Ontario prepares to end sexual violence

By Jasminee Sahoye

Tracy MacCharles
Tracy MacCharles

It’s estimated that one in three Canadian women will experience sexual assault in her adult life.  Fewer than 10% of sexual assaults are reported to police.

In light of recent high-profile public reports of workplace harassment, Premier Kathleen Wynne and her caucus examined its own policies, procedures and training around workplace discrimination and harassment prevention and workplace violence prevention .

Ministers’ office and premier’s office staff have completed training in both policies provided by the Ontario Public Service.

In light of these, Wynne recently rolled out initiatives to raise awareness of sexual violence and harassment, enhance prevention initiatives to combat sexual discrimination, harassment and violence, and improve victim support.

The initiatives include a public education campaign; measures to improve government caucus policies, procedures and training; the creation of a standing roundtable on violence against women and work across several ministries to improve support for victims of sexual violence.

In early 2015, the government will launch a multi-media public education campaign to challenge norms, behaviours and myths around sexual violence and harassment and raise awareness of the supports available to victims, beyond the criminal justice system.

Also, all government MPPs will be required to participate in sexual assault and harassment training; all premier’s office, ministers’ office and government MPPs’ staff will receive training specific to the political workplace. Government caucus harassment policies and procedures will be reviewed to ensure they conform to best practices.

Wynne is expected to approach the Speaker to discuss making harassment prevention training available to all MPPs.

She asked Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues Tracy MacCharles to build on the work of the Ontario Women’s Directorate to convene a sector Roundtable on Violence Against Women. The roundtable will provide a forum for experts on safety and equality to provide input into the government’s initiatives.

Wynne has asked all ministers to explore ways to improve support for victims of sexual violence and harassment. In addition, she directed specific ministers to offer options to enhance support for victims of sexual violence relating to the criminal justice system, policing, health care, education, post-secondary campuses and Ontario workplaces.

Work in these areas will begin immediately and result in an action plan to be brought forward by March 8, 2015, International Women’s Day.

“Sexual violence and harassment is a reality in every community in this province. In every workplace, every campus, every context; we can and must do better,” said Wynne.

“Twenty-five years ago on Dec. 6, 14 women were senselessly murdered at Montreal’s École Polytechnique. A quarter of a century later, violence remains prevalent in the lives of far too many women and girls,” MacCharles said.

“As the minister responsible for women’s issues, it’s important to me that women in Ontario feel safe in their homes, in the workplace and in their communities and we will continue to work closely with community organizations on initiatives aimed at preventing violence, improving the justice system response and providing better supports for victims,” MacCharles added.