Some Ryerson community members are skeptical about Ontario’s new investment in sexual harassment training.
Last week, the provincial government announced it will spend $1.7 million on sexual violence and harassment training for staff and managers across various sectors, such as hospitality and school and university services. The training will help frontline workers identify and intervene in instances of sexual violence and harassment on the job.
There is some concern, however, about the allocation of the funding, as well as design of the training.
“I’m a bit apprehensive about the plan because they haven’t made it clear how it would work and how much money each sector will get,” says Lidia Cohen, a first-year hospitality and tourism management student at Ryerson.
Tracy MacCharles, the Ontario minister responsible for women’s issues, said that the training would be designed and delivered by organizations in the hospitality sector and by violence prevention experts.
“This training will be customized in each of the groups receiving funding to make it appropriate to their sector and to specifically focus on sexual violence and harassment,” MacCharles said.
Training and legislation are part of the “It’s Never Okay” campaign— Ontario’s action plan to stop sexual violence and harassment. The plan aims to change attitudes, improve support for survivors and make workplaces and campuses safer.
Cohen, who is also a part-time bartender, says she has doubts about the efficacy of the training because it is not mandatory for employers.
“The government needs to demand that employers do the training instead of making it a suggestion. If [not], then what’s the point?” she said.
MacCharles says that this initiative will complement Ontario’s new Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act that came into effect on Sept. 8, which strengthens confidentiality and holds the employer accountable to conduct an investigation.
“Good organizations will show a leadership role in this training now that they have the funds to do so,” says MacCharles.
The co-ordinator of Ryerson’s Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education, Farrah Khan, says she supports the initiative from the Ontario government. Khan said she has some concerns about the opt-in basis of the training and would like to see that change moving forward.
“It’s a first step,” said Khan, “Although the training is not mandatory, I think it’s a really important start for people to feel safe and free.”