In yesterday’s announcement on the release of the “Summary Report of the Student Voices on Sexual Violence Survey”, the Ontario government has ignored the contributions of student organizations in addressing sexual violence on campus.
The survey referenced in yesterday’s announcement by Minister, Merrilee Fullerton was developed in large part through the Premier’s Roundtable on Violence Against Women, an initiative cancelled by the current Progressive Conservative government early in their mandate. This Roundtable included representation from students and sector stakeholders. Student groups played an influential role in advocating for mandatory sexual assault policies at post-secondary institutions, which now exist across the province.
“For decades, student organizations, like the Canadian Federation of Students, have been at the forefront of combating sexual violence on campus,” said Sami Pritchard, National Executive Representative of the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario. “The creation of the Student Voices and Sexual Violence Survey was largely informed by the Premier’s Roundtable on Violence Against Women, which this government cancelled. For Minister Fullerton to make this announcement without any mention of the students and members of the Roundtable who made this all possible is disappointing.”
The Summary Report of the Student Voices on Sexual Violence Survey indicates that a high percentage of students at colleges and universities do not understand how to access supports related to sexual violence, how to access information about these supports, or what the formal reporting options available to them are in case of a sexual assault. Over half of all respondents also indicated having experienced one or more incidents of sexual harassment since the beginning of the school year.
“It is great to see this government increasing grants for institutions to invest in sexual assault supports and better technology, like the Minister mentioned. However, students know that the resources and support systems that make campuses safer are actually under attack by this government through the Student Choice Initiative,” said Pritchard. “Students’ unions have always done the hard work of educating students about things like consent, of running women’s centres and pride centres, and providing support for students in crisis. If Minister Fullerton was really committed to the safety of students, she would repeal the Student Choice Initiative that threatens all of these essential services that students’ unions offer on a daily basis.”
The Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario previously held the only student seat on the Premier’s Roundtable on Violence Against Women, and is the largest student organization in the province, representing over 350,000 college and university students.