The Province introduced legislation today to make campuses safer and more responsive to the needs of victims by requiring public post-secondary institutions to establish sexual misconduct policies within one year of the bill receiving Royal Assent.
“As parents, we expect our sons and daughters will be safe,” said Premier Christy Clark. “And for students, university is often the first place they’re on their own. They have every right to feel safe on campus and today is a step in the right direction.”
Currently, public post-secondary institutions in the province are not required to have policies that address sexual violence or misconduct or have prevention initiatives or complaint response procedures established.
Bill 23, Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy Act, requires every public university, college and institute in the province to develop a sexual misconduct policy. The bill defines sexual misconduct to include a wide range of acts of a sexual nature, ranging from voyeurism to harassment and sexual assault.
The bill fulfils a commitment made by Premier Clark who said that government would work promptly with Oak Bay Gordon Head MLA Andrew Weaver to pass legislation as soon as possible.
“Adding the weight of the law sends a clear signal that acts of sexual violence against students will not be tolerated on post-secondary campuses,” said Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Andrew Weaver. “It is welcome news that government has stood up along with post-secondary institutions to say enough is enough.”
Institutions will be given one year from the date of Royal Assent to establish a sexual misconduct policy that is consistent with the legislation. Institutions may establish and implement their policies earlier.
“Our government takes student safety very seriously and is committed to working with the post-secondary sector to tackle the issue of sexual violence and misconduct,” said Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson. “The legislation will be supported by a framework developed with input from public universities, colleges and institutes on the best way to address sexual violence and misconduct.”
Once established, sexual misconduct policies will need to be reviewed – with student consultation – at least once every three years, or as directed by the minister.
“It is important to break the silence on violence against women wherever it happens,” said Tracy Porteous, executive director of Ending Violence Association of BC. “Despite the growing number of sexual violence incidents on campuses, very few people know what to do should abuse or violence appear. Legislation that requires clear policies on how to respond to and prevent sexual violence will ensure safer campuses, while giving higher profile to the issue.”
Each year, the president of a public post-secondary institution must report to the board on the implementation of the policy.
“Sexual assault and other acts of sexual violence are not tolerated on our campuses,” said University of British Columbia interim president and vice-chancellor Martha Piper. “This legislation will underpin work already under way at UBC to create a specific sexual assault policy in collaboration with students, faculty and other members of our community to ensure we are supporting survivors of sexual assault.”
“Post-secondary students throughout British Columbia welcome today’s legislation as a necessary first step to protect students,” said Sacha Fabry, chairperson of the Alliance of BC Students. “Sexualized violence on campuses is a growing problem and requires the entire sector to work together to tackle the issue, in consultation with students and survivors of sexual violence.”
The document Guidelines and Principles for Developing Policies and Actions to Prevent and Respond to Sexual Violence at BC Public Post-Secondary Institutions is expected to be available to all post-secondary institutions in the coming months.