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Second complaint filed against Saskatchewan judge after sexual assault trial

REGINA — A second complaint has been filed against a Saskatchewan judge who recently heard a sexual assault trial for a former Regina doctor.
Sylvester Ukabam, 76, stands in front of Court of Queen's Bench in Regina on Wednesday, May 18, 2022 following the conclusion of his trial. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mickey Djuric

REGINA — A second complaint has been filed against a Saskatchewan judge who recently heard a sexual assault trial for a former Regina doctor.

The complaint was filed Friday with the Canadian Judicial Council by one of five women who had accused Sylvester Ukabam of touching them inappropriately during medical exams.

The woman cannot be named due to a publication ban. 

Last month, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Brian Scherman acquitted Ukabam of seven counts of sexual assault alleged to have happened between 2010 and 2017. 

The judge said in his written decision that four of the five women were mistaken about what they felt during rectal exams.

In his decision, Scherman said the case came down to the reliability of evidence and he found no reason why he should not believe Ukabam, who was "logical and consistent" in his testimony.

In an interview Monday, the complainant said the most distressing part of the verdict was hearing the male judge say the women misperceived what they felt. 

"He said because I was hysterical and panicked I didn't know what was going on. I knew exactly what was going on," she said in an interview.

She said his decision showed an outdated gender bias and that she wanted to speak up for other women who may have to deal with the criminal justice system in the future. 

"Women are very aware of their vaginas being touched and not confusing vaginal penetration versus a rectal penetration. As women, we are not confused," she wrote in her complaint. 

A complaint filed by another woman on June 8 raised the same concern to the Canadian Judicial Council. The council said it is reviewing the first complaint and it is expected to take three to six months to complete. It did not respond to a request Monday for confirmation on whether it is reviewing the second complaint. 

The Courts of Saskatchewan website says Scherman took supernumerary status last year, which means he hears a reduced number of cases. A spokeswoman for the province's judges said Scherman declined to comment on the complaints.

The latest woman to file a complaint also said Scherman's decision included sexist myths about women by giving the impression women allow their emotions to cloud their recollection of events and are more likely to be mistaken. 

"Judge Scherman's written notes are appalling to even consider that all the victim’s testimonies are ‘less reliable’ for no other reason than they are not able to decipher their vaginas and rectums being touched," she wrote.

The woman said she felt her emotions were used against her, and that she felt victimized again by the verdict.

"He clearly still buys into the outdated belief that women are too emotional and irrational to be believed," she said in her written complaint.

Scherman's decision is also being appealed by the Crown.

The Crown argues in its notice of appeal filed earlier this month that the judge erred by dismissing its application to admit similar fact evidence, failed to consider the totality of evidence and speculated about matters not in evidence. 

Ukabam's lawyer Aaron Fox has said he would be filing a cross-appeal. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 20, 2022. 

Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press