By Farnia Fekri
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s newly-revealed plan to combat sexual violence includes commitments to address sexual assault policies on post-secondary campuses.
“We want to improve safety on our campuses, where assault and harassment are too prevalent and often go unreported and unchecked,” a report about the plan said.
Wynne unveiled the strategy, a 36-paged manual titled “It’s Never Okay: an action plan to stop sexual violence and harassment,” on March 6.
The $41-million plan aims to increase support and education against sexual violence and harassment over three years. Some of the included approaches are:
- An improved health plan teaching students in Grades 1-12 about consent
- Legislations to speed up the process of dealing with sexual assault claims
- Policies on sexual violence and harassment in the work place and on campuses
Another part of the plan is an awareness campaign called #WhoWillYouHelp which includes already-released advertisements about bystander intervention.
Post-secondary-specific commitments include introducing legislation that will require colleges and universities to adopt sexual assault policies “developed with significant input from students” that are renewed every four years, requiring schools to publically report sexual violence as well as initiatives to address sexual violence and ensuring that campuses have around-the-clock support for survivors.
The premier’s announcement comes after a Toronto Star investigation published in November 2014 revealed only nine of more than 100 post-secondary institutions in Canada have defined policies about campus sexual assaults. Ryerson was not one of the nine.
The story then spurred Ryerson Provost Mohamed Lachemi to task Heather Lane Vetere, the vice-provost students, with an assessment of Ryerson’s own policies.
Lane Vetere has been consulting staff and students since then, and is now drafting a report that will analyze four areas: risk management, awareness and education, support for sexual assault survivors, as well as a constructive system for complaints.
“Support would likely include things like counseling and academic accommodations to name a few,” Lane Vetere said in an email. “I think the outcome [of the report] will be very reflective of what members of this community want to see.”
In a lead-up to the launch of the Ontario government’s plan, Wynne held a roundtable with members of the Canadian Federation of Students Ontario (CFSO) on Jan. 14 to hear their thoughts on sexual assault policies on campus.
Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) Vice-President Equity Pascale Diverlus attended the roundtable.
“When we met with her she was really adamant in pushing us to push our administration to put our voices at the table,” Diverlus said. “It doesn’t make sense for a policy to be made for us without our input.”
The action plan has been released two days before International Women’s Day on March 8. On March 7, Torontonians will celebrate the occasion with a march that will begin at 11 p.m. near 252 Bloor St. West and end on Ryerson’s Gould Street.