British Columbia

UBC alumna says school's draft sexual assault policy an improvement but not perfect

A UBC alumna with an ongoing human rights complaint against the school says the university’s new draft policy for addressing sexual assault on campus is a step forward but she still has concerns.

UBC insists independent investigators will be truly independent

UBC's board of governors tabled a second draft of a sexual assault policy on Tuesday, which will now go to public consultation. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

A UBC alumna with an ongoing human rights complaint against the school says the university's new draft policy for addressing sexual assault on campus is a step forward but not perfect.

"Victims are now complainants with rights in the process," Glynnis Kirchmeier told On The Coast guest host Belle Puri. "A student can expect a timely process … with students, with such a short lifespan at the institution, that's very key.

"The fact that process is even written down at all, so we can see what it is and contest it and make it better is very important. And complainants have a right to see the investigatory reports that are written about their own traumatic experiences."

But she still has concerns: will the new independent investigators be truly independent from the university?

"If it's not independent, I fear there's going to be decisions made that control liability for the university and not actually provide a safe environment as required by the Human Rights Code."

She also says the policy does not outline the school's jurisdiction adequately and there are issues about cross-party disclosure in cases where there may be multiple complainants and a single respondent.

Glynnis Kirchmeier says she still has concerns about the latest draft sexual assault policy. (CBC)

"Those two complainants would not be able to know about the evidence of the other person … in civil court, all parties to a civil matter have equal rights of disclosure," Kirchmeier said.

Kirchmeier wants to see adequate funding for these new efforts, input from outside groups like Women Against Violence Against Women (WAVAW) on their efficacy and real consequences for offenders under these policies.

UBC says investigators will be independent

UBC vice president of students Louise Cowin says the latest draft policy is quite different from an earlier draft in June and reflects input from many stakeholders.

She says she's hopeful the creation of a single office for sexual assault victims will remove confusion about where and how victims can report an incident and better provide assistance.

She also was adamant that the investigators would be independent.

"The director of investigations will be a university employee, but the university will contract out the expertise with regard to actually conducting the investigation," she said.

"The investigators actually conducting the fact finding will not be employed by the university."

Cowin says cross-party disclosure is restricted by the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act which must protect the identities of complainants, even from other complainants, without their consent.

Cowin says the latest draft policy will go out for a month of public consultation shortly.

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast

To hear the interview with Glynnis Kirchmeier, click the audio labelled: UBC alumna responds to school's draft sexual assault policy

To hear the interview with Louise Cowin, click the audio labelled: UBC vice president discusses school's draft sexual assault policy