight in McClung controversy
L'Heureux-Dube silent: Makes hasty exit after speech to mark Women's Day

Brad Evenson
National Post, with files from The Canadian Press

Claire L'Heureux-Dube, Supreme Court justice, fled a group of TV, radio and newspaper reporters yesterday, insisting she would make "no comment" after giving a speech to mark International Women's Day 1999.

It was her first public appearance outside the Supreme Court since a judicial melee broke out last month with John McClung, an Alberta Court of Appeal justice.

Her hasty exit, shortly before a question period began, neatly sidestepped a potential ambush by a member of REAL Women, a lobby group that has called for a judicial review into her ruling in the Ewanchuk assault case.

"I am not going to talk about that," the judge said as she burst alone through the doors of Ottawa's Conference Centre and got into a waiting car.

Earlier, Judge L'Heureux-Dube told a packed meeting hall about her work with an international women's group called Sakshi that promotes judicial reform.

"My role is limited purely to explaining gender equality and our concept of equality" to judges in such countries as India and Bangladesh, she said.

With funding from the Canadian International Development Agency, Sakshi conducted a study on gender bias in India's justice system that led to reforms throughout South Asia.

The study examined the judicial perceptions of judges, lawyers, litigants, victims and courtroom observers to see how they viewed violence against women.

Judge L'Heureux-Dube said many Third World nations look to Canada as a moral leader in matter of gender equality and preventing violence against women.

As a result of the Sakshi study, training programs have been developed for national judiciaries in five South Asian countries with several more likely to sign on.

Judge L'Heureux-Dube has been in a national spotlight since her written dissection of a sexual-assault ruling by Judge McClung prompted him to respond with a personal attack in a letter to the National Post.

On Feb. 25, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously overturned Judge McClung's acquittal of a man accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old female.

Judge L'Heureux-Dube criticized the ruling, citing Judge McClung's reference to how the victim presented herself in a T-shirt and shorts, not a "bonnet and crinolines."

Judge McClung's critics have said he should resign over his public criticism of a higher judge. His defenders have accused Judge L'Heureux-Dube of bully tactics and a feminist bias.

Related Sites

R. v. Ewanchuk
The Supreme Court decision handed down in the "no means no" sexual assault case.

Jurist Canada
The leading judicial website.

R.E.A.L Women Canada
Another entrant into the fray.

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