Anita Baker is no stranger to criticism.
The 25-year-old writer for The Huffington Post and a professor of Canadian studies at Ryerson University is one of the targets of much public and media scrutiny after an Ottawa tribunal ruled that she should not be paid for a book she co-authored, “Canadiana: The Story of Rape and Consent,” which explored sexual assault in Canada.
She had hoped to win a larger award for the book, which was published last year.
Baker and her publisher, J.W. Cook, had hoped the award would mark a major step forward for survivors of sexual assault, and also give the victims of sexual violence the visibility they have lacked for decades.
But the ruling left her feeling powerless.
And as the Harper government tries to enact new legislation aimed at combating sexual violence, the government is trying to undo the legacy of the earlier sexual assault legislation.
“This was not a fair decision,” Baker told the CBC.
Bakers book focuses on a woman named Sarah, who was raped by her former boyfriend while she was a university student.
She later became a writer and journalist who wrote a memoir of her experience.
The new legislation would amend the Criminal Code, which deals with sexual assault offences, to require judges to consider the victim’s credibility in sentencing and require a victim to prove the accused person did not consent.
But it also leaves the issue of the accused’s credibility to be decided by a jury.
“It is a very narrow interpretation of the Criminal Law that means that the defence is able to say, ‘This woman is not credible,'” Baker said.
Baker said she was left with “very few choices.””
It’s not like the jury can come in and say, I am convinced by all the evidence, this person is not telling the truth.”
Baker said she was left with “very few choices.”
She said she had already been forced to give up writing a book on her own and was left to work on a book with another woman, who had written a memoir.
The result was a book about sexual assault that was not included in the original award proposal, Baker said, which she called a “disappointing decision.”
The Harper government says it wants to “modernize” the criminal code to reflect the changing realities of sexual abuse.
But the government said the change was “not intended to eliminate the requirement for a jury to determine the accused victim’s consent.”
“The Criminal Code is an important tool for ensuring that survivors are properly supported and protected, and that we have effective and enforceable laws that protect victims of crime,” a spokesperson for the justice minister, Peter MacKay, said in an email.
“The changes will not remove victims of abuse from the justice system, but will provide a framework for those who may need support to be able to make an informed decision about their future with respect to their legal rights.”
The government also has promised to bring forward the bill by the end of March.
“We believe that our legislation is the best way to address the problems we face with sexual violence in Canada,” MacKay said in a statement.
“We will be introducing the legislation at the end in March.”
In an interview, Baker called the new legislation a “shameful decision” and said she would have liked to have won the award.
She is now working with a law firm to get her case heard by the courts.
“I am trying to get justice for my daughter, who has been through this and who is now going to go through this,” Baker said of Sarah.
“There are many, many survivors who have been hurt by this.”
The new law also includes a new definition of rape, which would make it easier for the courts to convict men of raping a woman without a defence.
The bill has been criticized by some for not including a victim’s name or the victim in the trial process, which could have resulted in the accused having to undergo a mental health evaluation before a conviction was reached.
But Baker said she feels confident that the new definition is in line with what the courts should consider in cases where a woman is the only person involved.
“They would look at all the relevant evidence and determine if she was capable of giving consent,” Baker explained.
“They would not look at the man’s actions.”