Kathleen Wynne vows to end sexual violence, harassment in Ontario

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is reforming the way the province treats sexual violence and harassment — both its prevention and the treatment it gets from institutions such as universities.

Premier reveals a mix of initiatives to combat 'culture of misogyny'

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is reforming the way the province treats sexual violence and harassment — both its prevention and the treatment it gets from institutions such as universities.

Wynne's "road map to end sexual harassment," which she laid out Friday, includes:

  • A multimedia awareness campaign.
  • Training for front-line workers in the health care, justice and tourism industries who may be the first point of contact in assault or harassment complaints.
  • Increased funding for sexual assault crisis centres.
  • Confronting misogynist culture beginning in early education, with the new sexual education curriculum.
  • Free legal advice to sexual assault survivors.
  • Changes to legislation to move more quickly with assault and harassment complaints.

The premier is calling her campaign It's Never OK, and said its goal is to end the existing "culture of misogyny," which she says is deep-rooted in society.

Premier Kathleen Wynne laid out a 'road map to end sexual harassment' during a speech on Friday in Toronto. (Canadian Press)
"Today, I'm challenging everyone in this province to step up and help end sexual harassment," she said in a speech in Toronto.

Implementation of the plan is expected to cost $41 million.

Wynne announced in December that such a plan would be accelerated after several women came forward to say they'd been harassed or sexually assaulted by former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi — who has denied the allegations — but never reported it.

The province is promising stronger workplace safety legislation requiring employers to investigate and address workplace harassment, including sexual harassment.

#WhoWillYouHelp awareness campaign

The plan includes legislation to eliminate a two-year limitation period for civil sexual assault claims and an "enhanced prosecution model" tailored to sexual assault cases.

The action plan also includes a multimedia public education campaign, with an ad that calls on bystanders to intervene.

Wynne showed an ad that will run as a part of the campaign.


It is accompanied by the social media hashtag, #WhoWillYouHelp.

Wynne said the campaign is meant to make viewers uncomfortable. "Parts of it are hard to watch, I know. But it's much harder to experience it," she said.

"If we just talk about what's comfortable, we're not going to change anything."

Wynne says a permanent roundtable on violence against women will also be established.

She said victims must be better supported, ensuring that women who are "brave enough" to come forward with complaints aren't re-victimized.

Wynne's action plan was intended to coincide with International Women's Day on March 8. Research suggests one in three Canadian women will face some kind of sexual violence or harassment in their life, yet most don't report it, the premier said.

B.C., Nova Scotia also taking steps 

Ontario isn't the only province putting money towards protecting women from violence.

In Surrey today, B.C.'s Minister of Children and Family Development launched a new website aimed at stopping the silence that enables domestic abuse to continue. The #SaySomething campaign is also focused on multicultural communities, allowing multi-lingual support in speaking out against violence. 

It's another piece of a broader initiative by Premier Christy Clark's government, including the launch of the Violence Free BC strategy last month, which earmarked $3 million for anti-violence support services. 

Next month, Nova Scotia plans to unveil its own sexual violence strategy. Over the last year, they've developed new education campaigns aimed at both the public and those who offer support to victims.

Nova Scotia's Minister for the Status of Women, Joanne Bernard, attended last month's national roundtable about missing and murdered indigenous women. There, she discussed this upcoming sexual violence strategy with Wynne.

With files from The Canadian Press and Anand Ram


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