On March 8th I introduced Bill M205: Post-Secondary Sexual Violence Policies Act. This bill, based on similar legislation in Ontario, was designed to address the pervasive occurrence of sexualized violence plaguing universities, colleges and other post-secondary institutions in British Columbia. If enacted, it would create a legal responsibility for them to develop and maintain policies that would work to prevent the occurrences of sexual violence and provide support for victims. The act would allow university- and college-specific policies to be developed that would meet the needs of students, including education and protection, while working to create a safe environment for all students to come forward to report a sexual assault.
Today in the legislature I rose to question the Premier as to whether or not she supports the need for sexual assault policy legislation for post-secondary institutions. I was very pleased with the Premier’s response. Not only did she respond with a strong statement acknowledging the importance of this issue, but more importantly, the Premier noted the urgency with which we must act on it. She committed to work with me to bring the legislation forward in a timely manner. In fact she stated that her hope was that it would happen this session.
As noted in my press release (reproduced below), I am thrilled by the Premier’s response and welcome the opportunity to work with her, and with students across the Province, to ensure campuses become safer places. I want to thank the Premier for her willingness to make this important issue a priority.
It would not be appropriate for me to take full credit for the introduction of this bill. I am incredibly fortunate to work with exceptional people who helped with its development. I am indebted to Claire Hume, Stefan Jonsson, Evan Pivnick, Aldous Sperl and Mat Wright for their efforts in this regard. In addition, I am very grateful to Brontë Renwick-Shields, Kenya Rogers, Jean Strong and the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre, for their willingness to educate me on the importance of this issue. Finally, and collectively, we all owe a debt of gratitude to the incredibly courageous survivors of sexualized violence who had the courage to speak out.
Below I reproduce both the text and video of my Question Period exchange with the Premier.
A. Weaver: Last Tuesday the Premier told News 1130 that she acknowledged more needs to be done to support the survivors of sexual assault on B.C. post-secondary campuses. The Premier stated:
“Rape kits need to be available, trained staff need to be available, and some universities and colleges are doing a more thorough job than others. So the Minister of Health is going to go out and have that conversation, because we have to make sure that help is available.“
I fear that the Premier may have missed the larger point about the conversation we need to have. With respect, we don’t just need more rape kits. We need to take this issue head on, recognize that our post-secondary campuses aren’t always providing a safe environment for B.C. students, and we need to have a plan in place to prevent assaults from happening in the first instance.
When the University of Ottawa surveyed its student body last year, it found that 44 percent of female students experienced sexual violence or unwanted sexual touching while attending the university. I’m asking the government to take a clear leadership role and make a clear statement that this is a responsibility they will act upon.
To the Premier, does she support the need for sexual assault policy legislation for post-secondary institutions?
Hon. C. Clark: Being raped is one of the worst things that can happen to any woman, whether that is intimate-partner assault, whether that’s sexual abuse at the hands of a family member or whether it’s an assault from a stranger. Any woman who has experienced it will tell you that it leaves a lifetime of scars.
We hope for women who are raped that they can find a way to heal, and many do. Some will say they became stronger as a result. But all women who have been sexually assaulted are changed.
It’s something that should not be happening in our society. Sadly, it appears to be more prevalent on university campuses than most other places in our society. There is more that we can do and more that we should do.
The Minister of Advanced Education has begun that work. I certainly welcome the interest of the member from Oak Bay. I’ve had a chance to look at his bill, Bill M205, and I’d certainly look forward to working with him on finding a way that we can either pass this bill or amend it and pass a similar version to it in our Legislature.
We need to do more to protect women on campus from sexual assault because these life-changing, traumatic events don’t need to happen. As a society, we can and we must do more to prevent them.
A. Weaver: Thank you to the Premier for her response. I’m very pleased to hear this. As the Premier and government will know, without a legislative requirement to develop a policy, we risk continuing the status quo where institutional optics are sometimes allowed to trump student safety.
For example, a student at Thompson Rivers University, who was recently assaulted twice in one term, was told: “Maybe you would be better suited to a different school.” UBC made headlines last year when it turned out that reported cases of sexual assault on their campus were less than a quarter of those reported by the UBC RCMP detachment. Just yesterday, at the University of Victoria, a student noted that she felt “completely invalidated and silenced” by a UVic investigation into her sexual assault.
Addressing this has to be about our institutions, our students and not post-secondary institutions. My question to the Premier is this: what is the timeline for government to introduce such legislation?
Hon. C. Clark: I can’t give a definitive timeline today, except to say that I recognize, along with the member, that this is an urgent issue. A rapist’s best friend is silence. A rapist’s best friend is shame. A rapist’s best friend is the failure of authorities to recognize a complaint when it comes forward and fail to act on it.
We will not reduce the prevalence of sexual assault until we strengthen the institutions that are there to protect women, until we ensure that women feel safe coming forward and saying that they have been sexual assaulted. They will only do so when they have the knowledge that someone will act on what they’ve told them and keep them safe.
We have much more to do, and I welcome the member’s active interest in this. I thank him for presenting his bill. We will work with him on it on an urgent basis and try and get something passed with respect to changing policy as soon as we possibly can.
Media Release: March 16, 2016
Premier pledges to work with Andrew Weaver to pass Post-Secondary Sexual Violence Policies Act
For Immediate Release
Victoria B.C. – In response to a question from Andrew Weaver, Leader of the B.C. Green Party and MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, the Premier pledged that her government would pass his Private Member’s Bill, or develop comparable legislation to address the prevalence of sexual assaults on post-secondary campuses.
“This is a strong statement from the Premier and her government that they acknowledge the importance of this issue,” says Weaver. “Most importantly, the Premier acknowledged the urgency with which we must act on this issue and has committed to work with me to bring forward legislation in a timely manner.”
“I am thrilled by the Premier’s response and welcome the opportunity to work with her, and with students across the Province, to ensure campuses become safer places,” notes Weaver. “Sexualized violence affects everyone in our communities, regardless of gender identity.”
Andrew Weaver tabled the Post-Secondary Sexual Violence Policies Act, 2016 last Tuesday. The Bill, if passed, would create a legal responsibility for every University and College in B.C. to develop and maintain policies that would provide education for students, support for survivors and would work to prevent the occurrences of sexual assault on campuses.
There have been several highly publicized incidents in the news lately. When a student at Thompson Rivers University was sexually assaulted twice in one term she was told ‘Maybe you would be better suited to a different school.’ UBC made headlines last year when it turned out that their reported cases of sexual assault on campus were less than a quarter of those reported by the UBC RCMP detachment. Earlier this week it was reported that a UVic student felt ‘completely invalidated and silenced’ by a UVic investigation into her sexual assault.
“We can’t know the actual scale of the problem unless we have post-secondary institutions honestly reporting about it,” says Weaver. “Based on the little data available, and the widespread culture of under reporting that exists, any post-secondary institution that takes this issue on seriously would likely see their reported assaults far exceed other institutions. No public institution wants to have that negative attention; they want to be seen as safe places for students to study.”
“A legislated approach is required to ensure best practices and consistent standards are met, while establishing a clear legal responsibility for post-secondary institutions to maintain these policies,” said Weaver. “I want to thank the Premier for her willingness to make this important issue a priority”.
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Mat Wright – Press Secretary Andrew Weaver MLA
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April 7, 2017