March 10, 2017

Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton (SACE) Response to N.S. Judge Ruling on Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:16 am by sacetalks

In response to the news coming out of Nova Scotia last week, where a judge acquitted a Halifax taxi driver of sexually assaulting a woman in his cab when she was extremely intoxicated, the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton (SACE) would like to emphasize our stance that the consent laws in Canada need to be well understood and applied in consistent and just ways.

It is crucial that the correct person be held accountable in instances of sexual assault. It is not the responsibility of women, or indeed anyone, to protect themselves from the violence someone chooses to inflict upon them. If someone is drinking and showing observable signs of intoxication, they are not able to give consent, and any individual pursuing sexual contact with another person has a legal responsibility to stop when that person shows signs of intoxication. Drug or alcohol facilitated sexual assault often occurs when someone chooses to engage in sexual contact with a person who is too intoxicated to consent (for example, passed out, vomiting, impaired speech).

In reading about this incident, it is clear that both the taxi driver and the judge should have been able to identify that the complainant was too intoxicated to consent. Consent should be mutual, enthusiastic, voluntary, and can be revoked at any point. Consent is not intoxicated, urine-soaked, memory impaired, or unconscious.

Additionally, taxi drivers, police officers, and judges are all in positions of power, trust, and authority. These individuals, and the positions they hold, are intended to serve a function in the community by providing safety for vulnerable people, be it law enforcement, criminal justice, or transportation. People holding these positions need to be held accountable in their role to ensure individual and public safety, and they should never be allowed to abuse their power in order to obtain consent or to force someone to engage in sexual activity.

We are deeply impacted by the story of the young woman, who has been mistreated and failed by the legal system. It takes a great amount of courage to report a sexual assault and navigate the legal system. As an agency, we advocate for the consistent and just application of the affirmative consent laws outlined in the Criminal Code of Canada. These laws provide the foundation for creating safety and honouring the experiences of people who experience sexual abuse. We respect that many people who experience sexual violence choose not to report or pursue charges. We encourage all people who have experienced sexual violence to decide for themselves if the legal process is something they wish to undergo. When someone chooses to engage with the legal system, we are grateful for the contribution that it makes to the public conversation around how we as a country respond to the crime of sexual assault. If you or someone you care about has experienced sexual assault or abuse and would like help, sexual assault services in Alberta are here for you.

For sexual assault services in Edmonton, contact the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton (SACE) at 780-423-4102, or visit To locate services in other parts of Alberta visit For information on how you can support survivors of sexual assault and sexual abuse, visit


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