By: Srijani Datta, Assistant News Editor
On May 8, a joint publication on campus sexual violence was released by student organizations across the country. The publication, titled Shared Perspectives: A Joint Publication on Campus Sexual Violence Prevention and Response, addresses the need to combat and prevent sexual violence in post-secondary education institutions.
The document has been put together by Alliance of BC Students (ABCS), the College Student Alliance, the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, Union étudiante du Québec, New Brunswick Student Alliance, Students Nova Scotia, the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, and the University of Prince Edward Island Student Union.
In April 2016, the B.C. provincial government introduced Bill 23, or the Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy Act. The bill defined sexual misconduct to include related acts of voyeurism, harassment, and sexual assault. It directed public post-secondary institutions to set up sexual misconduct policies to take care of sexual and gender violence in universities. While the bill has been in effect for a year now, The Globe and Mail reports that students feel that disparate levels of support and resources are provided at different universities.
While SFU’s Sexual Violence Support and Prevention Office, which was established in February 2017, has a budget of $340,000 and four employees to help students with reporting and education, Kwantlen Polytechnic has no such designated office yet. The joint publication by students highlights this inequality in resources and services as an obstacle to the proper implementation of Bill 23.
In the report, members of ABCS further stressed that despite the presence of Bill 23 and the institutional initiatives it has sparked, the overall progress in tackling sexual violence in BC has not been very effective. The publication critiqued Bill 23 for lacking “substantive defining principles.” It stated that the fact that each institution must individually research and establish their own best practices, supports, and procedures leads to further inconsistency and delays in implementing the bill.
According to ABCS members in the report, the definition of “sexual misconduct” needs to be worked upon. Meg Neufeld, education coordinator for Anti-Violence Project was quoted in the report, stating that the term “sexual misconduct” as used in the bill “dilutes the fact that sexualized and gender-based violence is violence not misconduct.”
“You cannot equate sexual assault to plagiarism.” – Meg Nuefeld, education coordinator for Anti-Violence Project
While evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of the bill, the publication suggests ways it could be improved. The ABCS recommends that the provincial government of BC fund a comprehensive action plan, and that the action plan include “guiding principles and procedures, with a focus on prevention work, education, and support services that include and centre frontline workers and survivors.”
The contributors of the joint publication stress the need for a comprehensive policy that leads to consistent actions across institutions. To this end, the members of the ABCS further recommend that the older policy be updated with the new action plan, which should then be equipped with funding, “strategically allotted based on need of institutions, creating equal and standardized access to support across the province.”
With files from The Globe and Mail.