Jack Ramsay, a member of Parliament known for his tough stance on law and order, was forced to resign from the opposition Reform Party caucus today after a jury convicted him of sexually assaulting a teenage Indian girl in 1969.
At the time of the incident, Ramsay was a young officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police stationed in far northern Saskatchewan. After the woman filed a complaint two years ago, Ramsay admitted to a brief sexual encounter with her but said she invited the advance by unbuttoning her pants. He also said no sexual intercourse occurred.
While acquitting Ramsay of rape, the jury late Wednesday found him guilty of the lesser charge of attempted rape. Opposition leader Preston Manning announced Ramsay's expulsion from the party following a caucus meeting in Ottawa today.
A somber Ramsay told reporters later at his home in Camrose, Alberta, that he will wait until after his sentencing next month to decide whether to resign from Parliament. He is also considering an appeal.
Ramsay, 62, is the second prominent Canadian politician to recently face rape charges dating back decades. Last December, Gerald Regan, the former premier of Nova Scotia, was acquitted of eight sexual assault charges involving three different women dating back to the 1950s. At the time of the alleged incidents, two were teenagers to whom Regan had offered rides in his car; the other was a party worker.
Both cases have raised questions about whether Canada should adopt a statute of limitations for rape. Many defense lawyers, and some members of Parliament, argue it is impossible to get a fair trial 30 years after an event, when memories have faded, evidence is destroyed and many witnesses are dead.
The two cases have also stirred debate about what evidence should be introduced at rape trials.
In the Ramsay case, the judge prevented the defense from presenting evidence that the victim had also accused two other men of rape at about the same time as she filed the complaint against Ramsay, although neither was charged.
In the Regan case, the jury was not told that a five-year police investigation turned up 22 different women who claimed to have been raped by Regan, including a legislative page, family baby sitters and a reporter. Regan denied all the allegations.
Canada's Supreme Court also waded into the issue today. By a vote of 7 to 1, the court upheld the constitutionality of a new "rape shield law" that leaves it to the trial judge to determine whether the records of a rape victim's psychiatrist should be made available to defense lawyers and submitted as evidence to the jury.