Ontario announces supports for students reporting sexual violence as schools investigate allegations, threats
As Western University continues to investigate online allegations of sexual assaults at a first-year residence, the Ontario government has announced new supports for students who report sexual violence.
The government says that new regulatory amendments are aimed at creating a safer environment for students attending colleges, universities, and private career colleges.
The amendments will require schools to update their sexual violence and harassment policies to help shield students from irrelevant questions during sexual violence investigations.
The aim is to help students feel safe and ensure that they can bring forward reports without fear of disciplinary action.
At Western University in London, Ont. students are planning to walk out of class on Friday over unconfirmed reports of up to 30 alleged drug-related sexual assaults at a first-year residence.
Several sexual assault survivors are expected to speak during the walkout as students leave their classes at noon on Friday.
"Some of the things we are asking for is mandatory training...for all students, faculty and staff that walk this campus," graduate student Danica Facca said in an interview with CTV News on Wednesday.
Meanwhile as Western continues to look into the online claims, Fanshawe College is reporting that they are investigating online threats related to sexual violence directed towards students.
The Ontario government has given schools until March 31, 2022 to implement the amendments.
“Our number one priority is the safety of students – everyone should be able to pursue their studies on or off campus without worrying about sexual violence or harassment,” said Jill Dunlop, Minister of Colleges and Universities in a release.
Schools are expected to make the following changes to their policies:
- A complainant acting in good faith, who discloses or reports sexual violence, will not be subject to actions for violations of the institution’s policies related to drug and alcohol use at the time the sexual violence took place
- During the institution’s investigative process, students who share their experience of sexual violence through disclosing, accessing support, and/or reporting to the university or college, will not be asked irrelevant questions from institution’s staff or investigators, such as those relating to past sexual history or sexual expression.
Schools are also required to report annually to its board of governors on measures related to the experiences of, and support for, students who have experienced sexual violence.
Post-secondary institutions will be required to review their sexual violence policies every three years.
In response to the policy change, Western University tweeted, "We welcome today’s announcement from the Minister of Colleges and Universities requiring changes to postsecondary institutions’ sexual violence policies."
The university said it is focused on addressing sexual violence and will be making changes.
Western is focused on addressing the culture of sexual violence on campus and will be sharing more information on further changes we are making to ensure our campus is a safe place for all students and our entire community.— Western University (@WesternU) September 16, 2021