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Students no longer part of New Brunswick campus sexual violence roundtable

A photo from a protest on Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B. that happened Nov. 12 in response to sexual violence and concerns about the institution's handling of sexual violence concerns. Callum Smith / Global News

Two months after the New Brunswick government announced a working group to address sexual violence at post-secondary institutions, students will no longer be part of the discussion.

Students raised concerns about how the roundtable was working, and the minister responsible told them they did not need to attend further meetings.

Michelle Roy, a student activist at Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B., confirmed the news Thursday.

Read more: Fredericton psychiatrist suspended by New Brunswick’s College of Physicians and Surgeons

Students participated in two meetings since the roundtable was formed, but Roy said it didn’t feel meaningful.

“They basically just wanted us to come up with ideas for them to do and basically create reports for them to put their names on,” Roy tells Global News.

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Government, post-secondary institutions, student survivors and service providers were to take part, addressing sexual violence concerns on campus.

Roy says she and the other student representatives weren’t pleased with how the process was going.

“We had various concerns, mainly around political gain, lack of compensation, lack of recognition, of acknowledgement,” Roy says.

“This is a trend that we see where activists or people who have experienced trauma are expected to talk about their experiences to professionals without any type of acknowledgement,” Roy says.

Read more: Sexual violence ‘not tolerated,’ University of New Brunswick says amid scheduled protest

Tammy Scott-Wallace, the minister responsible for women’s equality, told Global News she didn’t realize students would no longer be participating until our phone call.

However, she confirms she did inform students they no longer needed to participate in further meetings, and that they would continue to receive email correspondence.

“It was a roundtable conversation where we went into that, never discussing any type of compensation,” she says. “We had never talked about me paying them for their information on their experiences.”

“The intention was to speak with them and to have that important conversation on how we can create a better day for survivors of campus sexual assault,” she says.

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Click to play video: 'N.B. government announced roundtable to discuss sexual violence on campus' N.B. government announced roundtable to discuss sexual violence on campus
N.B. government announced roundtable to discuss sexual violence on campus – Dec 18, 2020

Sexual violence on campus has been a decades-long problem, and one that needs to be addressed, she says.

“That’s always been their choice to participate or not,” Scott-Wallace says. “They gave me their meeting, which was a really successful meeting, I felt. I really enjoyed meeting all of them and learning from them.”

Scott-Wallace says the students expressed concern that she was “asking too much of them” to “relive that trauma.” But that was “absolutely never my intention, and I would never want them to feel that way,” Scott-Wallace says.

Sexual Violence New Brunswick (SVNB), a charitable organization, that works to address sexual violence. Prevention and education programming, counselling, work in the school system, training and workshops are all pieces of what the group does.

Maggie Forsythe, the director of post-secondary sexual violence programming, says not having crucial voices at the table is a problem.

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“We need to be able to show that survivors are essential to this process and put their value and respect right up front,” she says. “It’s important that we recognize that this work is done for far too long for free by people who are passionate and advocates for these issues.”

“To see… student survivors pushing these issues to the forefront to do such meaningful work… their voices should be at the table,” Forsythe says.

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