Toronto Star

Friday, March 5, 1999

Women's group says wrong judge under fire

Says L'Heureux-Dubé should be removed for McClung `attack'

By Valerie Lawton
Toronto Star Ottawa Bureau

OTTAWA - REAL Women of Canada says a Supreme Court justice should lose her job for subjecting Alberta Justice John McClung to ``humiliation and scorn.''

McClung attracted the ire of many in legal circles with a public letter attacking Justice Claire L'Heureux-Dubé over her criticism of his ruling in a sexual assault case.

But REAL Women says the outrage should be directed at L'Heureux-Dubé.

``She viciously tore him to shreds. He'll be forever in legal history condemned by that judgment and he had no recourse,'' said Gwendolyn Landolt, a founder of the group, whose motto is ``Women's rights not at the expense of human rights.''

`She viciously tore him to shreds. He'll be forever . . . condemned by that judgment and he had no recourse.'
- Gwendolyn Landolt
REAL Women of Canada

``I suppose that's why, with his frustration, he did what he did, which was not necessarily the right thing either, but I can understand what he did.''

Landolt said McClung simply had a different opinion on the law, one she agrees with.

L'Heureux-Dubé has always taken a ``radical feminist'' approach to her decisions, including the sexual assault case at the centre of the ongoing controversy, said Landolt, noting the judge's past involvement with the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women.

Last month, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously overturned McClung's Appeal Court acquittal of a man accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl.

He had noted in his judgment the teen didn't ``present herself in a bonnet and crinolines'' and said she'd implied consent to the man's advances by not making it clear she was afraid.

L'Heureux-Dubé denounced the judge's language, suggesting it ``not only perpetuates archaic myths and stereotypes about the nature of sexual assaults but also ignores the law.''

McClung fired off a letter to the editor calling her criticism a ``graceless slide into personal invective.''

He also suggested her personal convictions might offer a ``plausible explanation'' for the growing number of suicides by Quebec men. He later insisted he hadn't known L'Heureux-Dubé's husband had killed himself.

REAL Women filed its complaint with the Canadian Judicial Council earlier this week.

Carissima Mathen, of the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund, said it's a sign of a backlash following an important victory for women.

``What this case reveals is that there are people who still hold outmoded views about sexual assault on women,'' she said.

Marilou McPhedran of the Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children said she wondered why the REAL complaint didn't mention Justice Charles Gonthier, the Supreme Court judge who concurred with L'Heureux-Dubé.

Contents copyright © 1996-1999, The Toronto Star.