ONTARIO: Colleges and universities must update their policies on sexual assault

Policies on sexual harassment and sexual violence to be updated by next March to better support students

Ontario colleges and universities will need to update their policies on sexual violence and harassment by next March to better support students who file complaints.

The government said on Thursday that policies must ensure that students who report sexual violence will not be punished for breaking a school’s rules related to drug and alcohol use at the time of an alleged assault.

Policies should also ensure that students are not asked “irrelevant questions” by school staff or investigators, such as inquiries related to their sexual history or gender expression.

“Our # 1 priority is student safety – everyone should be able to continue their education on or off campus without worrying about violence or sexual harassment,” said Jill Dunlop, Minister of Colleges and Universities.

The new requirements were first proposed in January, and public consultations ended in mid-March.

The province said Thursday that colleges and universities will need to review their sexual violence policies and change them by March 31, 2022.

The announcement came a day before students at Western University plan to quit class to protest what they call a “culture of misogyny” on campus.

The event is scheduled as police investigate allegations of sexual assault during school orientation week in London, Ont.

Western said Thursday it has put in place a “strong policy” in line with the requirements set by the government.

“Sexual violence and assault on college campuses is unacceptable and the protection of complainants is essential to resolve these issues,” Western President Alan Shepard said in a statement.

“Western is focused on addressing the culture of sexual violence on campus and will share more information on other changes we are making to ensure our campus is a safe place for all students and our entire community. “

Eunice Oladejo, president of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance and vice president of external affairs for the Western University Students Council, said she was encouraged to see the province implement the recommendations of the ‘Student Alliance.

“The past week was a devastating reminder of the prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence on our campuses and the work that remains to be done to protect and support students across the province,” said Oladejo.

Police in Western and London said four women had filed formal complaints of being sexually assaulted on campus in recent days.

Police are also investigating allegations made on social media of mass drugs and sexual assault at the Medway-Sydenham Hall residence on campus during Orientation Week.

The force noted, however, that no one had filed a formal complaint about the allegations online.

Western said it takes the recent allegations seriously and offers a wide variety of supports for students.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on September 16, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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