Last week, the Canadian Judicial Council recommended that Camp be removed from the bench, even though he SEEMED to fulfill the mandates dictated by the authors of the study we discussed last year, “An Examination of the Structure of Effective Apology.” He did all the things! Expressed regret, explained what went wrong, acknowledged responsibility (sorta), declared repentance, offered repair, requested forgiveness. And he apologized multiple times! He began apologizing after the appeals court overturned his decision and four female law professors at Canadian universities filed a complaint saying he’d expressed “disregard, if not disdain” for Canadian rape laws. (Their letter is worth reading.) He kept apologizing during the hearing on whether he should keep his job. And he apologized some more after he resigned. Yet all this was not enough!
Let’s talk about why not.
Apology #1: Camp issued a statement apologizing for causing “significant pain” to the complainant and saying he felt bad if (you know how SorryWatch loves the “if” apology!) his words made rape victims less likely to prosecute their rapists:
I am speaking particularly to those who hesitate to come forward to report abuse of any kind and who are reluctant to give evidence about abuse, sexual or otherwise. To the extent that what I have said discourages any person from reporting abuse, or from testifying about it, I am truly sorry. I will do all in my power to learn from this and to never repeat these mistakes.
He also promised to undergo sensitivity training. Cool, since the qualifying phrase “to the extent” is pretty insensitive! Get rid of “to the extent,” bub. What you said DOES discourage people. Not just victims. It discourages all people who value justice and the law (not the same thing) to believe that justice can be served in Canada.
At the hearing itself, Camp apologized for his words and said “I wish I hadn’t said them.” (We do too.) He said, “I struck the wrong tone in counsel submissions. I was rude and facetious.” (Bro, “tone” is not the problem here. Content is.) He continued, “I didn’t realize the implication that came with those words.” (What words? Name them. Also, it is suspicious that you did not understand the implication of calling the accuser the accused.)
He went on, “I held onto the myth that women were supposed to fight off aggression” and noted that he was from South Africa, so he didn’t necessarily understand Canadian rape law. (Uh, you’re a judge in Canada. A justice and a law professor testified that Camp hadn’t been properly trained in Canadian sexual assault law or in how to conduct a sexual assault trial in Canada, but if I run over a little old lady with my car, I don’t get to blame my 10th grade driving teacher.) Camp also said, “I’ve let my family down. I’m sorry for the embarrassment I’ve caused to my wife and daughter.” (Nice subtle invoking of the women in your life, but you didn’t just embarrass them. You need to apologize to all of Canada.) Finally, he apologized to “the accused,” causing an audible gasp in the courtroom. The judge had to point out to Judge Camp what he’d just said. He corrected himself and said he apologized to the complainant. (A 19-year-old homeless indigenous woman, she’d said she wanted to kill herself after the trial.) “I’m very sorry that, on reflection and rereading what I said, that I intimidated her, using facetious words.” (You need reflection to realize this? Also, say you’re sorry for failing to uphold the law, when you’re a friggin’ judge.) “I’m a lot better than I was,” he affirmed. “I’ll always be vigilant. Perfect, I’ll never be.” (Saying this at the hearing about whether you deserve to keep your job is…not encouraging.) Finally, he assured the court “I was very unhappy with myself.” Well, OK then!
The judicial council decided, despite Camp’s apologies, that he should be removed from the bench. This is a very rare thing in Canada — only two judges have been asked to step down since the council was created in 1971.
The council observed that Camp had maintained that he shouldn’t be axed because 1. He’d apologized. 2. His legal decisions were reasonable and in accordance with criminal codes. 3. He’d provided evidence of remediation. 4. Removing him from the bench would be disproportionate punishment. As we are not a legal blog, but rather an apology blog, we will only look at #1 and #3.
The council pointed out that Camp’s argument rested on the fact that “removing him would mean that sincere apologies and extensive education are incapable of restoring public confidence in a judge who displayed unconscious bias.” The committee responded: “[T]he Judge is correct. Apologies and education may not be sufficient in certain instances.” (Is there not a slight edge of eyebrow-raisedness in that response?)
The fact that Camp said he didn’t know he had prejudices held no water. The council noted that his knees-together and “sink your bottom into the basin” queries were “not simply attempts at clarification. He spoke in a manner that was at times condescending, humiliating and disrespectful. The Judge’s misconduct was manifestly serious and reflected a sustained pattern of beliefs of a particularly deplorable kind, regardless of whether he was conscious of it or not.”