Sattler: SmartServe changes aren’t enough, Ontario needs Safe Night Out Act

On a campus that was rocked by stories of sexual violence to start the school year, London West MPP Peggy Sattler pushed the provincial government to do more.

Sattler outlined why Ontario needs her proposed “Safe Night Out Act”, which would change rules for bars and other establishments serving alcohol at a news conference at Western University’s Wave restaurant on Tuesday.

“London was badly shaken by reports of sexual violence on campus during this year’s Orientation Week, but we have known for years that sexual assault in environments where drinking happens is a major problem,” Sattler said. “My Safe Night Out Act will enshrine in law an evidence-based approach to training staff to identify sexual harassment and violence at licensed events, bars and nightclubs, and safely intervene when someone is at risk.”

There have been recent changes to the SmartServe program which will now include sexual violence training, but they don’t go far enough, Sattler said.

The new SmartServe training would only apply to those who are taking the training in the future – not the thousands of bar and restaurant staff who have already completed it. The Safe Night Out Act also requires licensed establishments to have plans for preventing sexual violence and harassment.

“Experts and advocates are clear that including sexual violence prevention training in Smart Serve must be enshrined in Ontario law, not left up to the discretion of Smart Serve,” Sattler said.

Sattler also said her act would require bars and restaurants to pay serving staff minimum wage, which would remove pressure to tolerate abuse from customers in order to get tips. She added that 80% of servers are women.

“Ontario is the only remaining province with a sub-minimum wage for liquor servers,” Sattler said when asked about the possible reaction from bar and restaurant owners to a wage increae. “This hasn’t created a huge onerous burden for hospitality businesses.”

Sattler said that sexual assault is not uniquely a London problem – her act would improve conditions at bars all over the province.

“Comprehensive provincial response including, but not limited to, SmartServe, is essential,” she said. “The announcement last week that sexual violence training will be included in SmartServe going forward for new certifications is welcome and long overdue, so much more is needed.”

“That is why the Ontario NDP, student organizations, allies, gender based violence experts are continuing to push for a stronger response.”

Sattler was joined at the news conference by student leaders from Western and Fanshawe, who echoed her call for new rules to protect students and everyone else.

“Every establishment that is profiting from the sale of alcohol to students must take responsibility for protecting their safety. It concerns me that right now, thousands of people who are already Smart Serve certified will not be required to complete the new sexual violence module, leaving many staff untrained in recognizing and responding to dangerous situations,” said Eunice Oladejo, VP External at for the University Student’s Council. “The Safe Night Out Act will correct this mistake.”

Experts also said that the changes are much needed.

“We know from Stats Canada that 54% of survivors believe that the perpetrators use on themselves of alcohol or drugs was a contributing factor to their sexual assault,” said Dr. Annalise Trudell of ANOVA. “We also know that 33% of sexual assaults occur in public spaces, specifically, bars or restaurants.”

“For all of those reasons, those conversations in terms of bars are so integral to ending sexual violence.”


Read original story from London Ontario –