Unpacking Sexual Assault: The Intersections of Violence in Canadian Law

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 15:46
Oral Presentation
Tessa PENICH, University of Lethbridge, Canada
This paper examines R. v. Wagar, a sexual assault case heard in the Provincial Court of Alberta in 2014. This case attracted media attention and public outcry when, following the acquittal of the accused, it was revealed that the presiding Justice Robin Camp had made shocking sexist and victim blaming comments during the trial. At face value, R. v. Wagar exemplifies the Canadian criminal justice system’s failure to meaningfully address sexual violence against women; however, in a trial where a young, Indigenous complainant was repeated referred to as ‘the accused’, there is clearly more to be unpacked. In this paper, I bring together sociological, feminist, and Indigenous analyses of the criminal justice system and the settler state to critically analyze the trial transcript. I discuss the intersections of gendered, racial, and colonial violence that linger – sometimes invisibly – in R. v. Wagar, shaping the conditions of the case. Moreover, the paper seeks to disrupt conventional narratives around gendered violence by questioning the way some feminist discourses posit state violence as a meaningful solution to sexual assault. Finally, it emphasizes the usefulness of utilizing sociological, feminist and Indigenous analyses when examining the intersections of power, violence, and justice.