The pressure continues to build for universities to tackle sexual and gender-based violence as the B.C. provincial government introduced Bill 23, or the Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy Act, on Wednesday, April 27.
The bill requires public post-secondary institutions to establish sexual misconduct policies within one year of the bill receiving Royal Assent, and its definition of sexual misconduct is wide-ranging, including voyeurism, harassment, and sexual assault.
Premier Christy Clark said Wednesday that universities are often the first place where young adults are on their own. “They have every right to feel safe on campus and today is a step in the right direction.”
Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green Party and MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, originally presented the Post-Secondary Sexual Violence Policies Act on March 8. On March 16, Clark agreed to pass his bill or develop comparable legislation, and Bill 23 fulfills that commitment.
“The government’s willingness to work collaboratively and urgently on this bill speaks volumes to its importance,” said Weaver. “I am really proud of what we have collectively accomplished.”
“This legislation is a critical first step in starting a real conversation about how we can best ensure the safety of everyone who attends a post-secondary school in British Columbia.”
UVic administration begins consultations on new policy
Things aren’t starting to move at just the provincial level, however. UVic announced today that it will begin consultations in May to develop a separate sexualized violence policy, one that “will build on current policies and practices and reinforce the university’s commitment to a safe campus.”
Post-secondary institutions and their response — or lack thereof — to sexualized violence have been the subject of intense scrutiny across the province as of late, and UVic is no exception. On March 16, the Martlet published a story about a group of UVic students that started a Sexualized Violence Task Force in response to UVic’s perceived inaction in addressing the issue; and on April 14, we followed up with a story outlining ways that UVic’s current policies fell short in taking care of sexual assault survivors on campus.
UVic President Jamie Cassels did not mention those concerns specifically in UVic’s announcement, but did say that the university “has an important role to play as leaders, educators and community partners” in addressing sexualized violence.
A working group led by Annalee Lepp, chair of the Department of Gender Studies, has been formed, and consultations will be conducted with survivors of sexualized violence, on/off-campus groups that have experience working with survivors, and others.
The full media release is available below.