For immediate release
Oct. 17, 2016
Weaver Comments on Vancouver School Board Firing
Victoria, B.C. – “For public education to thrive in British Columbia, the provincial government must work effectively and in partnership with Boards of Education to put students first,” said Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green Party and MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head. “Minister Bernier’s announcement today is yet another example of how the dysfunctional relationship between the B.C. Liberals and Boards of Education results in the spending of more time and money on opposing each other than on finding solutions that will benefit students and teachers in the classroom.”
“We need to build relationships that establish trust. Education in B.C. needs a fresh start. The B.C. Greens are committed to working collectively with all stakeholders to make public education a priority and put the interests of BC students first.”
“With the cancelling of the fall Legislative session, this major decision was made without parliamentary oversight, allowing the B.C. Liberals to avoid being held accountable for their continued mismanagement of our public education system.”
– 30 –
Office of Andrew Weaver, MLA
Today in the Legislature I introduced a bill intituled Environmental Bill of Rights Act, 2016.
This Bill specifically states that British Columbians have a right to a healthy environment and that it is the government’s responsibility to protect it for this generation as well as those to come. There are five key components to this Bill. The Bill:
I am no longer confident that the next generation of British Columbians will enjoy the same opportunities that we have today. The problem is that governments are frequently pitting the environment against industry and it doesn’t have to be that way.
The rhetoric that we hear in this province — the forces of no,’ ‘get to yes’ no matter what the question is — is not helpful to anybody, despite the fact that it’s a great sound bite. The intention of my bill is to create the rules in which industry can operate. Industry has crying out for this; the last thing industry wants is uncertainty. They want to know what the rules are. They want to know what the penalties are. They want to know how they can do business in British Columbia.
Municipalities in BC have recently expressed significant support for an Environment Bill of Rights Act, including 47 who have made a declaration affirming British Columbians rights to a healthy environment (in response to the Blue Dot Tour), as well as passing an endorsement at the 2015 UBCM Convention for a provincial bill outlining the same.
It’s time that we moved on from the outdated thinking that every environmental law brought forward is somehow an attack on industry. I have visited projects across British Columbia and the most successful businesses, which also create the greatest benefits for their local economy, are those that account for their impacts on the environment. This should become the norm for anyone who wants to do business in B.C.
Below I reproduce the video and text of the introduction of my bill. I also reproduce the accompanying media statement.
A. Weaver: I move that a bill intituled Environmental Bill of Rights Act, 2016, of which notice has been given in my name, be introduced and read a first time now.
A. Weaver: Over the past decade, British Columbia has seen steadied erosion of the environmental laws in our province. The lack of any significant climate action from this province is a clear example. By outlining the rights and responsibilities of the B.C. government and the citizens of British Columbia, this bill is designed to complement and expand upon the existing legislation used when decisions impact the environment.
This bill reinforces British Columbians’ right to a healthy environment and the government’s responsibility to protect it for this generation and those to come. A version of this legislation has already been passed in five legislatures across Canada: Ontario, Quebec, Yukon, Nunavut and Northwest Territories.
Furthermore, 47 municipalities in British Columbia have already made declarations concerning their citizens’ rights to a healthy environment. This was reaffirmed at the UBCM convention last fall when a motion was endorsed to call for legislation that grounded this right in environmental law.
I visited resource development projects across British Columbia. The most successful of these, which also create the greatest benefits for their local economy, are those that account for their impacts on the environment. This should become the norm for anyone who wants to do business in B.C.
The Environmental Bill of Rights Act introduces a number of new policy measures that will assure increased transparency and access to environmental decision-making and create a stronger framework for British Columbians to be included in environmental decisions made in this province.
I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of this House after today.
Bill M236, Environmental Bill of Rights Act, 2016, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
Media Statement: May 16, 2016
Environmental Bill of Rights Act introduced by Andrew Weaver
For Immediate Release
Victoria B.C. – To safeguard the right of current and future generations to a healthy environment, British Columbians must be able to effectively engage with the provincial government’s duty to protect the environment under its jurisdiction – and to hold the government accountable when they fail to do so, says Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay – Gordon Head and Leader of the BC Green Party.
In order to accomplish this, today in the legislature Dr. Weaver introduced the Environmental Bill of Rights Act. By outlining the rights and responsibilities of the BC Government and the citizens of British Columbia this bill is designed to complement and expand on the existing legislation used when decisions impact the environment. The bill reinforces British Columbians’ right to a healthy environment and the Government’s responsibility to protect it for this generation and those to come.
“It’s time that we moved on from the outdated thinking that every environmental law brought forward is somehow an attack on industry,” said Weaver. “I have visited projects across British Columbia and the most successful businesses, which also create the greatest benefits for their local economy, are those that account for their impacts on the environment. This should become the norm for anyone who wants to do business in B.C.”
A number of Canadian jurisdictions have enacted similar legislation including Ontario, Quebec, Yukon, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. In addition, 47 municipalities across British Columbia have passed municipal declarations supporting the right to a healthy environment. A similar declaration was endorsed at the UBCM Conference last fall, which called on the provincial government to enact a provincial environmental bill of rights.
“While we talk a big game in this province about our environmental protections, the fact is that our environmental laws have eroded over time,” said Weaver. “I am no longer confident that the next generation of British Columbians will enjoy the same opportunities that we have today, and I am concerned with the burden we place on them when rushed processes and projects cause unnecessary environmental damage.”
The Environmental Bill of Rights Act introduces a number of new policy tools which will ensure increased transparency and access to environmental decision-making and create a stronger framework for British Columbians to be included in environmental decisions made in this province.
Any decisions involving environmental matters would be documented in a new, publicly accessible, online registry. Currently only certain types of information are available in a generally piecemeal format.
The Bill also creates a new independent Commissioner of the Environment, who is responsible for investigating violations, providing the public an opportunity to participate in and access the process, and providing regular reports about the state of the B.C. environment.
“Frankly, I think it’s time that British Columbians were given more tools to ensure that their province doesn’t just talk a good game about protecting the environment – but is actually doing the job they are elected to do,” said Weaver.
Mat Wright – Press Secretary Andrew Weaver MLA
1 250 216 3382
Today in the legislature I rose to question the premier concerning the fundamental inconsistency in her attempting to claim leadership in climate change mitigation while at the same time touting the development of a hypothetical LNG industry. As you will see from the exchange below, the premier doubles down on the LNG rhetoric. The response was quite disappointing.
A. Weaver: Last week the Premier commented on the wildfire situation in Fort McMurray. Remarkably, she used the disaster as an opportunity to point out the importance of investment in the oil and gas sector. A couple of weeks prior, the Premier told a group in Fort St. John:
“If there’s any argument for exporting LNG in helping fight climate change, surely it is all around us when we see these fires burning out of control.“
While the scientific community has understood the link between global warming and the increasing occurrence of large wildfires for quite some time, the Premier’s statement is utterly bizarre. It’s about time that this government level with British Columbians and point out that developing an LNG industry in B.C. is simply not compatible with climate leadership.
My question to the Premier is this. How can the Premier continue to talk about showing climate leadership while at the same time completely undermining the climate policies put in place by the previous administration and using every opportunity to promote fossil fuel development in this province?
Hon. C. Clark: Well, I’m delighted to have a chance to answer the member’s questions, given that I didn’t get that opportunity yesterday. And thanks to the member for the question. He and I, there is no doubt….
Madame Speaker: Members.
Hon. C. Clark: There is no doubt that the member and I have a fundamental disagreement about this. He’s stated his case, and now I’ll state mine, and that is to say that around the world today there are 1,000 coal plants on the books, ready to be built, 150 of them in and around Beijing, in China. The only way that those coal plants will be prevented from being built is if they have an alternative source of energy. And that energy needs to be a transitional fuel that is already in production around the world, which we can get there.
But here’s the problem. We all want to move to renewable energies, and we would all, ultimately…. I know Canada has committed to the international commitment of trying to get off fossil fuels altogether. We are not there yet. And the challenge for humanity today is: how do we make sure that we prevent those coal plants from being built? How do we minimize the GHG emissions that would otherwise be produced in the processing and production of that energy?
British Columbia can play a vital part in that by producing the cleanest fossil fuel on the planet, by producing it in the cleanest method that anyone does around the globe, by shipping it to places like China, displacing much dirtier fuels with this very clean and important transitional fuel and, at the same time, create over 100,000 jobs over 30 years for British Columbians — which I know the members of the opposition, every single day, will stand up and oppose.
A. Weaver: This government has got its own Climate Action Team, and they noted: “New policies have not been added to the original policies, which plateaued in 2012.” In fact, we’ve weakened or repealed a number of these existing policies.
The government really can no longer claim leadership and, frankly, have lost credibility on the climate leadership file. The province has a legislated goal to reduce carbon emissions from the current 62 megatonnes to 43 megatonnes by 2020, and 13 megatonnes by 2050. One single LNG plant would add 15 megatonnes, and every British Columbian would have to provide negative emissions by 2050.
My question to the Premier is this. Will she commit today to abandon this government’s reckless and desperate attempts to land a hypothetical LNG project via a generational sellout and, instead, commit to aggressively increase the price on carbon and begin the transformation of our economy towards a low-carbon future? Or instead, will she continue to do her part to commit the youth of today to a desperate future of species extinction and geopolitical instability?
Hon. C. Clark: I have to say that was such a long question that it might have been more suited to the estimates process than question period. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to do that today.
I will say this. The investment in British Columbia for LNG so far is not hypothetical. The $20 billion invested in boots on the ground in our province is not hypothetical.
We remain the only jurisdiction in Canada and in North America that has the highest and broadest carbon tax. We are well out in front of any province in this country, any state in the United States, by a long shot.
We continue to maintain the only carbon-neutral government in Canada. We are working to build Site C, which will be a source of clean, low-cost energy for generations to come, despite the opposition of the members across the way. We are poised to make the biggest contribution to fighting climate change that Canada has ever made, with the export of liquefied natural gas.
I know that the forces of no across the way, in the NDP, oppose every step of the way the creation of an LNG industry and the jobs that would come from it for all of those working people around the world. But at least they can admit that while we’re putting…. If they don’t want to put people to work, they should at least join us in wanting to fight climate change by exporting this cleanest fossil fuel on the planet and displacing those dirtier sources of fuel that will otherwise inevitably be built.
Media Release: May 12, 2016
Andrew Weaver – Premier using smoke and mirrors on climate file
For Immediate Release
Victoria B.C. – Andrew Weaver, Leader of the B.C. Green Party and MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head suggested the Premier has not been forthright when it comes to taking action on Climate Change.
“I was shocked to hear her logic on how burning more fossil fuels is equivalent to taking strong action on climate change,” says Weaver. “The fact is that our Premier has done nothing substantial on the biggest issue facing our global civilization since she was elected.”
As fires raged in the north of the province, the Premier stated in late April that “If there’s any argument for exporting LNG and helping fight climate change, surely it is all around us when we see these fires burning out of control,” she told reporters in Fort St. John.
“Our Premier has her own Climate Leadership Team yet she fails to understand that creating an LNG industry and reducing our emissions are fundamentally incompatible,” argues Weaver. “At every opportunity her government promotes the idea that LNG will combat the climate crisis by displacing coal in Asia, while ignoring the fact that it will drastically increase our own emissions.”
“Notwithstanding the substantial evidence that, when its full life-cycle is accounted for LNG is just as bad coal, she fails to grasp that we can’t claim credit for shipping a “cleaner fuel” when we also ship millions of tonnes of coal out of B.C.,” says Weaver. “It’s just ridiculous to claim that shipping out a fossil fuel is equivalent to climate leadership or that it will do anything to address climate change.”
Today MLA Weaver asked the Premier how her argument makes sense, and if she would support the recommendations of her Climate Leadership Team and take stronger action on climate change. The Climate Leadership Team released its recommendations to government in October 2015.
“I ran for office on this issue because frankly it is the biggest issue facing our global civilization. Our province is already being ravaged by wildfires, floods, and droughts and it’s going to get worse. Yet the government is doing everything it can to exacerbate to the problem for its short-term political gain.”
Mat Wright – Press Secretary Andrew Weaver MLA
1 250 216 3382
Today in the legislature I introduced Bill M229 — Election Amendment Act, 2016. If enacted, Bill M229 would lower the voter age in British Columbia from 18 to 16.
Those who have been following this site will know that last month, I initiated a conversation on whether or not we should reduce the voting age to 16. The response on social media was wonderful and we received many emails on the topic.
It turns out that this conversation is not only happening now in BC. Prince Edward Island will be holding a referendum in the fall on electoral reform. The eligibility to vote will be extended to youth aged 16 and 17 in this referendum.
Below please find reproductions of both the text and video of the introduction of my bill. In addition, I reproduce the accompanying press release.
A. Weaver: I move that a bill intituled Election Amendment Act, 2016, of which notice has been given in my name, be introduced and read a first time now.
A. Weaver: It gives me great pleasure to introduce the Election Amendment Act, 2016, which, if enacted, would lower the voter age in British Columbia to 16. B.C.’s voting age was not always 18. The voting age dropped from 21 to 19 in 1952 and then again to 18 in 1992. In 1970, Canada’s Elections Act was amended to drop the voting age federally from 21 to 18.
There’s ample evidence to suggest that the earlier in life a voter casts their first ballot, the more likely they are to develop voting as a habit throughout their life. It’s also a common misconception that 16-year-olds are not as informed and engaged in political issues as older voters. The available research, however, suggests otherwise. These young B.C. citizens are also old enough to drive, drop out of school, get married, pay taxes and sign up for the military. They are taxed without representation.
Each and every year B.C. students are required to take social studies 11 or civic studies 11 or B.C. First Nations studies 12 to fulfil their social studies graduation requirement. Politics and government is a key unit in the social studies curriculum, taken when students are typically 16. It’s an ideal time to engage students on the history and importance of voting.
Today’s decision-makers don’t have to live with the long-term consequences of the decisions they make. Those who do are either not allowed to or are not participating in our democratic institutions. We can do something about the former by reducing the voter age to 16. After all, the youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow. They should have a say in the direction we are heading, as they will inherit what we leave behind.
Austria, Argentina, Brazil, Germany and parts of the U.K., to name but a few jurisdictions, have extended voting rights to 16-year-olds. Scotland experimented by lowering the voting age in their independence referendum. They viewed it as being so successful that they subsequently permanently dropped the voting age to 16 in all future Scottish Parliament and local government elections. It’s time that British Columbia did the same.
I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
Bill M229, Election Amendment Act, 2016, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
Media Release: May 10, 2016
Andrew Weaver – Good evidence for changing voting age to 16
Embargoed Until May 11, 1:30pm
Victoria B.C. – Andrew Weaver, Leader of the B.C. Green Party and MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head today tabled legislation to lower the voting age to 16 in British Columbia.
“There is a lot of evidence that shows that if we engage our youth earlier in the political process they are more likely to develop voting as a habit for the rest of their life,” says Weaver. “The decisions we make today as legislators will have a profound impact on the lives of our youth, I can’t think of a good reason why they shouldn’t have a stake in those decisions.”
The voting age was not always 18 in British Columbia. British Columbia dropped the voting age in 1952 from 21 to 19, but it wasn’t until 1992 that we made the subsequent change to lower the age to 18. The Election Amendment Act, 2016, if passed, would change the voting age to 16.
“Austria, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, and parts of the UK to name but a few jurisdictions, have extended voting rights to 16-year-olds”, notes Weaver. Scotland experimented by lowering the voting age in their independence referendum. They viewed it as being so successful that they subsequently permanently dropped the voting age to 16 in all future Scottish Parliament and local government elections.
It’s time that British Columbia did the same.”
“There is a general misconception that 16 and 17-year-olds are too young to make informed decisions or that they will just vote the way their parents tell them to. Research indicates that this is not the case,” argues Weaver. “It appears there is actually a trickle-up effect in civic participation. When youth engage in civics, conversations around the dinner table tend to focus on politics and local issues, which results in a positive impact on voter turnout for the whole family.”
“We allow our 16-year-olds to drive, pay taxes, drop out of school, get married, sign up for the military and work unrestricted hours. Why are we not allowing them to vote?” asks Weaver.
Mat Wright – Press Secretary Andrew Weaver MLA
1 250 216 3382
Today in the Legislature was second reading of Bill 23: Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy Act, 2016. As promised by the Premier, this legislation was introduced by government in response to my private members 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 survivors. 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.
Below are the text and video of my second reading speech.
It gives me great pleasure to rise and speak in support of Bill 23, the Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy Act. As we know, this bill arose in response to an earlier private member’s bill which was submitted to this House. It represents the cumulative input from numerous stakeholders across the province and is ultimately based on similar legislation that was tabled and passed in Ontario, catered slightly to the needs of British Columbia post-secondary institutions.
There were some changes in this act as brought forward, as mentioned by the official opposition, from the earlier version, including, for example, the focus on public post-secondary institutions, no longer including some of the private institutions. I have had discussions with the minister about the intention of this, and I’m sure we’ll explore that further as the minister is posed questions during committee stage.
There’s also, of course, the issue of gender identity and gender expression which, I have argued quite strongly, is important given that the transgender community experience sexualized violence and misconduct at even a greater extent than do women in our society. So we need this to be inclusive. But again, government will respond at the committee stage with reasons and rationale for the language that we have here.
In addition, there has been a comment made that the word “sexual violence,” under the definitions, was changed to “sexual misconduct.” In the original version, it had “sexual violence.” I recognize that for some people that might be troubling. What, to me, was very important is that the words “sexual violence” still appear in the title. Under the definitions, it is a definition meaning sexual misconduct.
I recognize that for many…. Including the original version I put in, sexual violence was used there. However, because it is a definition, what it is saying is anything within the quotes, wherever it follows in the legislation. Whether it be the words “sexual violence” or “sexual misconduct,” it doesn’t matter. What matters is that wherever you see those two words, it is defined by sexual assault, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, stalking, indecent exposure, voyeurism, etc.
This bill was the culmination of many, many hours of engagement with students, faculty associations, support services for survivors, and others. We had a town hall on this bill, just last week, attended by quite a large number of University of Victoria students. It was put on in collaboration with the University of Victoria Students Society. It was also attended by representatives from a number of agencies in and around Victoria. I will say that the overwhelming majority — in fact, in its entirety — there very strong support within the student body for the work that’s represented in this bill.
Now, what is it that this bill is trying to address? Let me see if I can provide some very illustrative examples of the type of things that occur.
There was a very unfortunate, in my view, editorial in the Times Colonist, which missed the point of this bill. In the Times Colonist recently, they talked about the fact that this should simply be a matter to be dealt with by the police. Of course we recognize that when criminal charges are to be laid, the police must be involved. Universities, post-secondary institutions, colleges, do not — do not — file charges and take people to court in a criminal sense. That is the role of the police.
However, that is not the issue. The issue is the systemic prevalence of sexualized violence on university and post-secondary campuses. I’m going to give you a few examples, but it comes to a much broader issue. While some might say that it’s always been around, it has always been around.
Fundamentally, we have in our society an entire generation of youth who’ve been brought up in the Internet age, where the accidental type of typing in a woman’s name can lead you to websites that put forward images of sexualized violence at the click of a finger, the push of a button. A whole generation of youth are exposed to graphic images, such that I begin to worry whether or not many within our society understand what a healthy relationship is. A healthy relationship is often — more often than not, certainly most often than not — expressed in some of the imagery that one can see on the internet so easily, and so difficult to control.
This is not something that existed during my time as a student university or as a grad student. Of course there has been and continues to be sexualized violence on campuses, both past and present. While our goal is to eliminate it in the future, we will do our best, but there will always be cases. No case is acceptable, and we must work towards zero cases.
However, there is a difference. The exposure to the Internet and exposure to the type of behavior that is highly graphic, highly offensive to many — to most, to all — that in more cases than not demonstrates a very unhealthy relationship between a man and a woman or between two people of the same gender.
It is unhealthy, yet we have a generation of youth exposed to this, entering to post-secondary institutions where, for the first time, they are moving away from home. They may be living in close quarters with others. Where for many, the concept of consent has never been discussed.
I’ll come to that later, when we talk about the movement of policies like this into the K-to-12 sector and the work that we’ve been doing to try to engage students in that regard. But let me give a couple specific examples, without quoting universities, without quoting colleges. I will say that in many cases, what I’m going to say as an example happened at multiple universities.
Here’s one. Let’s suppose, hypothetically…. Well, this is a true case, so we don’t need to suppose hypothetically. In at least two universities, there are cases where a very serious sexual assault occurred in student residences. Now, the difficulty with that is that student residences are places where people have to live beside each other.
If a serious sexual assault occurs in a residence, obviously, you would like to get the people away from each other. In at least two cases, that didn’t happen. The survivor had to live in the same dormitory as the perpetrator of the assault because of the inaction of an institution. That’s unacceptable. That’s unacceptable that an institution would cave to the legal threat of the perpetrator that they would sue if they were kicked out of residence. There needs to be policy that allows institutions to do that so that they’re not afraid to put the survivor first and to deal with the matters that are appropriate.
Here’s another story, a story that occurred in many places. This is a story about a very bold survivor named Jean Strong at Thompson Rivers University, who was quite forthcoming with us, participated in our panel last week and who went to Thompson Rivers University. Jean Strong was sexually assaulted twice in one term on campus. The psychological effects were profound, yet this student had to be on campus and attend the same classes as the perpetrators.
When going to the administration, she was told that perhaps the institution was not the best for her and that they would help her fill out forms to apply to another university in British Columbia and elsewhere in Canada. Now, that’s clearly not an acceptable response. And when the bold survivor, Jean Strong, told her story, what happened? More students came out and expressed their concern to Jean, who became like a flag-bearer for this issue on the campus.
I’ll give you another story. This is a story about Capilano University and a professor who, in their class, discussed the introduction of this bill. The reason why the professor wanted to discuss the introduction of this bill is because the official reporting stats from Capilano were that there were zero cases of sexualized violence on the campus. When the professor raised this to the class and discussed this bill to talk about the issue, one young woman in the class ran outside of the classroom, quite upset. And why was that the case? Well, as you might imagine, there were not zero cases of sexualized violence that occurred in the Capilano University environment.
I could go on with other examples — cases where people were told that in fact because they didn’t say no, then, really, the university or institution cannot do anything. It’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what consent means. Consent does not mean saying no or not saying no. Consent means specifically saying yes, which seems to be missed in the several cases that we’ve heard.
I’ve had cases come to me of international students who felt lost that the institutions had not looked after them, and they don’t know where to go. They don’t know what the services are, and they were hoping to get some support — and in some cases, didn’t. The litany of stories that we got from across British Columbia was overwhelming. And it was not only across British Columbia; they started coming in from across Canada. This is an issue that’s not exclusive to one university, not exclusive to one college. It’s pervasive across North America, and it says that there is something very wrong in our society — something very wrong when this sort of behavior can actually go on, on campuses and a lid be put over it.
One of the themes that came up at the town hall we had last week — it was actually quite an interesting theme — was that there was a concern expressed by more than one individual that the growth of the concern on campuses about the suppression, the perceived suppression, of actions on sexualized policy came lock in step with the corporatization of some of our university and post-secondary institutions — perhaps less of an issue to some of the smaller institutions, but more an issue to some of the bigger ones. Universities must and need to be perceived as safe places for students, not only local but across the world — safe places for those students to learn, to innovate, to be creative and to contribute to research and understanding of everything around us.
Universities, colleges and post-secondary institutions spend a lot of time trying to brand their university, to have a corporate brand on it. Now, the last thing you want is a corporate brand that actually gets undermined by the kind of outpouring of concern that we’ve seen, for example, happening on some of our university campuses of late. We have had examples from UBC. We’ve had examples from Thompson Rivers, which I mentioned, and elsewhere too. This is not good for the corporate branding of an institution.
There’s an inherent, built-in wish — whether acted upon or otherwise — that these issues not blow up, because it doesn’t do a good thing for one’s branding. Hence, some of the concern that in fact a lot of the concerns are being brushed under the table on our university campuses.
My hope and goal is that this will actually go beyond university campuses. As I’ve alluded to earlier, some of the problems are that university campuses…. Post-secondary institution campuses are really the first place where young people today move away from home, have constraints and barriers removed from them and are living away, perhaps in close quarters in dorms. They’ve grown up in an age of unrestricted access, on the Internet, to videos, to images that actually portray relationships in very unhealthy ways. Many may not understand what is or is not a healthy relationship. So we need to get education happening in the K to 12 as well.
In fact, I was in a Vic High class two weeks ago, with a teacher there. There’s actually a project that was initiated by a group called B.C. Speaks, which is a citizens’ assembly pilot project. What they did is they went and worked with Jim Pine, an outstanding socials teacher at Vic High, who’s in their 12 grade social justice class. They picked up the issue of sexualized violence, and they wanted to understand how the curriculum in British Columbia could be modified or changed to actually incorporate this in the K-to-12 sector.
These are the key points that this amazing class of individuals came up with. They recognized that key issues, like incorporating consent in the curriculum, are important. The term “consent” does not appear anywhere in the new sexual education curriculum that’s being discussed now. They want to emphasize respect. Sexual education is more than learning about body parts and sexual intercourse. It’s about learning to be a good person and to treat others with respect.
They want more time spent, to increase the time spent on sexual education. Eighty minutes per grade is too small an amount to deal with all complexities of this topic. Many questions are left unanswered, they say, or are informed by poor sources, such as the Internet pornography that I have referred to earlier. They’re hoping to see sex education curriculum for grades 11 and 12, as there is none in the grade 11 and 12 curriculum. They’re hoping to see a new course on human well-being being introduced. The course would deal with sexual, emotional, physical and mental well-being. It would be mandatory, they would argue.
Now, I have some sympathy for this. All students are taking a course called “Grad Transitions,” and I can think of no better course to actually embed the important issue of what is or is not a healthy relationship and what is or is not consent than in a course that all students must take.
They point out that there’s inadequate sex ed in grade levels, which leads to poor behaviour at universities and beyond, something that I have great sympathy for. They went so far, as I alluded to, as to actually develop some suggested curricula. We are in good hands when the next generation recognizes that there is an issue in our society for which solutions exist and they’re willing to stand up and be part of forming those solutions and disseminating them through others.
Let’s come back to the bill. We sought, in the earlier version that I introduced as a private member’s bill, input from every university student society in the province as well as input from support services for survivors, and we got an enormous number of responses — let me say, overwhelming support for this bill. Without question, there was no person, no group that responded that we don’t need this bill.
There were some institutions that would argue that they’re further along the advancement towards the development of such policies and look forward to tweaking their policies to bring them in line with others. And there were some who felt that there was a desperate urge and need for policies to be brought in.
If we go to BCIT, for example, we had a number of comments from there. They actually have a student code of conduct, non-academic conduct, which states the following.
“BCIT’s Student Code of Conduct applies to conduct that occurs on BCIT premises, at BCIT-sponsored activities and to off-campus conduct that has the potential to adversely affect the institute, community and/or the pursuit of BCIT’s objectives. The policy is applicable to students as well as other individuals while they are on BCIT premises or in attendance at BCIT-authorized or BCIT-sponsored functions.“
Now, this is important, because there are two things that they start to talk about in this code of conduct. We’re not specifically talking about sexualized violence, but they actually raise the concept of a code of conduct, and in their comments, they raise the concern that we need to ensure that more people are included other than just university students, a point that was also brought forward by the University of British Columbia. It is talking now about university faculty-student or staff-to-staff or staff-to-faculty or staff-to-student relationships and the role of sexualized violence in poisoning some of these relationships on campuses across the province.
With that said, one of the good things here with the legislation is it does allow for this. It doesn’t prescribe only students. In fact, it prescribes some language called “prescribed persons.” That is, regulations will allow for others to be included in this legislation, such as faculty, such as staff, bringing this concept broader, integrating it fully within the university community.
The code of conduct within the BCIT also states:
“Each student will be responsible and accountable for his or her conduct from the time of application for admission or enrolment through the actual awarding of a credential. This includes but is not limited to conduct that may occur in the following times and situations: during the academic year; before classes begin or after classes end; during periods between terms of actual enrolment; during periods when the student may be completing a practicum or work term for an employer or other organization, either for compensation or not, when required by a program of study at BCIT; during a time when a student withdraws from the institution while a disciplinary matter is pending; conduct that is not discovered until after a credential has been awarded.“
This is a rather broad student code of conduct that exists at BCIT in terms of the time at which it applies. This is one of the things that the BCIT folk we talked to suggested was important, recognizing in the development of policies that the time at which these policies applied must be broad, and they’ve offered some suggestions here as well. We had a number of comments, as I mentioned, from BCIT.
We had extensive feedback from a nine-member panel, a multi-stakeholder group called the sexual assault prevention and response working group. They were, overall, quite supportive of the legislation. They had a couple of things that they thought might need some clarity. They thought that more clarity was needed regarding the scope of application of the legislation.
As I’ve discussed earlier, there was some concern about the survey. That is, they had a number of concerns related to this. They were concerned when it comes to collecting and reporting data. They were concerned about lumping together incidents of sexualized violence that, broadly defined, could mischaracterize the nature and scope of the issues, as well as potentially trivialize the seriousness of the more serious.
In essence, what they were saying is that the data needs to be quality data. We don’t want to have lots of reporting data that inflate statistics or multiply report the same statistic or diminish the importance of more serious cases over some cases that may be slightly less serious. They outlined in their detailed and thorough response to us quite a number of recommendations with respect to that.
Of course, the concerns about confidentiality were first and foremost — we do have the privacy legislation here in British Columbia. There’s concern expressed, by numbers, and I’m sure the government would agree with this — that the concern for the privacy of the survivor and also the alleged perpetrator be protected at all times during this process.
We had extensive feedback from UBC, talking about the requirement for policy, specifically talking about the needs for staff and faculty to be involved, the need to have very broad consultation and to increase the consultation beyond just students, to include First Nations students, as well as transgender students and people representing a diversity of our society.
This is very solid advice that I think we should act upon and that I think is the intent of this legislation. Most university campuses attempt to be inclusive in their consultative process. What the UBC group that we talked about there were hoping to ensure is that this is actually part of the intent of the legislation and be made aware. These are the things we’ll explore during committee stage.
We had some comments from, as I mentioned, survivors services. We had some comments from the Canadian Federation of Students, from an anti-violence project, on one campus, and from the Native Students Union at the University of Victoria. Again, this is one of a unique, rather large group at University of Victoria, the student union there, who were concerned about the treatment of First Nations and the means and ways the process includes them, and the fact that — they would argue, then, and the evidence is borne out — there is an increased risk of sexualized violence amongst First Nations students.
We had, again, many, many suggested amendments. We had comments from staff. We had the Capilano Faculty Association formally pass a resolution supporting the private member’s bill. I won’t tire Hansard staff by listing all the multitude of people that we were discussing with and we continue to discuss with.
There were some more concerns out of UBC. This was important. Not concerns we received from consultation with people from the University of British Columbia. There was concern that a problem that needs to be clearly identified is that the present legislation has no requirements for universities to acknowledge their own liability. One of the things that’s important about this legislation is that the sheer fact it exists means that there will have to be an education component.
One of the ways that universities and colleges can deal with ensuring that people understand the existence of these policies is to go to their orientation weeks. Every new student who is going to these new post-secondary institutions typically participates in orientation weeks, and it is in the orientation weeks that the education component of the introduction of this bill could start to talk about the issue of what consent is.
Consent is not saying: “Oh, the person didn’t say no. Therefore, I have consent.” Consent is about specific statement of yes. Consent is not about not saying no; it’s about saying yes. We need talk about what a healthy relationship is, talk about what is expected or not expected behavior in a dormitory on campus. These types of things need to be and will be included as various institutions across British Columbia move forward with the development of their policies.
Another problem that has arisen was the following rights for individual students should be required in the legislation. Now, some of these are implicit in the actual existence of privacy laws within B.C., but the specific ones that they talk about here are explicit steps to ensure an individual’s right to privacy, due process, equally of both accused and victim. And the prohibition of silencing. These I think are key points that, again, we can explore as we discuss the bill further at committee stage.
Again, another problem. This is with respect to section 5, regarding the survey. This is recent feedback we have got not only on the government’s bill but also on the prior version of that via the private member’s bill.
It said: “As written, this introduces political decision-making, the infrequent discretion of the Minister of Education, into what should be an annual fact-investigation process which allows standardized comparison against all institutions of higher learning in British Columbia.” It’s an important point. I’d be delighted to share some of this feedback with the minister or at committee stage where we can actually flesh out where these concerns are coming from.
That’s not to say that this bill is not supported. It was wholeheartedly supported. But it’s important that we reflect upon the various comments and concerns that were raised as we move forward in the development of the required policies.
Another good point that was raised, coming out of the UBC cases that we were talking about, is that the legislation does not require institutions to warn about ongoing possible threats; regularly disclose the number of expelled students, fired employees, and ongoing investigations; or specifically collecting and publishing statistics about incidents.
The issue of ongoing threats is an important one. There have been documented cases, high-profile cases, in British Columbia where known perpetrators — known to institutions — have gone on and subsequently been involved with sexualized violence with other survivors on campuses. The institution knew of existing examples. This is important — that there be some requirement for institutions to warn about possible threats within their community.
There are other issues there were raised here with respect to the employee-student relationships. A very important one, of course, is that in an employee-student relationship, there is a power over. That can be abused. Recommendations we received in that area were quite common.
We have another series of 44 recommendations that actually came from some legal advice we received that would actually also be very helpful in the formulation of policies across campuses that we will make available subject to approval from the people who sent it to us.
There is great interest in this bill across British Columbia. There is great desire for this bill to pass across British Columbia. This bill, like every bill, will not be perfect. It will need to be reviewed and evolved as time goes on, as society changes.
It does point out the need, from the feedback we got, for complementary legislation to start to emerge for the K-to-12 sector, particularly in dealing with the fact that students are now graduating in an age where times have changed, given the preponderance of availability of the Internet and all the good and bad that happens with that.
With that, I thoroughly look forward to discussing this bill further at committee stage. I’m sincerely grateful to the many survivors across this province, to the student associations across this province, to the faculty associations across this province, to the hard-working people at the survivor centres across this province and to the Minister of Advanced Education and the government for their work towards making this act a reality.
It came. It was a lot of hard work — a lot of people involved. But first and foremost, we must thank those who’ve had bold courage to actually stand up and speak out.