A judge’s decision to acquit former broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi last week highlights how the justice system is designed to fail cases of sexual violence that actually make it to court, the father of Rehtaeh Parsons says.
“We pontificate the institution of justice while claiming it is what makes our society civil, but there is nothing civil to be found in the staggering toll sexual violence takes on our communities and the devastation it causes victims and their families,” Glen Canning wrote on his blog Friday.
His daughter, Rehtaeh, was 17 when she was taken off life support after attempting to hang herself in 2013.
Two years earlier, a photo was taken of her throwing up outside a window while a teenage boy gave a thumbs up to the camera while he allegedly raped her from behind. That photo was later leaked and circulated at her school.
Rehtaeh Parsons took her own life after a photo of her being sexually assaulted was leaked to classmates. (Photo: Facebook)
Canning, who has been a vocal advocate for victims of sexual assault since his daughter’s suicide, spoke outside Toronto’s Old City Hall hours after the Ghomeshi was cleared of five criminal charges. Canning shared his frustration in seeing the justice system fail survivors again.
According to Now Magazine, Canning told the crowd that his faith in the judicial system was extinguished after his daughter’s case went to court — “which ultimately let us down,” he said.
In light of the verdict and in relation to his daughter's case, Canning called for a fresh look at an old system:
And I should never, ever have to stand here in front of people talking about the sexual assault of my daughter, and thinking that the police screwing up her case actually probably did her a favour. Going by what we saw in this courtroom, that literally is exactly what they did. And that is a system that has to change.
Ghomeshi, a former CBC Radio host, was found not guilty of four charges of sexual assault and one charge of overcoming resistance by choking.
During the trial, the defence chipped away at the credibility of the three female accusers under oath. Ghomeshi's lawyer focused on testing their memories of their actions after the alleged sexual assaults.
The events allegedly took place over a decade ago, between 2002 and 2003.
Judge made 'right decision': legal community
Justice William Horkins’ analysis of the trial evidence and his decision to acquit Ghomeshi was praised by some lawyers as the "right decision."
Jian Ghomeshi leaves court in Toronto on March 24, 2016. (Photo: Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press)
A recent poll by Postmedia and Mainstreet Research found 38 per cent of respondents said the Ghomeshi verdict lowered their faith in the judicial system. Within that segment, more women (46 per cent) than men (30 per cent) said Horkins’ decision caused them to lose trust in the courts.
"Confidence in our justice system seems to be shaken," Quito Maggi of Mainstreet Research said in a release Friday.
The poll was conducted among 2,017 Toronto residents via landline and cell phone surveys on March 24. The sample has a margin of error of 2.18 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Ghomeshi is due back in court in June to face a separate sexual assault charge for an incident that allegedly took place at the CBC.
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