PEI

Government to unveil new regulations for post-secondary sexual violence legislation

The standing committee on education and economic growth learned more about the next steps for government's legislation that would guide sexual violence policies at public post-secondary institutions' on P.E.I.

Regulations need to be finalized before the act can be proclaimed

The standing committee on education and economic growth heard from department officials speaking about proposed regulations under the Post-secondary Institutions Sexual Violence Policies Act. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

The standing committee on education and economic growth learned more about the next steps for government's legislation that would guide sexual violence policies at public post-secondary institutions' on P.E.I.

The Post-secondary Institutions Sexual Violence Policies Act will govern how sexual violence complaints are handled at all public post-secondary institutions. 

The province is also set to unveil new regulations, for public consultation, to set standards for how complaints are handled and to make sure victims are treated compassionately and that privacy is respected.

The act has received royal assent but won't be proclaimed until the regulations are finalized. Once the act is proclaimed it would impact existing policies at post-secondary institutions on P.E.I.

MLA Karla Bernard, chair of the committee, said that the legislation is a positive step forward but it could go further.

There were questions as to whether the new regulations would compel UPEI, Holland College and Collège de l'Île to publicly disclose the number of incidents reported to them.

'Be better informed'

Publishing the number of complaints, Bernard said, would raise awareness and help keep students safe.

We want our schools and our children to be safe.— Karla Bernard

"The more we hide these things, the more shame that gets attached to them," Bernard said.

"We don't need names. We don't need specifics. What we need to know and understand is what services people are wanting, what is happening to them, what helps them. We need to have this data so that we can be better informed on how we deal with victims of sexual violence."

Education officials said that could compromise the privacy of the victims in some situations, like at P.E.I.'s French-language Collège de l'Île, which has just a few dozen students.

Anne Partridge, executive director of post-secondary and continuing education, and Tricia Martell, policy co-ordinator for post-secondary and continuing education, spoke to the committee on Tuesday. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

"In drafting legislation and or developing regulations, we just need to be mindful of who is going to be included," said presenter Anne Partridge, executive director of post-secondary and continuing education on P.E.I.

"We want to be able to ensure that they can comply with what's required."

Bernard also said she wants to explore whether similar regulations could be used in high schools.

"In light of what we're doing here, I think that it's a crucial step in this process and ensuring that the Public Schools Branch is updating policies, is following through with actions, is actively working on changing the culture so these incidents of sexual violence go away," Bernard said.

"We want our schools and our children to be safe."

MLA Karla Bernard, chair of the committee, says the legislation is a positive step forward but it could go further. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

Partridge said there is work taking place in the department on the issue of sexual violence policy in public schools. But she said this legislation and new set of regulations will only apply to post-secondary schools.

Officials are planning to post the regulations online so that the public can provide feedback. as early as the end of the week.

There are roughly 8,000 students at P.E.I.'s public post-secondary institutions.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Brian Higgins

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