Content warning: This article discusses sexual violence and harassment.
The UTSC Campus Council approved the first revisions to the U of T-wide Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment policy at its November 15 meeting. The revisions bring the policy in line with new provincial requirements.
These revisions will be presented to the U of T Governing Council for final approval on December 16.
The previous policy — approved on December 15, 2016 and revised on December 12, 2019 — was enacted after the Government of Ontario passed Bill 132, the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act, 2016. U of T’s policy applies to all sexual violence incidents where both the complainant and the respondent are U of T community members, whether or not the incident occurred on campus.
The Act dictated that every college or university that “receives regular and ongoing operating funds from the government for the purposes of post-secondary education” must have a sexual violence policy. This policy must address “sexual violence involving students enrolled at the college or university,” and set out the process for the college or university’s response to complaints and incidents of sexual violence.
Additionally, the Act holds each college and university responsible for “review[ing] its sexual violence policy at least once every three years and amend[ing] it as appropriate.” In compliance with the Act, U of T last reviewed the policy in 2019.
Revisions to the policy
Sandy Welsh, U of T’s vice-provost, students, presented the revisions at the UTSC Campus Council meeting. She explained, “This is just the first step of our larger review of the sexual violence policy.”
“In October, we announced the launch of a much more extensive review of the policy that will involve consultations with the community and with further changes coming forward later in this academic year,” she added.
In September, the provincial government announced two new requirements for public post-secondary institutions’ sexual violence policies. Welsh explained that the two new requirements are already standard practice at U of T, but “to ensure that this current practice is clear to the community, we are adding the language that the government has recommended to our policy,” she said. She stressed that all of the modifications U of T has made because of the new government policy are only “technical changes.”
The first of the new changes involves the assurance that “complainant[s] will not be subject to action for violation of another U of T policy related to drug and alcohol use at the time the sexual violence experience took place.” Welsh added that, instead, “We would be focusing on the complainant and supporting the complainant and the sexual violence that occurred.”
The second change pertains to the investigation process and specific questions regarding the prior sexual history of the complainant. “During the investigation process, students who share their experience of sexual violence… will not be asked irrelevant questions from any institution staff or investigators, such as those relating to past sexual history or sexual expression,” states the new addition to the policy.
Though the government only requires that these changes apply to students, U of T’s policy changes will apply to all U of T community members.
The deadline set by the government for these changes to be implemented is March 1, 2022.
If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence or harassment at U of T:
- Visit safety.utoronto.ca for a list of safety resources.
- Visit svpscentre.utoronto.ca for information, contact details, and hours of operation for the tri-campus Sexual Violence Prevention & Support Centre. Centre staff can be reached by phone at 416-978-2266 or by email at [email protected].
- Call Campus Safety Special Constable Service to make a report at 416-978-2222 (for U of T St. George and U of T Scarborough) or 905-569-4333 (for U of T Mississauga)
- Call the Women’s College Hospital Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Care Centre at 416-323-6040
- Call the Scarborough Grace Sexual Assault Care Centre at 416-495-2555
- Call the Assaulted Women’s Helpline at 866-863-0511