Changes Proposed to Sexual Harassment and Violence Policies of Colleges, Universities and Private Career Colleges
Date: February 2, 2021
On January 27, 2021, the Ontario government announced proposed changes to the sexual harassment and violence policies of colleges, universities and private career colleges. These policies are required by legislation. The government states the proposed changes are designed to increase campus safety and to encourage victims to report instances of sexual violence and harassment without fear of reprisal, stigmatization or that their allegation will not be taken seriously.
The current legislative requirements for these policies came into force in 2017. Section 17 of the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act, 1990 requires that every college and university that receives public funding must have a sexual violence policy (which includes sexually harassment) and sets out the details of that requirement. Ontario Regulation 131/16 made under that statute establishes a common standard and minimum requirements for the sexual violence policies for these institutions.
Similarly, section 32.1 of the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005 requires that every private college have a sexual violence policy and sets out the corresponding requirements. Ontario Regulation 415/06 establishes the minimum requirements respecting the content of sexual violence policies for private career colleges.
The Ontario government is now proposing further regulatory changes to the sexual violence and harassment policy requirements and is seeking input from interested stakeholders. The proposed changes are identical for both colleges and universities and for private career colleges and contain two new requirements which would protect students who bring forward allegations by:
- preventing complainants from being asked irrelevant questions during the investigation process, which would include, for example, questions about their past sexual history or sexual expression, and
- preventing the imposition of discipline on complainants who, in making the complaint in good faith, disclose information that suggests a violation of the institution’s drug and alcohol policy.
The government is inviting the public to participate in online consultation on the issue and requesting feedback by March 15, 2021.
Should you wish to make submissions on these proposed changes and require assistance, please contact your regular Hicks Morley lawyer.
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