Records show sexual assault policy development began in 2014

In December 2016, the Omega obtained documents from Thompson Rivers University under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act that revealed the development of the university’s upcoming sexual assault policy was first mentioned in October 2014.

What appears to have set in motion the development of the current policy was being contacted by a Toronto Star reporter asking how universities across Canada address sexual assault in terms of policy and education. The Star’s article, which was published in November 2014, revealed that only nine of the 102 universities contacted had specific, separate policies to deal with sexual assault.

While the university did not have a sexual assault policy in place, they did state in their response to the Star that they had taken steps to educate students on the issue of sexual violence. Such steps noted by the university include the “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign during 2013’s Sexual Health Week and Mike Domitrz’s “Can I Kiss You?” presentation in September 2014.

Another example given by TRU to the Star was Meghan Gardiner’s sexual assault education show “Dissolve,” which the university said was attended by 150 to 200 people “in each of the past four years.” When Omega contributor Alexis Stockford attended the event in 2014, however, she made note of 60 people in the audience.

TRU also told the Star that residence advisors at the TRU Residence and Conference Centre (RCC) are trained on the topics of consent, sexual assault, resources and related company protocols. Resident advisors are employees of Campus Living Centres, the company that manages RCC.

The university also told the Star that it was drafting a code of conduct that will address sexual assault, although no records prior to the Star response were returned in the information request.

The documents obtained in the request also show that TRU tried to model its sexual assault policy after the policy in place at Queen’s University. TRU considered adopting an interim sexual assault policy similar to Queen’s in February of 2015, and formally announced its own interim sexual assault policy on July 29, 2015.

While the Queen’s sexual assault policy served as a template for the what TRU’s policy would eventually become, administrators at TRU were also looking at the policies of other universities across Canada, such as York and the University of Winnipeg. During policy development, TRU also contacted the Kamloops Sexual Assault Counselling Centre for advice, which also features in the policy as it is currently drafted.

TRU did not reveal that a sexual assault policy was in development until after the Omega published an article in June 2015 detailing one student’s issues in reporting her sexual assault to campus counsellors.

The policy, which has been in development for over two years, will be presented to the TRU Board for approval on Feb. 3, 2017.