Sexual assault policies coming to post-secondary via legislation

Bill to force post-secondary institutions to create sexual assault policies receives support of premier

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Green Party MLA Andrew Weaver and TRU student Jean Strong. (Jim Elliot/The Omega)

A piece of legislation introduced by Green Party MLA Andrew Weaver will require post-secondary institutions in B.C. to create and enforce sexual assault policies.

The bill has drawn support from Premier Christy Clark and Minister of Advanced Education Andrew Wilkinson.

“The Premier said she’s making it a matter of priority. She wants this done as fast as possible. I met with the Minister of Advanced Education the next day, he said it is one of their top priorities and that they’re doing their best to pass it this session, which would mean by May,” Weaver said.

TRU is without a sexual assault policy of its own, but it has been developing one since July 2015 and it’s now nearing completion.

Dean of Students Christine Adam said that TRU’s sexual assault task force, formed to develop the policy, will meet again in late March and submit its recommendations to TRU’s President Alan Shaver by the end of April.

When asked about why it’s important to mandate such a policy, Weaver said “Some institutions are moving forward with policies and some are not. There needs to be consistency across all institutions that ensures that they all have policies that, while developed with students locally, follow some framework.”

Weaver’s legislation contains guidelines for how universities should educate students and report sexual assault, and recommends punitive measures the Ministry of Advanced Education can take against universities that fail to develop adequate policies.

“There needs to be a recognition that information should not be suppressed but needs to be reported,” Weaver said.

Weaver said that his legislation is based heavily on the sexual assault policy bill which was passed by the Ontario legislature in October.

Sexual assault policy development at TRU began shortly after student Jean Strong published her account of being told to transfer schools when she took her complaints of being sexually assaulted to the university in 2012.

Strong has since been invited to share her story with the sexual assault policy task force and consult with local RCMP, campus security and Interior Health about how best to support victims of sexual violence.

Strong has also consulted with Weaver in the development of his bill.

“So far they have been using my story as one of the examples as they bring it up in the legislature and in various other media outlets because there’s not a lot of people that have come out as publicly as I have,” Strong said.

“You cannot develop a policy that affects students without knowing what students are thinking, so it’s critical to engage students at the very earliest stages of policy development,” Weaver said.