By Jackie Hong
Members of the Canadian Federation of Students Ontario (CFSO) met with Premiere Kathleen Wynne at Queen’s Park on Jan. 14 for a roundtable on sexual assault policies on post-secondary campuses.
The meeting comes weeks before the Ontario government presents an “action plan” against sexual violence and harassment on March 8.
Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) Vice-President Equity Pascale Diverlus, who is also the constituency commissioner for the CFSO, said the conversation was long overdue.
“The Canadian Federation of Students Ontario and different student unions have been working on this issue for years and years,” Diverlus said. “We have been advocating for [a] sexual assault policy and we have had very little response … so, it’s nice to see [Wynne] put this at the forefront.”
Twenty-one members of the CFS-O attended the meeting and each member talked about how sexual assault and harassment are handled on his or her respective campus.
Members also suggested what they thought should be included in future policies dealing with sexual violence, such as prevention and consent education, accountability and including students in policymaking processes.
Diverlus said Wynne did not make any commitments but “just listened to our experiences.”
Anna Goldfinch, national executive representative of the CFS-O, said Wynne approached the CFSO because the group is an “expert” on how to prevent and handle sexual assault and harassment.
“We’ve been working on this issue for decades now. We’ve been running our ‘No Means No’ campaign since the ’80s,” Goldfinch said.
“The media is paying attention and the public is paying attention now,” Goldfinch said, explaining that the lack of sexual assault policies at post-secondary schools rose to the spotlight in late 2014 after a Toronto Star article revealed that only nine of 78 Canadian universities had guidelines in place to deal with sexual assault and harassment on campus.
Ryerson currently does not have a specific policy dealing with sexual assault, but instead relies on points from other policies to deal with the issue.
RSU President Rajean Hoilett previously said that pushing administration to get a protocol in place would be one of the student union’s top priorities for the winter 2015 semester.
Ryerson President Sheldon Levy said a “big process” is underway at the administrative level to get a policy in place.
“We’re working with the other universities … and a lot of groups have been brought in, including the student union,” Levy said.
In December, he asked Vice-Provost Students Heather Lane Vetere to “lead a thorough examination of Ryerson’s policies, procedures, approaches and responses” to sexual assault.
Vetere has since had a number of meetings with Ryerson community members, including staff, the Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson (CESAR) and the RSU, and is expected to report back on how Ryerson should proceed on how it handles sexual violence on campus.
“[Administration’s] been great and wanting to meet with us [the RSU] and set up a policy committee to review what we already have,” Diverlus said. “We are just hoping to get student representation on [the policy making] committee.”
With files from Dylan Freeman Grist