Edmonton

Report calls for province to develop sexual violence policy for universities

A report compiled by the Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS) examines the current policies in place and provides recommendations to the provincial government to create a framework that could be applied to all post-secondary institutions in Alberta.

Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador do not have any legislation in place

University students in Alberta are calling on the province to develop a policy pertaining to sexual violence on campus. (Tricia Kindleman/CBC)

A report released Monday is calling on the provincial government to do more to prevent sexual violence at post-secondary institutions. 

The Sexual Violence on Campus report was compiled by the Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS).

It is the first time a paper like this has been compiled by a student-led organization in Alberta, said Sadiya Nazir, chair of CAUS.

"This paper really takes pieces from across Canada and sort of frames it in the Alberta context," Nazir said. "We have seen other provinces that have legislation specifically pertaining to campus sexual violence."

The report defines sexual violence as an umbrella term that refers to sexual acts committed against a person who has not or cannot consent. 

Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador do not have any legislation in place regarding sexual violence on campus policies while Nova Scotia currently has a bill before its assembly. 

Ontario was the first province to introduce legislation in 2015. After The Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act passed, all post-secondary institutions in the province were required to have a sexual violence policy in place.

Between 2016 and 2018 British Columbia, Quebec, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island all enacted similar policies.

Nazir said they want to see something standard across Alberta as well.

"[That will] make sure that institutions who maybe don't have the capacity to deal with campus sexual violence as well as others are still being supported and have the guidelines to make sure that [the government's] robust policies can be implemented."

Meeting with ministers

On Jan. 29, Nazir and other student leaders met with Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides as well as Leela Aheer, minister of culture, multiculturalism and status of women.

Both "are committed to continuing to work with students to determine best practices and solutions to ultimately work toward the prevention of sexual violence on campus," Chandler said in an emailed statement. 

Nazir said they plan to continue to push the conversation forward.

"We will make sure that the government stays accountable to their expressed interest in this issue."

The process of collecting and compiling the data was student led and they plan to continue to use student voices as they present their findings to institutions, Nazir said.

"We have student leaders who are becoming the voice of this because of their own experience with sexual violence on their campuses. So, we want to make sure that the conversations are survivor led and survivor focused. 

"There are so many nuances to this conversation that only survivors will be able to raise awareness on," Nazir said.

Report recommendations

The report includes an analysis chart that compares the policies of 21 post-secondary institutions from around the province. It examines the policy, how often it is reviewed, what it covers, and other aspects that could be better outlined with a provincial framework in place.

After the institutions have had time to review the information, Nazir hopes to bring educators and government representatives together so they can also be involved in the conversation.

Some of the recommendations in the report include a better method to assess and measure the prevalence of campus sexual violence, a provincial framework outlining campus policies and procedures, funding for training, prevention efforts, and support services.

According to 2014 data from Statistics Canada, 636,000 sexual assault incidents were self-reported. 87 per cent of those were committed against women and nearly 47 per cent of those women were between the ages of 15 and 24. 

CAUS represents over 100,000 students from five different universities in Alberta.

About the Author

Tricia Kindleman

Reporter/Producer

Tricia Kindleman has spent her life in Alberta. She grew up in Edmonton and attended Mount Royal College, now university, in Calgary. She has worked in newsrooms in Edmonton and Grande Prairie.