NEWS

Quebec Judge Jean-Paul Braun Said Sex Assault Victim Probably 'A Little Flattered' By Attention

Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee said she intends to pursue a complaint.

10/25/2017 13:57 EDT | Updated 10/30/2017 01:00 EDT
Toronto Star via Getty Images
A copy of The Canadian Criminal Code sits inside Courtroom 125 at Old City Hall in Toronto. A Quebec judge convicted Carlo Figaro, 49, last May of sexual assault.

Quebec's justice minister will file a complaint against a judge who said a 17-year-old victim of sexual assault had a pretty face and was maybe a "bit flattered'' at the interest shown in her.

Le Journal de Montreal reported Wednesday that Quebec court Judge Jean-Paul Braun made the comments earlier this year during the sexual assault trial of taxi driver Carlo Figaro, who was eventually found guilty of attacking her in his cab.

"We can say she is a little overweight, but she has a pretty face, huh?'' Braun said at one point.

He went on to say she was possibly even "a little flattered'' because "maybe it's the first time he's interested in her.''

Braun said the victim was perhaps a bit naive, although she didn't expect to be groped during the taxi ride.

We can say she is a little overweight, but she has a pretty face, huh?Judge Jean-Paul Braun speaking about a sexual assault complainant

The trial heard that Figaro licked the girl's face and grabbed her before she was able to get out of the vehicle.

Braun noted that trying to kiss someone could be seen as an acceptable gesture.

In Quebec City on Wednesday, Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee called the judge's remarks unacceptable and said she intends to file a complaint.

Jacques Boissinot/CANADIAN PRESS
Quebec Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee provides further details about how the government's controversial Bill 62 will be implemented at the legislature in Quebec City on Oct. 24, 2017.

Braun convicted Figaro, 49, last May of sexual assault and the cabbie will return to court in November for a sentencing hearing.

He is appealing the verdict.

Quebec court Chief Judge Lucie Rondeau said in a statement the court would not comment on Braun's case.

"Indeed, following the complaint announced by the justice minister, it is up to the Conseil de la magistrature du Quebec (judicial council) to decide whether an ethical fault has been committed,'' Rondeau wrote.

But that didn't stop provincial politicians of all stripes weighing in Wednesday, roundly criticizing the judge's comments as unacceptable.

They have to solve that kind of problem and change the mentality and attitude.Helene David

Helene David, the minister responsible for the status of women, called on judges to address the issue.

"Do they need more training? Do they need more sensibility? I don't know — this is their problem,'' David told a news conference. "But they have to solve that kind of problem and change the mentality and attitude.''

Parti Quebecois Leader Jean-Francois Lisee called Braun's comments troubling.

"This is very serious,'' he said, adding the judge should recuse himself from further cases. "We turn to our judges for wisdom and (upholding) the law, and we have had neither.''

Quebec solidaire member Manon Masse said in a statement the judge's comments demonstrate that "rape culture is implanted in different spheres of Quebec society and, once again, this is another example of a person in a position of authority making inappropriate remarks toward women.''

She called on the judicial council to settle the matter quickly.

Judge could be sanctioned

The council must first evaluate whether a complaint will be accepted and, if so, an investigative committee would examine the facts before determining whether there would be any eventual sanction.

A spokeswoman for the council declined comment Wednesday.

At the federal level, a bill proposed by ex-Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose that would mean changes to sex assault law training for federally appointed judges is before the Senate.

In response to complaints about judges' comments in other jurisdictions, Ontario also made sexual assault training a requirement for provincial judges in May.

With files in Montreal from Sidhartha Banerjee

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