By The News team
The Ontario government is doubling its funding and will introduce a number of steps for post-secondary institutions to address on-campus sexual violence, the minister of training, colleges and universities announced Tuesday.
The changes come after province-wide survey results indicate that 63 per cent of 116,000 university students said they have experienced at least one incident of sexual violence since the beginning of the academic year.
Of the 42,000 college students who responded, 50 per cent reported at least one instance within the same time frame, according to the results.
“One incident of [sexual assault] is one too many,” said minister Merrilee Fullerton.
The government will commit an additional $3 million in funding to post-secondary institutions for women’s safety for a total of $6 million, she said.
The money will be spread across all colleges and universities, Fullerton said. There are 20 public universities and 24 public colleges in Ontario.
Publicly-funded colleges and universities must review their sexual assault policies by September 2019, when the funding changes come into effect, and create a task force dedicated to addressing sexual violence on campus.
The task force will provide reports on the effectiveness of on-campus services, programming and annual reports of sexual violence incidents on-campus to both the ministry and the institution’s Board of Governors (BoG).
Fullerton said these task forces should reflect the diversity of their post-secondary institutions and provide recommendations on additional steps institutions can take to create a safe environment on campus.
“We fully expect all institutions will take their responsibility on this issue seriously, and work with their students to find ways to address sexual violence,” Stephanie Rea, the minister’s communications director, told The Eye in an email.
“We need to do better…We know that a healthy campus environment is crucial to campus success”
“Each institution is unique, just as each participant [of the survey] is maybe unique,” said Fullerton to the press.
Previously, the government had allocated $3 million in funding toward the Women Campus Safety Grant. The additional funding will go toward safety training for student leaders, staff, as well as security cameras, safety mobile apps, emergency notification systems and sexual violence and prevention workshops.
“We need to do better…We know that a healthy campus environment is crucial to campus success,” said Fullerton.
In potential guidelines for essential ancillary fees—first reported by The Varsity and also obtained by The Eyeopener—it was unclear whether sexual assault offices and support services financed by student unions would be a mandatory fee.
“Fees that support programs and services that promote on-campus safety, including the prevention of sexual violence, are an allowable compulsory ancillary fee under the Student Choice Initiative,” Rea told The Eye.
Also earlier this year, Ontario’s attorney general said in a press release the Doug Ford government would increase funding to Ontario’s sexual assault centres by $1 million. This is a quarter of what was promised by the previous Liberal government.
“We feel we have a responsibility to provide this information to institutions and the public so post-secondary institutions are well positioned to address sexual violence,” said Fullerton.
Full results of the survey will be released following consultation with Ontario’s information and privacy commissioner, she said.