By Farnia Fekri
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s action plan to combat sexual violence and harassment is a triumph for students, said Pascale Diverlus, the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) vice-president equity.
The 36-page blueprint, released on March 6, proposes several new strategies for preventing and dealing with sexual assault incidents, including on campuses.
“It’s amazing that we actually have now, in legislation, that all universities and colleges should have a sexual assault policy,” Diverlus said.
Titled, It’s Never Okay, Wynne’s $41-million plan aims to apply the following measures in post-secondary institutions like Ryerson over the next three years:
- Implementation of education and training programs
- Creation of sexual violence complaint procedures
- Declaration of all incidents of sexual violence by universities and colleges
- Contribution to individual initiatives that support campus safety
- Organization of a system of 24/7 support for victims of sexual violence
- Establishment of sexual assault policies, which will be renewed every four years with significant input from students
Many of the above policies were brought up in a Jan. 14 roundtable between the premier and the Canadian Federation of Students Ontario (CFS-O). The meeting was held to present Wynne with student views.
“We specifically asked for a lot of things that found their way into that document,” said Anna Goldfinch, the national executive of CFS-O.
The practicality of the plan will only be clear once Ryerson starts using it, Diverlus said, noting that the best part of the plan is how strongly it stresses the need for student involvement. The most repeated demand then and now, Diverlus said, has been to include student input in the plans. “People need to feel as if they’re supported,” she said. “They need to feel like they’re listened to.”
Heather Lane Vetere, Ryerson’s vice-provost students, has been listening to staff and students in an effort to draft a sexual assault policy specific to Ryerson. She was tasked with this job last November, after a Toronto Star article revealed that only nine of more than 100 post-secondary institutions in Canada have clear protocols to deal with sexual assault.
Ryerson was not one of the nine.
Lane Vetere has been consulting students and staff and has now started to write her report, which she said reflects the points brought up by the Ontario government in its new outline.
“I think that the recommendations that will be made in the report will cover all the items in the action plan and in some cases will go farther, such as more frequent reviews than are recommended by the plan,” Lane Vetere said in an email. “This plan does not change the nature or timing of the work.”
Lane Vetere plans on presenting her review to the Board of Governors by late spring or early summer.