BREAKING: Premier announces support for sexual assault bill

News Provincial

Premier Christy Clark has pledged her support for the Post-Secondary Sexual Violence Policies Act tabled last week by Andrew Weaver, MLA Oak Bay-Gordon Head, it was announced this afternoon.

Clark said that her government would pass the bill or “develop comparable legislation” to address the growing problem of sexual assaults on post-secondary campuses.

“I am thrilled by the Premier’s response and welcome the opportunity to work with her, and with students across the Province, to ensure campuses become safer places,” Weaver said in a press release. “Sexualized violence affects everyone in our communities, regardless of gender identity.”

The bill, and Clark’s support, comes on the heels of a series of highly publicised sexual assaults on B.C. campuses, including earlier reports this week that a UVic student felt “completely invalidated and silenced” by a UVic investigation into her sexual assault.

Even today, the Martlet published a report on a group of sexual assault survivors that have established a Sexualized Violence Task Force with the goal of bringing wider awareness to the issue of sexual assault, and holding the university accountable for what more and more people are seeing as inaction on the part of administration.

The Post-Secondary Sexual Violence Policies Act would require all post-secondary institutions in B.C. to establish policies that address sexual assault on campus, and to set out clear processes and procedures for incidents and complaints as they occur. It would also require institutions to collect and provide data to the Minister of Advanced Education so that the government can have a better picture of incidences of sexual violence on B.C. campuses.

The latter requirement is especially important, as the Martlet reported that UVic Campus Security is the only service on campus required to publish the number of students that report sexual assaults to them.

Kenya Rogers, UVSS Director of External Relations, says she was “ecstatic” when the news broke.

“We’re really excited,” said Rogers. “Finally, this province is showing some leadership on ensuring that students are actually safe and protected on the campuses across B.C.”

Rogers said the issue of sexual assault has dominated headlines recently because it’s so pervasive. “it’s one of those issues that the more and more we start opening up these dialogues, the more we are aware of how it affects our communities.” Having the cause taken up by the premier herself, Rogers said, is huge.

“It’s [Clark’s] issue now, and regardless of whether or not she has the language or the knowledge to develop something robust, what we’re looking at is an opportunity for us to sit down at the table and have those conversations and that’s how you make good policy.”

Rogers said that Clark’s support of the bill means that UVic has an obligation to act in the best interests of its students. “There’s no more sweeping it under the rug. It’s just not possible.”

This story is developing.