April 17, 2018 2:04 pm

N.S. student group accuses cabinet minister of barring it from sexual violence committee meeting

Aidan McNally, chairperson for the Canadian Federation of Students - Nova Scotia, spoke to Global News on July 19, 2017

Neil Benedict/Global News

The Nova Scotia branch of the country’s largest student organization says it has been barred from attending a meeting of the provincial committee on sexual violence as part of a retaliation campaign by a provincial cabinet minister.

The Canadian Federation of Students — Nova Scotia  (CFS-NS) sent out a press release on Tuesday saying it was told this week its members were not invited to attend the first meeting of the province’s Sexual Violence Prevention Committee, scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

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The committee is set to oversee the implementation of 10 recommendations to combat sexual violence in the province’s post-secondary schools — found in the province’s 2017 report titled Changing the Culture of Acceptance. The recommendations include developing a standard of behaviours specific to sexual violence prevention, delivery of consent education and encouraging universities to establish their own sexual violence prevention advisory committees.

It’s a decision that the CFS-NS believes they should’ve been a part of.

“Student representatives of our organization have been on the forefront of combatting sexual violence for decades and excluding them is reprehensible,” said Aidan McNally, CFS-NS chairperson.

The CFS-NS is accusing labour and advanced education minister Labi Kousoulis of not inviting the group in retaliation for the publication of an editorial critical of Kousoulis in The Coast in March. The editorial was penned by the student organization.

“Campus sexualized violence legislation has been blocked at every opportunity by the Nova Scotia Liberals,” the op-ed read.

“Labi Kousoulis … has shown that he will prioritize this government’s relationship with university presidents over ensuring that our post-secondary institutions adequately address sexualized violence.”

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The student organization says since the op-ed was published, the department of labour and advanced education has blocked student representatives’ access to several meetings focusing on the relationship between students and the provincial government.

In a statement provided to Global News, Kousoulis said that he values the relationship he has with student groups. He added that there is now a new date for the committee meeting.

“We tried to book an earlier date, but due to scheduling commitments on both sides the meeting will be held in early May,” said Kousoulis.

“We will continue to work with all elected student leaders and hope to meet with the paid CFS staff to improve our relationship and move forward.”

The minister added that an elected CFS student leader is welcome to attend the future meeting of the sexual violence prevention committee.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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