Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Baillie wants Nova Scotia to conduct a formal inquiry into the inflammatory comments made by Judge Gregory Lenehan that “clearly, a drunk can consent.”
In a release sent out Friday, Baillie says he’s written to justice minister Diana Whalen asking the province to address the issue “swiftly and conclusively.”
“Victims must always be protected, and we need to make sure we’re operating in an environment where they know they will be treated with respect when they come forward,” writes Baillie. “Rape culture is real and pervasive. The government has the power to act. They should do so without delay.”
Lenehan's not-guilty decision in the sexual assault case against taxi driver Bassam Al-Rawi largely blamed the Crown for not proving a lack of consent on the part of the alleged victim—even though her blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit and she was unconscious when found by police.
“A lack of memory does not equate to a lack of consent,” Lenehan told the court. “Where the Crown has failed to prove beyond a reasonable (the complainant’s) lack of consent, I am left with no alternative but to find
The judge’s comments have ignited outcry from Nova Scotians and made headlines across the country, with Lenehan’s conduct being compared to the Albertan judge who asked a rape victim “Why couldn't you keep your knees together?”
Several public protests of the judge’s decision are also being planned, and a petition calling for an inquiry into Lenehan’s conduct is at 20,000 signatures.
Lisa Roberts, NDP MLA for Halifax Needham, appeared on the Sheldon MacLeod radio show today where she stated that “Any person who is so intoxicated…is not able to give consent.”
The department of Justice and minister Diana Whalen did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the decision.
Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard told CBC’s Michael Gorman that Judge Lenehan's comments show there’s clearly “lots of work to be done” around informed consent.
Robyn Doolittle, reporting in the Globe and Mail, writes that the Canadian Judicial Council has received multiple complaints against Lenehan since his decision. As that council only handles conduct of federal judges, the complainants were referred to Nova Scotia’s Office of the Chief Judge.
In a small-town Nova Scotian twist, that judge (Pamela Williams) will apparently be recusing herself from hearing the complaints because (according to the Globe) Wiliams and Lenehan used to be married.