BC’s Advanced Education, Skills, and Training minister Melanie Mark has asked post-secondary faculty and students for feedback on the sexual violence and misconduct policies at their institution. The feedback period will run from now until the end of January 2018, and is facilitated via an online feedback form.

BC became the second province — after Ontario — to have mandatory sexual assault policies at its public post-secondary institutions after years of claims that sexual assault allegations were mishandled by staff and faculty. Experts have deemed these policies as good starting points for students who feel like they have been victims of sexual harassment or assault by peers or faculty, outlining options for taking action against their perpetrators.

“I want to use feedback to ensure we have a strong policy framework in place that centres on the health, safety and well-being of our post-secondary community.” – Melanie Mark

As of May 2017, all public post-secondary institutions in British Columbia were instructed to have a sexual misconduct policy in place outlining the definition of “sexual violence and misconduct” and how the staff plans to handle the situation if a complaint is brought up. The policy must be made available online for public viewing. On May 19, the Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy Act (SVMPA) was passed into BC’s legislature as a formal law.

According to the SVMPA, the sexual misconduct policies at each post-secondary institution must be revised every three years, or immediately if directed to do so by a minister. The institution must consult with students and factor their opinions into the review. After, the institution will determine if the policies require amendments. If amendments are required, they have to be made under law.

Mark released a statement on December 4, referring to the SVMPA as a “first step” to a larger vision for post-secondary institutions: “Moving forward, I want to raise awareness of the policies and ensure the policies are effective in protecting our students, faculty and staff. I want to use feedback to ensure we have a strong policy framework in place that centres on the health, safety and well-being of our post-secondary community.”

The move to address sexual misconduct policies in BC coincides with SFU’s internal efforts to update its own Sexual Violence Misconduct Prevention, Education and Support policy (SVMPESP), a revised version of which was released in March 2017 following the alleged mishandling of sexual assault cases in 2016.

The revised SVMPESP explicitly defines terms associated with sexual assault such as consent, survivor, and sexual violence and misconduct, as well as the actions that fall under each term. Under clause 8.0, if a survivor chooses to report their assault to the university, they are then given different options to start an internal process. They are promised full confidentiality during the process.

To access the feedback form to comment on SFU’s sexual assault and prevention policy, visit https://engage.gov.bc.ca/preventsexualviolence/feedback/

With files from CBC News.