• January 17, 2019
  • Rebecca Bromwich

I believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.

Having said that, I also believe it is crucial that a missing perspective needs to be brought to bear on the controversy surrounding Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the US Supreme Court. The frameworks of youth criminal justice and children’s rights provide a lens that shows the spectacle of the US Senate confirmation hearings of October 2018 to have been a travesty in ways additional to those inflaming popular sentiment around the #metoo and #himtoo controversy. This is not an issue only of gender or power or racial dynamics and inqualities between adults, but of serious disregarding and violation of the rights of children and youth.

Since the inception of the world’s first juvenile court, somewhat ironically, in Ohio, USA[1]  all civilized countries have put in place specific mechanisms to address the criminal accountability of youths. These laws are set forth in recognition of the vulnerability and diminished capacity of youth based upon their immature cognitive, psychological, and physical, developmental stage.[2] The world’s nations also came together, in 1997, to sign the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.[3] More countries have signed on to this treaty than any human rights treaty in history. It has been ratified by 196 nations. It was signed by every member of the United Nations, except the United States. This Convention provides protections to youth that reflect a consensus of the rest of the world that the USA has refused to sign on to.

Let’s consider the allegation. Dr Ford alleges that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the summer of 1982 when she was 15 and he was 17. She has testified that, while his friend Mark Judge watched, Kavanaugh, intoxicated, held her down on a bed with his body, grinding against and groping her, covering her mouth when she tried to scream and trying to pull her clothes off. Finding it hard to breathe, she thought Kavanaugh was accidentally (her emphasis) going to kill her. She recounted escaping when a third party, Judge, jumped on the bed and toppled them.

It is illustrative to consider how this allegation, taken as true, would have been dealt with in Canada, under our Youth Criminal Justice Act RSC 2003 c.1. Seen through the lens of children’s rights and juvenile justice, if he is guilty, a teenaged Brett Kavanaugh, and any teen who acts how he did, should be held accountable. However, the form of that accountability needs to be structured with a view to children’s rights. Had this incident transpired in Canada, the outcome would have been vastly different.