Ontario universities unanimously agree to initiatives to address sexual violence

January 6, 2015

The Presidents of Ontario’s publicly funded universities have unanimously agreed to a number of initiatives intended to curb sexual violence on campus. Their efforts will include pursuing a review of existing polices against a provincial guide created by the Ontario Women’s Directorate, creating a reference group to share best practices for addressing sexual assault on campus, and working with Ontario’s colleges to discuss on-campus sexual violence. However, some legal experts caution that implementing policies and procedures around sexual assault could lead to additional problems. Their concern is that PSE institutions are not equipped to properly conduct investigations into what are essentially criminal cases, and lack the expertise to effectively question witnesses, victims, and alleged assailants; moreover, some lawyers suggest that institutions may look to protect their own reputations rather than seeking justice. Toronto Star | The Record | Globe & Mail

Postscript: February 24, 2015

York University’s board of governors has approved the York University Policy on Sexual Assault Awareness, Prevention and Response. The policy, developed by a working group of students, faculty, and staff, presents an integrated framework built on the pillars of education, awareness, and prevention. “This policy emphasizes that York and other universities play an important role in this very serious societal issue, especially when it occurs on our campus. We are strongly committed to raising awareness, reducing the number of incidents, and providing support to those who have been impacted through a culture of compassion and understanding,” said YorkU President Mamdouh Shoukri. The policy is meant to foster a culture of engagement on campus in order to better understand the impact of sexual assault, to support survivors, and to hold those who commit acts of sexual assault responsible. The policy comes after the presidents of each of Ontario's publicly funded universities agreed to take action against sexual violence on campus. YorkU News Release