Students who report sexual violence can’t be asked about sexual history: Ontario govt

sexual assault

Ontario is moving to bar colleges and universities from asking students who report sexual violence or harassment about their sexual history.

The province is also proposing to prohibit post-secondary institutions from punishing complainants for drinking or using drugs at the time of the alleged incident.

The proposed changes announced today would require schools to update their policies on sexual violence and harassment.

The government says the amendments would make Ontario one of the only Canadian jurisdictions with such protections explicitly enshrined in legislation or regulation.

Public consultations on the matter are being held online until mid-March.

The province says the changes aim to increase campus safety and reduce the fear and stigma for those who come forward with allegations.

“We know that many instances of sexual violence and harassment on and around campuses go unreported, and often this is because students are afraid of reprisal or concerned that they will not be taken seriously,” the minister of colleges and universities, Ross Romano, said in a statement.

“Even one incident of sexual assault, harassment, or any other forms of violence in our communities is one too many. That is why it is so important that there are policies in place that let those affected know they can come forward without fear of reprisal.”

The government says the proposed changes were developed based on recommendations from the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance.

The organization said it believes post-secondary policies regarding sexual violence should be trauma-informed and centered on survivors.

“These proposed changes are one of many steps necessary to protect and support students who have experienced gender-based violence,” the group’s president, Julia Pereira, said in a statement.