B.C. Liberals embrace Green Party bill requiring campus sex assault policies

Christy Clark has changed her mind on the issue of campus sexual assault policies, and says she will now work with Green Party leader Andrew Weaver on his bill.

Christy Clark said she's changed her mind about legislating campus sexual assault policies

B.C. Premier Christy Clark has committed to working with B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver to pass his bill requiring post-secondary institutions to have sexual assault policies. (CBC)

The B.C. government has had a change of heart and will now support Green party legislation requiring post-secondary institutions to have sexual assault policies, Premier Christy Clark said today.

Clark said the issue "really struck home to a lot of people, including me," after contemplating high-profile sexual assaults at B.C. universities and a campaign from student groups pushing for campus policies.

Last week, Green party MLA Andrew Weaver introduced the Post-Secondary Sexual Violence Policies Act requiring B.C.'s universities and colleges to write and maintain policies to prevent sexual violence.

While the government initially shot down the idea, Clark said she's changed her mind, and sexual assault on campus has become a cultural problem affecting young women.

"We want them to be safe in what is their first experience away from home and we can do more to protect them."

A sign created by students as part of the anti-violence project, following an assault on the UVic campus in September 2015. (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press)

'I was surprised,' says Weaver

Weaver is applauding the turnabout.

"I was surprised, and I have no problem saying kudos to the premier on an issue she now says is going to be dealt with," he said.

Clark said her government aims to have something passed by the end of the legislative session, and would first see if they can pass Weaver's legislation, with amendments.

She said a rapist's "best friend" is the failure of authorities to recognize and act on complaints.

Advocates say many universities in Canada still lack stand-alone sexual assault policies, which are thought to be crucial because they set out procedures for responding to complaints and outline support services for victims.

 With files from The Canadian Press