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' We already meet sexual violence or harassment Ministry guidelines' say local college and university

'Our number one priority is the safety of students – everyone should be able to pursue their studies on or off campus without worrying about sexual violence or harassment'
education centre canadore nipissing turl 2016
Photo by Jeff Turl

On the heels of the Ontario government announcing regulatory amendments to create a safer environment for students attending all publicly assisted colleges and universities, Canadore and Nipissing issued a joint statement this afternoon saying they already meet the new rules.

"At Canadore College and Nipissing University, we believe all students and employees have a right to work and study in an environment free from any sexual violence or harassment," says the news release. " Our policies already address the issues raised by the Ministry of Colleges and Universities; however, our institutions will complete the review as outlined by the ministry."

“We seek to eliminate all forms of sexual violence at Nipissing University and continuously look for ways to improve our survivor-centric policies, supports, and preventative programming offered to students,” said Dr. Kevin Wamsley, President of Nipissing University. “We will work directly with Canadore College to ensure we are doing everything we can to create a safe living and learning environment on our shared campus where our students feel supported in coming forward to report any instances of sexual violence.”

“Our Sexual Assault and Violence Policy and response protocol ensure those who have experienced sexual violence are believed and their rights are respected,” said George Burton, Canadore College President.  “Canadore has a process of investigation that protects the rights of individuals who have experienced sexual violence, and holds accountable those individuals who have committed an act of sexual violence.”

Canadore has been under fire for the last few years for its poor record when it comes to sexual harassment and treatment of student concerns.

 In 2019 the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities released the results of the survey called "Student Voices on Sexual Violence.

See: Survey says: Canadore has second highest rate of reported sexual harassment of Ontario colleges

The Sexual Harassment Experience Index reflected the proportion of survey respondents who indicated that they experienced one or more incidents of sexual harassment since the beginning of the academic year. 

The survey showed that of 23 Community Colleges, Canadore College did poorly, ranking second at 57.6 per cent, behind only Loyalist, (59.7) in the "Sexual Harassment Experience Index."  That's well above the provincial average of 49,6 per cent.

Nipissing University ranked 11th out of 20 universities in the same index,

Canadore also displayed poor judgment regarding companies it partnered with.

See: Canadore College partner subject of sexual harassment claim in Superior Court lawsuit

And: Canadore abuse allegations voted 2019 top news story

The government will now require institutions to update their sexual violence and harassment policies in order to shield students from irrelevant questions during sexual violence investigations at institutions and ensure that they can safely bring forward complaints without fear of disciplinary action.

"Canadore College and Nipissing University are committed to ensuring an individual’s sexual history or expression are not a part of any sexual violence or harassment investigation and that those who have experienced sexual violence continue to feel safe and supported in bringing forward complaints without fear of any disciplinary action," says the joint Canadore/Nipissing release. "If during this review, our institutions find there are changes to be made, our policies will be updated to reflect them."

Jill Dunlop, Minister of Colleges and Universities said “Our number one priority is the safety of students – everyone should be able to pursue their studies on or off-campus without worrying about sexual violence or harassment.”

These institutions are required to review their sexual violence policies and amend them by March 1, 2022, so that institutions’ sexual violence policies will provide that:

  • A complainant acting in good faith, who discloses or reports sexual violence, will not be subject to actions for violations of the institution’s policies related to drug and alcohol use at the time the sexual violence took place.
  • During the institution’s investigative process, students who share their experience of sexual violence through disclosing, accessing support, and/or reporting to the university or college, will not be asked irrelevant questions from the institution’s staff or investigators, such as those relating to past sexual history or sexual expression.

“This past week has been a devastating reminder of the prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence on our campuses and the work that still needs to be done to protect and support students across the province,” said Eunice Oladejo, President of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance.

Jeff Turl

About the Author: Jeff Turl

Jeff is a veteran of the news biz. He's spent a lengthy career in TV, radio, print and online, covering both news and sports. He enjoys free time riding motorcycles and spoiling grandchildren.
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