Nova Scotia

Projects aimed at preventing sexual violence on N.S. campuses get funding

The province is spending $400K on projects to keep students safe, including bystander intervention training and a student conference of sexual violence prevention.

Province spending $400K on sexual violence prevention programs and education for students and administrators

The initiatives include creating Student liaison positions on each university and college campus and developing a provincial conference for students to raise awareness and provide sexual violence prevention education. (Robert Guertin/CBC)

Projects aimed at preventing sexual violence, creating a culture of consent and supporting survivors on university and college campuses in Nova Scotia have received a $400,000 boost from the provincial government.

According to a news release, the province is funding seven initiatives this fiscal year, including:

  • A sexual violence prevention coordinator whose job will be implementing the recommendations in a 2017 report to address sexual violence on campus.
  • Student liaison positions on each university and college campus.
  • A new bystander intervention education program, called Waves of Change, customized for provincial campuses based at St. Francis Xavier University.
  • A Saint Mary's University program that relies on story telling, through so-called "anecdote circles," as a method to evaluate whether the culture around sexual violence is changing on campus.
  • Culturally-sensitive sexual violence policies for institutions to respond to incidents will be developed at Mount Saint Vincent University.
  • A provincial conference for students to raise awareness and provide sexual violence prevention education.
  • Sending campus staff to Toronto's York University to attend a course to "help ensure sexual violence complaints are handled appropriately and consistently across the province."

At Province House on Friday, Labour and Advanced Education Minister Labi Kousoulis said "building a consent culture will take sustained effort by all of us."

The provincial announcement comes on the heels of a similar funding announcement from the federal government directed at campuses in Nova Scotia.

There are 48,000 university and 10,000 community college students in the province.

In recent years, the province has seen a university groundskeeper convicted of raping a student on campus, a student withdraw from classes after a suspect was allowed to stay on campus, and a hockey brawl sparked by the shaming of a sexual assault survivor.

But, according to participants at the news conference, changes are happening. For example, at Mount Saint Vincent University, a week dedicated to education about consent is coming up.

Katie Allen, a second year student at Mount Saint Vincent University, says it's important to have conversations about sexual violence and consent. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

"That's so, so, so important that we're starting to have these conversations," said Katie Allen, a second year student who holds a liaison position.

She said students are becoming "aware of what consent is, how to get consent and how to be respectful."

Paula Barry, an associate vice-president at Mount Saint Vincent University and co-chair of the province's sexual violence prevention committee, said school administrations are also addressing criticisms about the way they've responded to reports of sexual violence.

Since the end of 2018, she said all of Nova Scotia's universities and the Nova Scotia Community College created standalone policies on sexual violence.

Paula Barry says a report card by a student movement that graded universities on their sexual violence policies provided ideas as schools revised their policies. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

She said they're moving away from referring cases of sexual assault through a student judicial process, which typically involves a hearing conducted by faculty under a school's senate policy. That came under fire from students who demanded a survivor-centered approach.

Barry said schools are taking a similar approach towards an investigative model that "would create a much less traumatic experience or potential for revictimization."

About the Author

Elizabeth Chiu is a reporter in Nova Scotia and hosts Atlantic Tonight on Saturdays at 7 p.m., 7:30 p.m. in Newfoundland. If you have a story idea for her, contact her at elizabeth.chiu@cbc.ca.

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