Quebec tables legislation to fight sexual violence on campus
Published Wednesday, November 1, 2017 9:52PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, November 2, 2017 7:59AM EDT
The latest provincial plan to combat sexual violence was introduced Wednesday in the National Assembly.
Higher Education Minister Helene David tabled Bill 151, which will require universities and other post-secondary institutions to create codes of conduct regarding sexual violence and guidelines on what to do if a student and teacher become involved in an intimate relationship.
The policy would have to involve, at a minimum, that the dean be informed of any sexual relationship.
Ariane Litalien, who went public several years ago about being sexually assaulted at Harvard University, is glad Quebec is finally introducing legislation to standardize how schools handle sexual assault.
"I was an undergraduate at Harvard University when I was sexually assaulted by someone in my dorm. Essentially the school didn't do a whole lot," said Litalien.
She has encouraged the provincial government's work, including last year's announcement, but would like the legislation to ban certain acts.
"Relationships between professors and people in a position of authority and students who are being graded by them, for instance, should be absolutely forbidden, whereas in the bill it's up to universities to adopt their code of conduct," said Litalien.
She would also like victims to be informed of any sanctions or penalties faced by their aggressor.
However she is glad that David is making sexual assault a priority.
Bill 151 would also require mandatory training for administrators and student leaders, and schools could choose to implement prevention and awareness campaigns, such as workshops on sexual consent.
Rules about hazing and initiations would also have to be created, and there will have to be a manner in which a student can make a confidential complaint.
Last year the province outlined a $200 million strategy to prevent and respond to sexual violence, and in August the provincial government announced it would invest a further $23 million over five years specifically aimed at sexual violence on campus.
David said the scope of sexual assault has become more evident in the past month.
"The scope of the denunciations in recent weeks reminds us of the sad reality that has for too long been obscured," said David.
While the bill would create regulations, it is not a substitute for contacting police.
"This is not meant to replace a criminal complaint, it's just another option," said Litalien.
There have been a number of sexual assault allegations against public figures in Montreal and elsewhere, so much so that Montreal police created a special hotline to report sexual assault.
In the past two weeks more than 400 people called that number to talk to police.