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Province outlines post-secondary sexual violence measures to be adopted by fall 2019

On Tuesday the Ontario government announced they would double their 2018-19 investment in a fund for programs combating sexual violence on campuses, and released a series of new requirements for post-secondary institutions alongside their summary report of the 2018 Student Voices on Sexual Violence Survey.

At a press conference, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Merrilee Fullerton said that colleges and universities would be required to comply with three new “immediate actions” by September 2019: Report annually to the board of governors (BOG) on measures related to the experiences of and support for students who have experienced sexual violence, have a diverse task force for on-campus sexual violence that would report findings to the BOG and the ministry, and review the school’s existing sexual violence policy.

“No one should have to worry about their safety on campus,” Fullerton said. “These measures will help our publicly-assisted colleges and universities to address sexual violence and harassment.”

The ministry report, released alongside Fullerton’s announcement, covers Ontario-wide student perceptions on consent, knowledge of sexual violence support services and reporting procedures, experiences of sexual violence, satisfaction with institutional responses to sexual violence, and the behaviour of bystanders at post-secondary schools.

Of the respondents from the U of O, the report shows that 62.9 per cent were aware of the sexual violence supports, services and reporting procedures, and 24.4 per cent reported a high dissatisfaction while 55.9 per cent indicated a high satisfaction with the institutional response to instances of on-campus sexual violence.

Of the 10,996 students surveyed at the U of O, 21.9 per cent disclosed experiencing non-consensual sex during their studies, while 23 per cent of the 116,627 Ontario-wide university respondents said the same.

In a statement, the ministry said this report would provide post-secondary institutions with important information, such as institution-level summaries, to inform their sexual violence response and prevention efforts.

On Tuesday evening, in a letter to students via email, U of O president Jacques Frémont said that the data would help the university to continue their work against sexual violence.

“The university will review the actions the provincial government has called for and will share additional data should it be made available by the government,” Frémont wrote. He called the results of the survey “concerning” and an indicator that “more needs to be done to address the challenge of sexual violence on our campuses” and beyond. He also thanked students who participated in the government’s survey.

“Our postsecondary institutions have a responsibility to protect students, and must do everything possible to ensure campuses are free from sexual violence,”  Fullerton’s statement reads. “Our government has zero tolerance for sexual assault, harassment, and any other form of violence in our communities.”  

The report comes amid criticism of the Doug Ford government’s repeal on the sex-ed curriculum, including mandatory instruction on consent, and an internal document published in January that shows the administration had considered the option of scrapping sex-ed classes altogether.