A student-led initiative across Alberta’s post-secondary institutions is leading to more protections for survivors of sexual violence.
The province is allocating $2.5 million to support colleges and universities in revisiting and revising their sexual violence policies.
Rachel Timmermans, the chair of the Council of Alberta University Students, helped advocate for changes to reflect a more survivor-centric approach.
“I have seen time and time again, many students don’t know how to report it, if it’s worth reporting and some fear retaliation and it’s difficult to understand how to get proper protection and support,” Timmermans said.
Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides made the announcement during a Tuesday news conference. He said the provincial grant will modernize and reform post-secondary policies.
“I’m asking institutions to include in their policies protection from face-to-face encounters during the complaints process, survivor-centric interim measures, anonymous and third-party complaint options, existence of clear timelines and required sexual assault sensitivity training for all those involved in the complaint process,” Nicolaides said.
There will be a province-wide survey to solicit feedback and recommendations.
“The first step is this survey, so we can understand what the landscape is and what pathways exist and once we have a picture we can start to align it,” Timmermans said.
The survey is expected to launch when students return to campus for the fall 2022 semester. It’s hoped the data will help form more meaningful changes.
“Creating a culture shift with respect to campus sexual violence is the only way to face this issue head on,” said Associate Status of Women Minister Whitney Issik.
“It’s time to act. For too long we’ve been having same conversations. We’ve been having them since I was a student leader at the University of Calgary and it’s time to change that now,” Issik said.
The Alberta Students’ Executive Council (ASEC) applauded the announcement, which signifies a major step forward.
“Alberta students want to feel safe and secure on campus, but what’s more, they must feel comfortable coming forward when things go wrong,” said Liam Hunter Chair, Alberta Students’ Executive Council.
“Steps toward strong, survivor-centric policies across the entire province must be applied at every one of our campuses, and the government has an important role to play in driving those steps forward.”
“The student movement appreciates the work done by this government towards proper protection surrounding campus sexual violence,” said Savannah Snow, director of the Alberta Students’ Executive Council board.
“Though these are only the first steps, they are critical to shaping the future of the student experience moving forward. We look forward to furthering commitments towards policy reform for students now and of the future.”