UPEI creating stand-alone sexual violence policy

UPEI says it's following the lead of some other universities in Canada, and developing a stand-alone sexual violence policy.

Student union says university playing catch up with other institutions, provinces

Taya Nabuurs, vice-president external of the UPEI Student Union, says she's hoping the new policy will make it easier for students to access information on how to report sexual assaults and where to go for help. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

UPEI says it's following the lead of some other universities in Canada, and developing a stand-alone sexual violence policy. 

The student union's vice-president external Tara Nabuurs said right now, students looking for guidance on things like how to make a complaint and where they can turn for support, will find it scattered about in various UPEI policies and procedures available online. 

Having something that's so clearly laid out, it's an ease of access thing.- Taya Nabuurs, vice-president external, UPEI Student Union

Her hope is that having a single sexual violence policy will make getting the right information easier. 

"We experience a lot of issues with students who are perhaps uncomfortable coming forward, and also aren't sure of where to access services," said Nabuurs, who is partnering with the administration to come up with the new policy. 

"Having something that's so clearly laid out, it's an ease of access thing.  It's also just important message for the university to send, that it takes sexual violence on campus very seriously."'

UPEI's student union and administration are working together to create a stand-alone sexual violence policy for the school. (CBC)

Sexual violence policy required in some provinces 

Nabuurs says an increasing number of post-secondary institutions across Canada have created sexual violence policies in the last couple of years. 

In fact, just this week,  the national magazine University Affairs named P.E.I. as one of just four provinces that doesn't have either legislation mandating post-secondary institutions to have sexual violence policies, or even an official plan to work with colleges and universities to improve supports. 

Nabuurs says she's not convinced provincial legislation would be all that helpful. 

"We're in a bit of a unique situation just because UPEI is the only university and one of only a few post-secondary institutions in the province," she said.  "For us, because UPEI is already proactively looking at this, I've decided to focus my attention here for right now."

Government does not see a need to legislate this policy requirement.- P.E.I. Department of Workforce and Advanced Learning

Holland College already has a stand-alone sexual violence policy. 

A spokesperson for P.E.I.'s workforce department says it's happy to leave the policy making to the institutions. 

"We take the issue of sexual violence very seriously and it's great to see both Holland College and UPEI taking the initiative to ensure students are safe on their campuses," the department said in an e-mail to CBC. "With the initiatives underway, government does not see a need to legislate this policy requirement at this time."

Student input wanted

Nabuurs said before UPEI finalizes its policy, the union wants to give students a chance to provide input this fall. 

"We want to ensure we have a really good idea of the issues students are facing. It'll just help us target initiatives in terms of education, prevention, and support services," she said.

"Having a better idea of what students need and maybe where the gaps are is really going to help us."

The goal is to have the new sexual violence policy in place before the end of the 2017-18 school year.