Newspaper article The Canadian Press

New Supreme Court Nominee Malcolm Rowe Faces Grilling by MPs, Senators

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

New Supreme Court Nominee Malcolm Rowe Faces Grilling by MPs, Senators

Article excerpt

Sex assault cases require compassion: Rowe


OTTAWA - Jurists should show humility, tact and compassion in cases involving sexual assault and harassment, Newfoundland and Labrador judge Malcolm Rowe said Tuesday as MPs and senators sized up his suitability for the Supreme Court of Canada.

Rowe, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's first high court nominee and the first ever from Newfoundland, took part in a question-and-answer session with MPs and senators at the University of Ottawa, with law school students invited to watch.

"As a judge, I see all too often these alarming situations, like the cases of sexual assault, family violence and the poor treatment of children," he said. "Law alone cannot respond to all these things, but the effective intervention of the courts constitutes a necessary element of the response.

"A judge must be independent, open in spirit, patient, demonstrate humility and tact. He must also be understanding and show compassion. I have always tried to demonstrate all of these qualities."

Rowe was responding -- indirectly -- to a question from Conservative Sen. Denise Batters about a decision he made in May as a judge on the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal.

He denied a new trial in a sexual assault case, despite acknowledging that a complainant was treated unfairly when the trial judge allowed explicit text messages and the transcript of a sex tape she had participated in to be read to the jury.

The defendant was acquitted on all counts.

The case, known as R. v. S.B., is coming before the Supreme Court next March.

"These words are cold comfort to this complainant," Batters said of the majority decision written by Rowe, in which the nominee referred to the reading of the text messages as "gratuitous humiliation."

"She must have felt so frustrated that the injustice done to her in that trial was recognized by you, but not rectified by you."

The rules of the forum prohibited Rowe from addressing the specifics of how he arrived at the decision.

"This constraint on today's session is the price we must pay for an independent and impartial judiciary," Daniel Jutras, the McGill University law professor who moderated the event, said at the outset. …

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