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Justice Robin Camp Worked Hard To Change Behaviour: Mentor

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CALGARY — A Manitoba judge says she was initially appalled by the comments a Calgary judge made to a sex-assault complainant but agreed to mentor him.

Justice Deborah McCawley was the only witness Wednesday before a Canadian Judicial Council hearing prompted by complaints over Justice Robin Camp who asked a woman in a 2014 sex-assault trial why she didn't keep her knees together.

"I was taken aback to say the least. I was quite appalled at some of the words, some of the language used,'' she said when first approached about mentoring Camp.

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Federal Court Justice Robin Camp arrives at a Canadian Judicial Council inquiry in Calgary, Sept. 6, 2016. (Photo: Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

"I wondered if I was wasting his time and his money. He was 63, a white South African male. I myself was guilty of the kind of thinking I've spent my whole career railing against,'' she said.

"I went with my instinct and that was to say to myself I think he's very sincere and committed and I never doubted that again.''

Camp's comments while he was a provincial judge in Calgary in 2014 led the Alberta Appeal Court to order a new trial for the man he acquitted.

Court transcripts show Camp, who is now 64, questioned the woman's morals, suggested her attempts to fight off the man were feeble and described her as "the accused'' throughout the trial.

Told complainant 'pain and sex sometimes go together'

He asked her: "Why couldn't you just keep your knees together?'' and said "pain and sex sometimes go together.''

On Tuesday, the original complainant testified she hated herself and contemplated suicide as a result of her experience.

"He made me feel like I should have done something ... that I was some kind of slut,'' she said.

The complainant said after the verdict she just "got high for days'' and just wanted to be herself again.

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Camp is under review for comments he made at a sexual-assault trial. (Photo: Jeff McIntosh/CP)

McCawley said sex-assault trials are complex and not easy for an experienced judge.

"I told him he needed to trust me and he could and he might need to bare his soul when we talked about a lot of this stuff and he did,'' McCawley testified.

"Justice Camp was brutally honest with himself. He was probably the hardest critic he could have been. I was struck by the fact his motivation was very much for the pain he had brought to his colleagues and his court and the damage he had done to the administration of justice,'' she added.

McCawley said Camp was involved in counselling, did a lot of reading and research and attended a three-day judicial conference in Toronto which included courses such as Sex Assault 101 and How to Conduct a Sex Assault Trial.

"Justice Camp was brutally honest with himself. He was probably the hardest critic he could have been.'" —Justice Deborah McCawley

She told the panel he is "teachable'' and is still surprised at the trial transcript.

"He's not a misogynist. He is not a racist. He's extremely fair-minded and part of my difficulty was trying to reconcile the transcript with the person is front of me,'' she said.

"The more he grew, the more I realized he had the capacity to do the job and do it well. He's a very compassionate, empathetic person.''

The review committee will make recommendations to the full judicial council.

If it decides Camp should be removed from the bench, the final recommendation will be sent to the federal justice minister and require a vote of both houses of Parliament.

— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

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