Ontario Strengthening Supports for Postsecondary Students Reporting Sexual Violence or HarassmentPublished on September 16, 2021
Changes will address student concerns about repercussions and stigma
TORONTO – The Ontario government is moving forward with regulatory amendments that will help create a safer environment for students attending all publicly assisted colleges and universities, as well as private career colleges. These changes will require institutions to update their sexual violence and harassment policies in order to shield students from irrelevant questions during sexual violence investigations at institutions and ensure that they can safely bring forward complaints without fear of disciplinary action.
“Our number one priority is the safety of students – everyone should be able to pursue their studies on or off campus without worrying about sexual violence or harassment,” said Jill Dunlop, Minister of Colleges and Universities. “That’s why our government is working with postsecondary institutions to update their sexual violence and harassment policies to better support students who have already gone through a difficult experience and may be feeling scared and vulnerable.”
These institutions are required to review their sexual violence policies and amend them by March 1, 2022 so that institutions’ sexual violence policies will provide that:
- A complainant acting in good faith, who discloses or reports sexual violence, will not be subject to actions for violations of the institution’s policies related to drug and alcohol use at the time the sexual violence took place.
- During the institution’s investigative process, students who share their experience of sexual violence through disclosing, accessing support, and/or reporting to the university or college, will not be asked irrelevant questions from institution’s staff or investigators, such as those relating to past sexual history or sexual expression.
“Students across Ontario expect a learning environment that is free from sexual harassment, violence and abuse,” said Jane McKenna, Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues. “By working together with our colleges, universities and all our partners we will build a better and safer province for everyone.”
These efforts to strengthen protections for students build on previous measures Ontario has taken to address sexual violence and harassment at postsecondary institutions. Previously implemented measures include: requiring colleges and universities to report annually to their board of governors on measures related to the experiences of, and support for, students who have experienced sexual violence. The province also requires institutions to review their sexual violence policies every three years.
“This past week has been a devastating reminder of the prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence on our campuses and the work that still needs to be done to protect and support students across the province,” said Eunice Oladejo, President of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) and Vice-President External Affairs at the University Students’ Council at Western University. “However, we are encouraged to see the government implement OUSA’s recommendations to ensure that survivors of sexual and gender-based violence can come forward without fear of facing questions about their sexual history or expression, and that they will be protected from repercussions for lesser policy violations.”
Strengthening these policies is part of the government’s efforts to increase campus safety and to reduce concerns and stigma for students who make an allegation of sexual violence or harassment.
- In 2020-21, Ontario invested $6 million to support sexual violence prevention and campus safety efforts at publicly assisted postsecondary institutions through the Campus Safety Grant. This doubles the government’s annual investment in campus safety.
- The Campus Safety Grant helps institutions support all campus safety initiatives in the areas of awareness and education and supports and services. The grant can be used to support a variety of student-focused programs and services, including safe walk programs, awareness programs, safety training, staff salaries, equipment and for third-party organizations providing safety-related supports to students, such as counselling services from local sexual assault centres.
- Ontario Regulation 131/16 made under the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act and Ontario Regulation 415/06 made under the Private Career Colleges Act set out the requirements for sexual violence policies at private career colleges and publicly assisted colleges and universities, as well as the process by which these policies should be established and published.
- The regulations are expected to come into force March 1, 2022.