McGill, UQAM miss province's deadline to update sexual violence policies

The law requires that institutions have a policy in place that covers social activities including orientation week, have mandatory training in place for students, create a complaints process and explicitly include sexual violence in their code of conduct.

New law requires colleges and universities to have mandatory training for students, support for victims

McGill University (pictured), UQAM and a majority of the province's colleges have not adopted a new sexual violence policy as required by provincial law. (Charles Contant/CBC)

Two Montreal universities and a majority of the province's CEGEPs have not adopted a policy on sexual violence by the Jan. 1 deadline set by the provincial government. 

Quebec's Education Ministry posted a list of complying post-secondary institutions on its website Thursday. Missing were McGill University, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) and 26 of the province's 48 CEGEPS, including Dawson College and Marianopolis College in Montreal.

The law countering sexual violence on campus was passed in December 2017, after a series of sexual assaults were reported at the student residences at Université Laval in Quebec City.

Bill 151 was debated amid several high-profile cases of alleged misconduct by men in the entertainment industry such as Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein and Just For Laughs co-founder Gilbert Rozon.

Colleges, universities, law schools and police academies were required to adopt their policies by Jan. 1, and have them in effect by Sept. 1.

By mid-November last year, no post-secondary institution had submitted their policy to the government.

McGill is still in the process of updating the sexual violence policy it adopted 2016 to conform to the new law.

The university expects to have the updated policy approved by its board of governors next month, "following extensive consultation with our campus stakeholders."

"In the meantime, McGill's current policy and the resources associated with it to prevent and fight sexual violence, remain active and in force," associate provost Angela Campbell said in a statement. ​

McGill has been criticized for its handling of sexual harassment complaints.

Last year, student leaders alleged the school didn't properly handle complaints against at least five professors in the Faculty of Arts over allegations of "abusive" behaviour and sexual violence.

A professor, as well, launched a $600,000 lawsuit against a student and fellow professor over a "ruthless campaign" regarding a relationship with a student that he said was consensual. 

Hundreds of students from McGill and Concordia universities organized a walk-out together in April 2018. They said their schools are not doing enough to address complaints about alleged abusive behaviour and sexual misconduct. (CBC)

UQAM spokesperson Jenny Desrochers told Radio-Canada that the university has extended its consultation period "so that more people participate," and that a policy would be in place in the coming weeks.

Marianopolis College spokesperson Kathryn Haralambous said the CEGEP informed the ministry in November that its board of governors would not meet before the Jan. 1 deadline.

The college, which includes a reference to sexual assault in its current psychological harassment policy, expects to have its new policy approved at the board's Jan. 29 meeting, she said.

Dawson College did not immediately return a request for comment from CBC News.

Mandatory training for students

The law requires that institutions have a policy in place that covers social activities including orientation week, have mandatory training in place for students, create a complaints process and explicitly include sexual violence in their code of conduct.

Sexual violence is defined by the law as sexual assault and any unwanted sexual gesture, speech, behaviour or attitude communicated in person or through technology.

Sanctions must also be in place for anyone in breach of the policy, depending on the gravity of the action and whether the person is a repeat offender.

If an institution does not put its own policy in place, the law states the Education Ministry can create a sexual violence policy for them on the institution's dime.

Former education minister Hélène David told Radio-Canada she was "disappointed" to hear that many post-secondary institutions have not yet submitted their new policies.

"It has been 13 months since the law was adopted and it was very clear," she said.

About the Author

Colin Harris

Journalist

Colin Harris is a journalist with CBC in Montreal.

With files from Radio-Canada

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.