Following the consultations on sexual violence at universities and colleges conducted by Hélène David, Minister of Higher Education, last winter, the government’s plan to address this pressing issue has now been proposed in the form of Bill 151, An Act to Prevent and Fight Sexual Violence in Higher Education Institutions. Given the importance we place on this issue, AVEQ will be actively taking part in the special consultation being held by the National Assembly’s Committee on Culture and Education as part of their review of this bill. We will be presenting our reflections and recommendations on November 21th (a full schedule is available here).
In light of the subject this bill tackles, we reiterate the call for accessibility and inclusiveness that we made during last winter’s consultations: accessibility (including linguistic, physical and emotional), active efforts to include and support survivors’ participation, and an open approach to participation, are of paramount importance.
AVEQ views the bill as currently proposed as a good framework, and fully expects that all parties will cooperate in good faith in order to support survivor-centric improvements to this bill, and ultimately pass it into law. A significant number of suggestions from the initial public consultations have been taken into account, including mandating a standalone nature for forthcoming sexual violence policies, the centralization of resources on campuses, provisions for trainings, and enforcement mechanisms.
The successful implementation of these measures will require a concerted effort from all sides. Kristen Perry, Coordinator of Mobilization and Associative Development at AVEQ expressed, “I hope that Bill 151 will go beyond being just a well-meaning gesture, to catalyze a policy-making process that is both reflective and supportive of the needs of groups most affected by this issue. That means that it is essential that actors at the governmental and institutional levels commit concrete and sufficient resources and take direction and feedback from survivors and the specialized community groups that are already working with survivors and on sexual education.” As a first step, we call for the utmost weight to be given to the testimony of survivors at this stage of the legislative process.
More specifically, significant questions remain unanswered in certain areas. The policies universities are being asked to develop and implement must take seriously the realities of marginalized groups, and be explicitly survivor-centric. The resources that are recognized as crucial in fighting sexual violence must be properly funded, including specific support for regional universities and partner organizations. And there must be clarity on procedures for reporting, and if necessary sanctioning, educational institutions which fail to implement this law fully.
Echoing this, Asma Mushtaq, Academic and Advocacy Coordinator for the Concordia Student Union, said: “I am curious to find out how the government intends to oversee the developments and hold universities accountable over the next few years with regards to the implementation of this bill, and how universities intend to involve survivor and student groups in the process of policy-making.”
Finally, we are encouraged by Bill 151’s call for increased community partnerships. We know that there are already many groups that are survivor-led and/or working directly with survivors, and would like to express our particular gratitude for the many organizations that have been doing this work for years. We’d especially like to congratulate the many groups that have been involved in the consultation process, and thank the Minister and staff for their work on this issue. We salute the short-term commitment of new funding to support the CALACS, especially since with recent events they are experiencing an overwhelming amount of requests for support. At the same time, we reiterate the call for more stable, long-term resources for the CALACS and other community organizations. We encourage all community groups to submit comments to the commission, and attend the public audiences during the consultations.