Legislation goes into effect May 18
By Mercedes Deutscher, News Editor
All BC post-secondary institutions will be required to implement a sexual assault policy as of May 18.
The bill was introduced in BC legislature in April 2016 by Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, and was built on by the BC Liberals. After Ontario implemented mandatory sexual assault policies in January, BC will be the second province to enforce such policies.
“The idea is to make sure that every young person on campus, in particular young women who may be the victims of sexual assault, know that they can report it, that they will be safe if they report it, and that they will get the assistance that they’re requesting when they report it,” said BC Premier Christy Clark when the bill was introduced, according to the Globe and Mail.
“I think the development of policy like this is going to help students feel like they’re not only safe to come forward, but that going forward and disclosing is something that’s going to result in them being supported by the institution,” former UVIC Director of External Relations, Kenya Rogers, had said to the Globe and Mail while the bill was in legislature.
Douglas College has several policies in place for sexual offences. The Sexual Harassment or Personal Discrimination policy has been in place since December 2002, which covers allegations of a non-violent nature. Violent allegations fall into either Douglas College’s Violence Prevention Involving College Employees or the Violence Prevention Involving Students/Users policy, both of which have been in place since April 2006. The college is currently developing a sexual assault policy, on which they are accepting feedback from students and faculty. It will be completed within the legislation’s time-frame.
UBC recently finished creating a new policy that has been in development for over a year. The policy will create centralized offices at UBC’s Vancouver and Okanagan campuses, and will hire specialized directors to investigate allegations.
The legal enforcement of sexual assault policies in BC and Ontario could lead to similar legislation in other provinces, and perhaps even at a federal level. The Nova Scotia branch of the Canadian Federation of Students has petitioned their education minister to introduce similar legislation. Manitoba passed the Sexual Violence Awareness and Prevention Act in November 2016, but it is not as strictly enforced, since there is no time frame as to when post-secondary institutions are required to enforce a policy.
However, there has been some doubt whether the enforcement of sexual assault policies will do much to alleviate the underlying problem. A concern is that the policies will focus on handling the cases of victims that come forward, but do not contribute much to the prevention of sexual assault.
“The kind of hope that we all had when the legislation came in was that it would shift all the university cultures and college cultures toward a more prevention-based, survivor-focused orientation, where they would acknowledge sexual violence was a social fact on campus,” Carleton University associate law professor Dawn Moore said to CBC.