First year law students must take sexual violence prevention training as part of courses. Photo: Parker Townes.
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New initiative seeks to provide education on the ramifications of sexual violence

This January, the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, common law section has implemented mandatory sexual assault prevention training for all first-year students.

Statistics of sexual violence are alarming, and as a educators and administrators in a law school, we believe it to be an essential part of a law student’s training,” said assistant dean Amanda Turnbull.  

“We took on a commitment to prevention education beyond the university-level since as students of law, we believe they ought to be held more accountable.”

Turnbull said that it is not sufficient to have students sit through a quick presentation during orientation. The faculty also strongly believes that law students need to be equipped to deal with sexual violence and its ramifications in their careers. Consequently, any students who are unable to attend the training would have to justify their absence.  

Although other faculties at the university do not require similar mandatory training, the Human Rights Office offers bystander training.

Recently, an article in the National Post claimed that the department threatened to withhold final grades from students who did not undergo the mandatory training, although Turnbull said that no such communication was sent to students that states that grades, of any kind, will be withheld.

“To be clear, we asked that students find and undergo similar training if they were unable to attend their session,” she said. “Students who were unable to attend their session, and had grounds for accommodation, were switched into other workshops that we were offering.”

In total, the faculty held 10 training sessions to accommodate as many students’ scheduling conflicts as possible.

Those who were unable to attend any of the workshops were directed to the Human Rights Office on campus, which has agreed to provide them with bystander training.  

“We want to be able to report publicly by the end of April that all of our first-year class received this training prior to finishing their first year of study.  We are leaders in being able to claim that we have taken the training seriously—both at the University level and at the law school level,” said Turnbull.