The government of Ontario introduced legislation Tuesday that targets sexual violence, workplace harassment and aims to increase support for survivors.
A statement released by the premier's office says the legislation aims to make workplaces, campuses and communities safer and "more responsive to the needs of survivors and to complaints about sexual violence and harassment."
If passed, the legislation would:
- Require every college and university to have a policy on sexual violence and review it every three years
- Ensure employers properly investigate harassment incidents and complaints and have proper sexual harassment prevention programs
- Get rid of the limitation period that exists for civil proceedings based on sexual assault
- Get rid of the limitation period that exists for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence to make applications to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board
- Make it quicker to end a tenancy agreement for people experiencing sexual or domestic violence
Advocates for victims of violence and abuse said the legislation will help young women on college and university campuses.
"Young women on campus are facing the highest rates of sexual assault," Amanda Dale, executive director of the Barbra Schlifer Clinic, told CBC News.
"It's absolutely crucial to be active on campus and to have the student bodies engaged in those discussions so realistic approaches to the issue of sexual violence on campus are being addressed."
Students hailed the proposed legislation.
"You can never talk about it too much, because these things are happening and they shouldn't be," one Ryerson student said.
"I think it's a good idea because it does happen and when it does happen there should be a way to deal with it that isn't, 'oh, maybe you should see a counsellor or maybe you should talk to so-and-so,'" a University of Toronto student told CBC News.
According to the Ontario government, one in three women in Canada will experience some form of sexual assault in her lifetime. The legislation is part of the Ontario action plan that includes increased government funding community and hospital-based sexual assault centres.
The plan also includes a province-wide education campaign called It's Never OK.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne launched the campaign last year. Its goal is to end the existing "culture of misogyny," which Wynne says is deep-rooted in society. The government has promised $41 million for the plan over three years.
Ontario government's anti-sexual violence ad: #WhoWillYouHelp