Green MLA calls for government review of UPEI sexual violence policy

·3 min read
Green MLA Karla Bernard said the government is a primary funder of post-secondary institutions, and the minister of education has the ability to ask for a review of the university's sexual violence policy. (P.E.I. Legislative Assembly - image credit)
Green MLA Karla Bernard said the government is a primary funder of post-secondary institutions, and the minister of education has the ability to ask for a review of the university's sexual violence policy. (P.E.I. Legislative Assembly - image credit)

The MLA for Charlottetown-Victoria Park is calling on the government to review UPEI's policy on sexual violence, after an incident of voyeurism on campus.

Karla Bernard raised the issue during Tuesday's sitting of the P.E.I. Legislature.

The incident happened in February 2020 in a bathroom in the Robertson Library on campus.

A 19-year-old male student was found guilty of trying to record the woman, also a student, on his phone while she was in the all-gender bathroom.

In March, Abin Tom was found guilty of attempted voyeurism, given a conditional discharge, and ordered to stay away from the Robertson Library.

The woman told CBC News she dropped out of her program because she was so traumatized by the incident.

Her identity is protected by a court order.

The victim's identity is protected by the court, but she told CBC News her story.
The victim's identity is protected by the court, but she told CBC News her story. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Bernard said the government is a primary funder of post-secondary institutions, and the minister of education has the ability to ask for a review of the university's sexual violence policy.

"Sexual violence policies are supposed to protect students, not fail them," Bernard said.

"The minister of education has the ability to direct the review of a sexual violence policy," she said.

'Failure by UPEI'

Bernard referred to the Post-Secondary Institution Sexual Violence Policies Act.

She said it requires institutions to "appropriately accommodate the needs of students enrolled at the post-secondary institution who were affected by sexual violence."

"Last week, CBC reported on a former UPEI student who was so traumatized by an incident of sexual violence that she has had to change institutions and alter her career path," Bernard said, "which on its face suggests a failure by UPEI to provide adequate accommodation."

The incident of voyeurism happened in a washroom at UPEI's Robertson Library.
The incident of voyeurism happened in a washroom at UPEI's Robertson Library.(Laura Meader/CBC)

Bernard also asked what funding and resources that the government is providing to post-secondary institutions to assist them in combating and responding to sexual violence.

Premier responds

"That's a very good and important question," said Premier Dennis King, replying on behalf of the minister of education.

He said the government has numerous agreements in place with Holland College, Collège de l'Île and the University of Prince Edward Island.

"I will have to take that question under advisement, to get an answer back to the member," King told the house.

"I would have to go through the particulars (of the agreements) to get the answer that I think that the honourable member is deserving of."

A UPEI spokesperson says the university can't share what actions it is taking or may take, for privacy reasons. It said it does have a sexual violence prevention policy and a student code of conduct.
A UPEI spokesperson says the university can't share what actions it is taking or may take, for privacy reasons. It said it does have a sexual violence prevention policy and a student code of conduct.(Brian Higgins/CBC)

A UPEI spokesperson told CBC News last week that the university can't share what actions it is taking or may take, for privacy reasons.

It said it does have a sexual violence prevention policy and a student code of conduct and that "the issue is currently going through a process in accordance with these policies."

Sanctions in the university's policies range from a verbal warning, to suspension or expulsion.

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