Wilfrid Laurier University introduces sexual violence policy

Wilfrid Laurier University’s first ever sexual violence policy and procedure has been drafted and is scheduled to be presented to the Board of Governors for approval on November 24.

The single document consists of two parts: the policy, which outlines Laurier’s stance on sexual violence on campus, as well as goals for how they wish to deal with cases of sexual violence and the procedure, which explains how the policy will be executed.

The policy has been in the works since 2014, when a group of students at Laurier’s Brantford campus did a research project on how universities in the country were handling gendered and sexual violence policies.

Through this research, the group found out that Laurier did not have a policy.

“We decided to approach the Gendered Violence Task Force and the senior administration at Laurier to say this is unacceptable and you need a sexual violence policy,” said Karly Rath, one of the students who was involved in this research project.

Rath and her colleagues created the group, Advocates for Student Culture of Consent (ASCC) and began to write the policy alongside other campus partners.

Since then, Rath has graduated from Laurier, but is still involved in ASCC and the creation of Laurier’s first sexual violence policy and procedure.

ASCC has two main projects: to create a policy and to create the “Consent is Golden” project, which is the official consent campaign.

Over the past year and a half, ASCC and the Gendered Violence Task Force worked on the policy.

During this time, the provincial government introduced legislation that said all universities in Ontario had to have a sexual violence policy implemented by January 1, 2017.

The goal of this piece of legislation, called Bill 132, is to support survivors and to allow them a space to feel more comfortable to come forward, Rath explained.

“After the initial draft came out … then we had the announcement that Bill 132, the sexual violence and harassment action was coming down the pipeline and we were aware that there would be requirements in that that would influence what our policy would have to contain. That put things on pause while we waited to find out what that would look like,” said Lynn Kane, manager of gendered violence prevention and support.

“And then, once that came out … we began again on the policy and last spring [sic], we worked with ASCC and consulted with a lot of people to draft that policy and it was really in its very final stages last spring. There are regulations that came out that accompany legislation — they’re part of the legislation, but they came out at a different time and those regulations provide some minimum requirements that universities and colleges need to have in their policy around details about the procedure that we did not have, so we were set to go to the board in the spring, but had to put it on pause once more to make sure that the policy met the regulation,” Kane explained further.

Once the policy was drafted, university administration and the university’s legal council began to draft the procedure.

Rath expressed some concerns about the procedure, as she and ASCC did not have much to do with the drafting of it, only the policy.

Rath outlined the main aspects of the procedure that ASCC does not support.

“Laurier is allowing [within the protocol] the perpetrator to cross-examine the survivor during the appeal stage. Basically, what that means is the survivor is going to be interrogated by the person who already caused harm,” Rath said.

She additionally explained that she has some concerns with the role of the investigator within the procedure.

“This person needs to be trauma informed, understand sexual violence … and in the protocol or the policy, nowhere does it say what specific training an investigator has to have, or who can be an investigator.”

ASCC and the Gendered Violence Task Force will be holding town hall meetings this week at the Brantford, Kitchener and Waterloo campuses for the Laurier community to come together and have a conversation about the new policy and procedure.

The Waterloo town hall meeting will occur on Thursday, November 3 at 6 p.m. in Arts 2C15.

“The purpose is to hear what the Laurier community thinks and provide input. Students, alumni, staff, faculty, etc., can show up and have no previous knowledge of the policy … and we will … point to issues in the protocol and the policy and we’d like to have open discussion and hear what Laurier students think,” Rath said.

Both Rath and Kane expressed how, with the introduction of Bill 132, having the policy and procedure approved in time has rushed the process along.

The Board of Governors meeting is the last meeting before the new year. Therefore, having these discussions as soon as possible is important.

“They essentially need to be passed because Bill 132 says we need to have a policy in place by January 1,” Rath said.

Rath hopes that the policy and procedure will be passed conditionally and that her concerns can be addressed.

“In the next few weeks we need to make important changes so we can feel confident about what we are passing.”

The hope is that the town hall meetings will spark a conversation and encourage the Laurier community to look critically at the policy and procedure before it is approved.

“This is a policy for the students,” Kane said. “So my ultimate hope is that this policy meets student needs and does what’s right for them.”

*Note: WLUSP HR Manager, Taylor Berzins, is a co-founder of ASCC

Leave a Reply