New Manitoba law aims to halt sex assaults at post-secondary schools

New Manitoba law aims to halt sex assaults at post-secondary schools

An estimated 15 to 25 per cent of female post-secondary students experience sexual assault or attempted sexual assault during their education, the provincial government says.

And Friday, it brought new rules for post-secondary institutions into effect aimed at preventing sexual violence and harassment, and raising awareness among students.

"I would never want any student to have to sit next to a perpetrator day after day in a classroom and to know that they have absolutely no path forward," said Sport, Culture and Heritage Minister Rochelle Squires.

The new Sexual Violence Awareness and Prevention Act applies to all public institutions, the Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology, and all 57 private post-secondary schools across the province, which include degree-granting religious institutions and private vocational institutions.

"What it mandates for the public institutions, of course, is to have a process in place … but it also includes the private institutions, which there are quite a number [of], but they are very small in terms of percentage of the student population. So it has an impact all the way across the whole province," Education Minister Ian Wishart told reporters.

"I think they all had some form of policy in place, in terms of public ones. Many of the private ones had not, and there's quite a long list of those, including some fairly big private colleges as well."

Wishart would not specify which private institutions did not have policies in place, only saying that all schools are required to meet the province's new requirements.

Awareness, response policies required

Raising awareness of the importance of sexual consent is part of the legislation, with schools responsible for having campaigns informing students that "no means no."

As well, they must have appropriate policies and procedures in place to respond when a student reports an incident of sexual harassment or violence. That means someone who comes forward with a complaint will be treated with discretion and respect and will be protected, the province says.

The legislation entails a definition of sexual violence, which includes harassment on social media.

The province has also released the Manitoba Post-Secondary Sexual Violence Policy Guide to help institutions ensure they meet the requirements.