New draft of sexual assault policy to be released this month

After delays, Provost says deadlines will still be met

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After an almost five-month hiatus in public announcements, Provost Alan Harrison has set deadlines for the final steps of the Queen’s sexual assault policy. 

The last announcement from Queen’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Working Group (SAPRWG) — the group tasked with the implementation of sexual assault reforms — dates back to this summer. In June, the group released its final report to the Principal along with a drafted policy.

(See our interactive timeline)

Shortly after, in mid-July, the University announced the members of the group’s subcommittee for overseeing the implementation of the final report’s recommendations. Since then, the University has been relatively quiet on the issue.

“The original hope was that we’d be a little further ahead now than we are, [but] the reason for the delay was not of our making,” Provost Harrison said. 

According to Harrison, the University had been waiting on a bill created under the Ontario government’s Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan before they could proceed.

The Action Plan, which was first announced in March 2015, established a set of steps for preventing and responding to sexual violence in Ontario. 

One of these steps was the creation of Bill 132, or the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act (Supporting Survivors and Challenging Sexual Violence and Harassment). The bill was released on Oct. 27.

Harrison said the University has been waiting for the release to avoid implementing a new policy only to reassess it to meet provincial standards.

“The government had signaled to us that they wanted us to have a policy, but they wanted us to have a policy that aligned with their legislation, so it was really that, I think, that was holding us up,” Harrison said. 

For example, he said, the Act addresses both sexual violence between students and between a student and any individual at the University, including faculty and teaching assistants. 

“We can’t use a student misconduct system if it’s a TA assaulting a student, and of course many of our collective agreements with different employee groups already have provisions for how to deal with complaints and accusations of harassment,” he said.

“So, it becomes much more complicated.” 

He said a number of other schools without sexual violence policies also waited for the Act to be released, although he couldn’t identify any specific universities.

With the announcement of the Act, however, Harrison said the new draft “will be released publicly, within the university, by the end of the calendar year.” 

Following the new draft, the policy will go through the Policy Advisory subcommittee and the Vice Principal’s Operations Committee before reaching two of Queen’s governing bodies — the Board of Trustees and Senate. 

Harrison said he expects the Board of Trustees and the Senate to receive the policy in February or March 2016, depending on the Senate’s schedule. 

“If [the Senate meeting is] early in February, it may have to wait until March.” 

In the interim between the announcements this summer and the Oct. 27 release of the new provincial Act, Harrison said the team has been working on other recommendations made in the 

final report, including a first-response system for victims of sexual violence. 

During the Senate meeting on Dec. 2, Harrison announced the creation of a Queen’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Coordinator position.

The individual is set to be the key point of contact for students, staff and faculty for campus education, response, support, training and advocacy against sexual violence. 

The final SAPRWG report also recommended the creation of a sexual assault centre where victims could find assistance. Harrison said no details for a potential centre have been solidified yet, but it will be discussed by all the groups involved. 

Moving forward, the implementation team will meet in the next week, while the working group meets on Dec. 10. Harrison said he’s optimistic that they’ll hit their deadlines. 

“We’re well along. I happen to know that we’re on target, so the document will be out."

 To see the timeline in full screen click here.

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