Attention Ontario Colleges and Universities: It’s Time to Review Your Sexual Violence Policies!
Date: February 13, 2019
All Ontario colleges and universities have an important task to complete soon. They must conduct a review of their sexual violence policies, and this review must consider student input.
The Obligation to Review
The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act (MTCUA) requires colleges and universities to have a sexual violence policy that:
- addresses sexual violence involving students enrolled at the college or university;
- sets out the process for how the college or university will respond to and address incidents and complaints of sexual violence involving students enrolled at the college or university, and includes the elements specified in the regulations relating to the process;
- addresses any other topics and includes any other elements required by the regulations; and,
- complies with the requirements set out in the regulations.
Sexual violence policies must be reviewed at least once every three years and amended as appropriate. The review and amendment must be conducted in accordance with a process established for seeking input from a diverse selection of students, and all amendments must be Board-approved.
What To Do Now
Many colleges and universities last amended their sexual violence policies shortly before the MTCUA requirements came into force on January 1, 2017. A meaningful policy review process that involves students will take time and accordingly, we recommend that colleges and universities commence their review processes now.
This is an opportunity to critically assess whether polices are meeting the legislative goals – to reduce sexual violence on college and university campuses in Ontario and to encourage an appropriate response to sexual violence reports and complaints. Questions to pose may include the following:
- Is the sexual violence complaints resolution process sufficiently straightforward and clear? Do complainants know where to go to complain? Are the “touchpoints” in the complaint process suitably minimized to avoid re-traumatization?
- Are the roles of employees who are required to respond to, investigate or resolve complaints of sexual violence clearly explained? Are roles and duties causing conflict or a lack of effectiveness?
- Is the policy sufficiently clear regarding the institution’s limited ability to keep reports and complaints confidential?
- Are employees who receive reports clear about their obligations? Should more be done to encourage survivors to report to healthcare providers and trained experts and not to laypersons?
- Does the policy contain appropriate timelines for responding to reports or complaints of sexual violence?
- Does the policy strike an appropriate balance between support of complainants and procedural fairness for all parties? Have there been investigations and adjudications that have engendered “lessons learned” and that show a need to adjust the balance?
- Are the concepts of “consent” and “incapacity” appropriately defined?
- Does the policy contemplate and provide guidance regarding the application of other policies (e.g. human rights policies) in unique circumstances?
We would be happy to assist you in the assessment and review of your institution’s policies. Please contact Njeri Damali Sojourner-Campbell, Nadine Zacks, or your regular Hicks Morley lawyer for assistance.
The article in this client update provides general information and should not be relied on as legal advice or opinion. This publication is copyrighted by Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP and may not be photocopied or reproduced in any form, in whole or in part, without the express permission of Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP. ©