Quebec introduced Bill 151, a law designed to combat sexual violence at universities and CEGEPs, at the National Assembly earlier this week and Concordia and McGill, the two biggest English-language universities in the province, will both be studying it closely.
Under Bill 151, every university and CEGEP in the province must have a sexual assault policy in place by September 2019.
Concordia has had a sexual assault policy since May 2016.
“We were already taking steps and putting into place everything that is now included in this bill,” said Concordia Sexual Assault Resource Centre coordinator Jennifer Drummond.
Drummond is instrumental in implementing Concordia’s policy.
“I don’t think it will change anything too dramatically. We will keep doing the work we’re doing and improving as we go,” she told Global News.
McGill’s sexual assault policy was approved by their board of governors in December of 2016.
“We will study the new bill closely to identify revisions or additions we have to make to assure our policy conforms to the demands of the new law,” Associate Provost Angela Campbell said in a written statement.
McGill points to their Office for Sexual Violence Response, Support and Education, already active on campus.
Bill 151 also demands universities create a code of conduct to deal with sexual relationships that may develop between teachers and students.
“It’s my opinion that student-teacher relationships, or any kind of relationships that involves someone grading the other person, should be completely forbidden,” said Ariane L’italien, a McGill student and a sexual assault survivor.
Concordia is looking into the subject.
“I’m going to have to wait and see what our working group comes up with, but I know that’s going to be decided on pretty soon,” said Drummond.
McGill said “an intimate relationship between a professor and his student or someone under his authority is a conflict of interest” and “may constitute a disciplinary offense.” They also say “consent cannot occur” in a student-teacher relationship.
L’italien is encouraged by the bill but hopes schools are held accountable.
“It’s good that the government wants to hold universities accountable, but if there’s no way for survivors to raise their hand and be like ‘hey, I don’t think my school is doing a good job and they’re not using the policy that you mandated,’ then I think there should be a channel for them to be listened to,” she said.