University of Ottawa to implement new sexual assault policies

University of Ottawa’s president says he will be implementing measures to improve the school’s response to sexual harassment and violence. A task force recommended that the university begin mandatory training for all senior administration on causes and solutions to sexual violence as well as prevention and response training for athletes, coaches, new faculty and residence overseers.

The University of Ottawa released the findings of its Task Force for Equality and Respect after nearly nine months of investigation. The task force made 11 recommendations on how the school can better educate and protect students from sexual violence and harassment.

University of Ottawa president Allan Rock said he accepts all 11 recommendations and will implement them immediately.

Also included in its findings were: suggestions for new undergraduate courses that address sexual violence and rape culture and a bystander intervention program.


“The findings of the task force are clear: We have work to do,” Rock said during a press conference on Thursday. “We are committed to taking action. … Our goal is to make our university a place where students, faculty and staff feel secure and where survivors of sexual violence get the support they need.”

The University of Ottawa was in the media spotlight last year after two high-profile sexual assault investigations. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

This investigation stemmed from two high-profile sexual assault incidents that occurred early last year, drawing national criticism of the university’s policies. One involved a student union leader who was the victim of online harassment. The other affected the school’s hockey team after some players’ alleged involvement in a sexual assault during a team trip to Thunder Bay, Ont. Two of its players were charged in that case.

The Ottawa cases were just part of a series of scandals that occurred on university campuses across the country. Dalhousie University was in the news recently after dentistry students made misogynistic comments about female classmates on a private Facebook group.

Ryerson has faced pressure to review its sexual assault policies after a Toronto Star investigation uncovered that only nine of 78 universities nationwide had policies in place to deal with cases.

The review, which is in progress, is led by Ryerson’s vice-provost Heather Vetere. She said the school has several policies that support victims but that they need to be consolidated into one document that clearly explains how to prevent and how to respond to sexual assault.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is also pushing for all Ontario universities to standardize sexual assault policies.

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