A proposed Manitoba bill would set province-wide policies for all universities when it comes to preventing sexual assault. Alberta lacks such a law, leaving it up to universities to produce their own policies. However, a team of students at Mount Royal University wants to push the provincial government to mandate all post-secondary campuses to have stand alone sexual assault policies.

Shifrah Gadamsetti, president at the Students’ Association of Mount Royal University, said since September, SAMRU has been spearheading local initiatives.

“I’m working with a few of our MLAs on the provincial level to mandate that all PSE campuses in Alberta have stand-alone sexual assault policies as well, and hoping to garner enough support to see that mandate cover all public institutions within Alberta.”

Manitoba is tackling the same issue in its recently proposed Bill 15, The Sexual Violence Awareness and Prevention Act. If passed, it would require every post-secondary institution to have policies designed to reduce sexual assault on campus. The Bill would press universities to create a procedure to respond to any sexual violence that takes place. These policies would be developed through consultation with the students.

Former Manitoba Minister of Healthy Living Kerri Irvin Ross explained, “I know that we can’t legislate our way out of sexual violence but I do know it helps build awareness and if it protects one person, if it makes one person think before they are doing something inappropriate and that they should stop, we have made a difference.”

Alberta has no such bill to prevent or respond to campus sexual assault.

Advanced Educational Minister Marlin Schmidt explained that while the students have the right to feel safe he expects that each post-secondary institution will deal with the issue.

“Sexual assault and sexual harassment are absolutely unacceptable. Every student has the right to feel safe and respected and I’m pleased to see Alberta’s campuses are working to ensure the safety of students through sexual harassment policies.”

In an effort to create a common framework, the students’ union at MRU, along with other universities, participated in drafting a document outlining several sexual assault policy recommendations for all Canadian universities.

The recommendations were forwarded to the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations and have since been adopted as CASA policy, which means CASA advocates for these changes but can’t force Canadian universities to implement the recommendations.

The Advanced Education department contacted all 26 Alberta institutions for a status update on their policy developments, and is encouraging all post-secondary institutions to develop and implement policies to align with this framework.

nvalleau@cjournal.ca

The editor responsible for this article is Trevor Solway and can be contacted at tsolway@cjournal.ca