GRAPHIC BY SARA SHEIKH / THE SPUTNIK PHOTOGRAPHY
Sexual violence is something that occurs frequently on university campuses across Ontario, and across Canada.
Unfortunately, most victims are not comfortable speaking up or are not advocated for because of fear of repercussions or questioning. The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) heard from the students of the eight partnering universities and set out to create change.
They put forward the Gender Based and Sexual Violence Prevention and Response paper in March of 2020 to the Provincial government.
Julia Pereira, who is VP of University Affairs for Laurier as well as President of OUSA, explained that creating and presenting this paper was one of the responsibilities that OUSA holds.
“We represent 150,000 students across Ontario…we want to create affordable, accessible, high quality and accountable education for them all,” said Pereira.
The Provincial government decided to take up two recommendations out of the policies that were presented to resolve the gender based and sexual violence issues taking place on campuses across Ontario. The policy paper is public information and can be found here with a brief as well.
OUSA was adamant to create a safe environment for students to speak about their experiences. With the policy, students are given the guarantee that they will not be questioned about certain topics when, and if, they choose to come forward about sexual or gender-based violence.
“Questions about sexual history or drug and alcohol use as well as concern around the repercussions,” said Pereira when asked about what changes would bring a piece of mind to Laurier students.
These topics were brought up by students at every campus as well as external resources and professionals that OUSA sought out. Pereira said that the story that OUSA wanted the policy paper to tell was “trauma informed and survivor centric”.
The creation of this policy paper was only a stepping stone for OUSA, said Pereira.
“This is a long and uphill battle,” she said.
The regulation presented needs to be finalized and enacted by the government. Currently, OUSA is working on receiving government approval on other aspects of the same paper that were overlooked before.
“We are looking into Anti-Oppression training for staff on campus as well as Campus security disclosure to make even more changes,” said Pereira.
While focused on gender based and sexual violence, OUSA also continues to build a policy library which is written by students and is reflective of student wants and needs. OUSA is always open to hear what students have to say and encourage students to reach out to any of their representatives to make sure their voice is heard.