Following sexual assault allegations at Western University that gained national attention, the provincial government is moving forward with changes that will make reporting sexual violence easier for post-secondary students.
Ontario announced on Thursday it is amending regulations at universities and colleges to require them to update their sexual violence and harassment policies. The updated guidelines are meant to shield students from “irrelevant questions” during sexual violence investigations and ensure students can file complaints without fear that disciplinary action will be taken against them.
“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,” Minister of Colleges and Universities Jill Dunlop said in a statement. “That’s why our government is working with post-secondary 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.”
The mandated changes state that a student reporting a sexual assault cannot be asked about their sexual history or sexual expression. The individual can also not be reprimanded for any drug or alcohol use in violation of the institution’s policies at the time the incident took place.
The province is giving universities and colleges until March 31, 2022 to make the appropriate changes to sexual violence policies.
Last weekend rumours began circulating on social media about up to 30 women being drugged and sexually assaulted at Western University’s Medway-Sydenham Hall student residence. The allegations led to widespread shock and condemnation including from Ontario Premier Doug Ford. He said as a father of four young women he was “beyond disgusted.” London police are actively investigating the allegations and have appealed for any victims to come forward. As of Tuesday afternoon, police said no one had filed a complaint. Fanshawe College is also dealing with threats of sexual violence against its students. The college said the threats first appeared on the social media platform Discord and involved the potential of drinks being tampered with at its student restaurant and cafeteria. Both schools have increased security as a result of these two incidents.
“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). “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.”
Post-secondary institutions in Ontario are required to review their sexual violence policies every three years.
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