September 26, 2016

Province mandates Ontario campuses to adopt sexual assault policies

Ontario's new Sexual Violence and Harassment Plan Act requires campuses to develop standalone policy by January 2017

Queen's Park in Toronto.
Queen's Park in Toronto.
Credit: 
Supplied by Benson Kua via Wikimedia Commons

Just four days after Queen’s approved its sexual assault policy, the Ontario government passed new sexual violence legislation mandating that all Ontario college and universities create separate sexual assault policies.

On Tuesday, the Ontario government passed Bill 132, the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act, which will sanction requirements for workplaces, campuses and communities to address sexual violence and harassment.

Among its requirements, the Act requires publicly assisted post-secondary institutions to have their own standalone sexual violence policy that would undergo a review every three years. The deadline for the implementation of college and university sexual assault policies is Jan. 1, 2017.

Queen’s Board of Trustees recently passed a university-wide sexual violence policy last Friday. At the meeting, Chair of the Audit & Risk Committee Trustee Mary Wilson Trider said the policy could require later revisions after Bill 132 passed.

The Sexual Violence and Harassment Plan Act also creates more requirements for sexual harassment prevention programs and specific employer duties to protect workers, and removes the limitation period for all civil proceedings based on sexual assault.

The legislation is one of 13 commitments in Ontario's “It’s Never Okay” action plan passed in March of last year. The action plan outlines measures to be taken ­— such as raising public awareness and providing sexual violence prevention training for professions — to make Ontario more responsive to the needs of survivors and complaints about sexual violence and harassment.

In the press release from the Ontario government, Premier Kathleen Wynne stated that it's unacceptable that many women in Ontario do not feel safe.

“These legislative proposals would put the strength of the law behind our commitment to make communities, schools, and workplaces safer, and that is an important part of our roadmap to end sexual violence and harassment in this province,” the statement reads.

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