Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan – Questions and answers

It's Never Okay: An Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment

On March 8, 2016, the government passed the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act (Supporting Survivors and Challenging Sexual Violence and Harassment), 2016 (SVHAP Act). The legislation strengthens supports for survivors of sexual violence and helps make campuses, workplaces, homes, and communities safer.

The SVHAP Act amended a number of pieces of existing legislation, including the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005 (PCC Act). The amendments to the PCC Act will require each private career college (PCC) to have a policy that specifically and solely addresses sexual violence involving students.

Amendments to Ontario Regulation 415/06, made under the PCC Act, were filed on May 9, 2016. The amendments create specific requirements for PCC sexual violence policies and will help to ensure that students affected by sexual violence have access to the supports and services they need.

We understand that effective sexual violence policies will require meaningful input and support not only from students, but also from all stakeholders in the PCC sector, as well as local service providers and community organizations. We encourage PCCs to use this opportunity to build or strengthen relationships to ensure that sexual violence policies meet the needs of survivors.

Thoughtful input from PCCs, Career Colleges Ontario, students, public colleges and universities, community-based organizations, and others was pivotal in shaping the amendments to the PCC Act and the regulations. We wish to thank all stakeholders for working collaboratively with the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development (ministry) and the Superintendent of Private Career Colleges (Superintendent) to help advance this important government priority.

This document provides a catalogue of frequently asked questions and answers.

As a reminder, it is up to each PCC to obtain its own legal advice when interpreting and implementing all of the requirements set out in the PCC Act and regulations.

Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan

Q. What is the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan?

A. The Ontario government released It's Never Okay: An Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment on March 6, 2015.The plan outlined concrete steps to help change attitudes, provide more supports for survivors, and make workplaces, campuses, and communities safer and more responsive to complaints about sexual violence and harassment. The government has committed $41 million over three years to support the plan's implementation.

Q. What initiatives in the Action Plan were directed at the postsecondary sector?

A. Commitments in the Action Plan included:

  • Amending legislation to require public colleges, universities, and PCCs to adopt a sexual violence policy.
  • Ensuring that each institution would have clearly stated complaint procedures and response protocols; effective training and prevention programs; and services and supports for survivors.
  • Requiring public colleges, universities, and PCCs to report publicly on the incidence of sexual violence in the postsecondary sector, as well as initiatives to address sexual violence, and their effectiveness.
  • Supporting initiatives by public colleges, universities, and PCCs to reduce sexual violence, and ensure safe campuses.
  • Making sure all students had information about preventing sexual violence and were informed of resources and supports, starting with their first week of orientation, and continuing throughout the year, for students in all years of study.

Q. Why is the Action Plan a priority for the Ontario government?

A. It's Never Okay is part of the government's mission to provide more security, protection, and equal opportunity for all Ontarians. It will help ensure that everyone in the province can live in safety, free from the threat, fear, or experience of sexual violence and harassment.

Legislation

Q. How is sexual violence defined in the legislation?

A. The legislation defines sexual violence as any sexual act or act targeting a person's sexuality, gender identity or gender expression, whether the act is physical or psychological in nature, that is committed, threatened, or attempted against a person without the person's consent, and includes sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, indecent exposure, voyeurism, and sexual exploitation. The definition draws on definitions previously used in Ontario and on language adopted by the United Nations and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

I. Private Career Colleges Act, 2005

Q. What new requirements for PCCs are in the amended PCC Act?

A. The amendments require PCCs to:

  • Have a sexual violence policy that specifically and solely addresses sexual violence involving students;
  • Consider student input in the development of the policy and review it at least once every three years, again considering input from students;
  • Include the policy in every enrolment contract with a student;
  • Report to the Superintendent, as requested, on:
    • the number of times supports, services, and accommodations relating to sexual violence are requested and obtained by students;
    • any initiatives established to promote awareness of the services and supports available to students;
    • the number of incidents and complaints of sexual violence reported by students, and information about such incidents and complaints; and
    • the implementation and effectiveness of the policy; and
  • Participate in a survey of students relating to the incidence of sexual violence in the PCC sector.

Q. Why are PCC sexual violence policies to apply only to students?

A. The amended PCC Act requires PCCs to have, as a condition of registration, a sexual violence policy that “specifically and solely” addresses sexual violence involving students. The Superintendent is focused on student protection and will be responsible for monitoring and enforcing the obligation of PCCs to have sexual violence policies for students. PCCs have the flexibility to put additional policies in place to address sexual violence affecting managers, employees, and other persons.

Q. Why are PCCs required to “consider” student input in the development and review of sexual violence policies instead of being required to include student input in sexual violence policies?

A. The requirement for student input in the development and review of sexual violence policies is intended to provide flexibility to institutions when drafting and amending policies. The Superintendent recognizes that the lack of representative student organizations in the PCC sector could make a specific requirement to incorporate or include student input in policies challenging for some PCCs.

Q. Why are PCCs not required to consult with community groups and violence against women experts in the development and review of sexual violence policies?

A. The requirement for student input reflects the public Action Plan's focus on students. PCCs have the flexibility to expand consultation on their policies to include community-based service providers and others.

Q. Why are sexual violence policies to be reviewed at least once every three years? Why isn't a review required more frequently?

A. The amendments to the PCC Act require every PCC to review its sexual violence policy at least once every three years and to amend it as appropriate. This requirement was based on stakeholder feedback that regular review is needed to ensure that policies continue to meet the needs of students. The requirement for a review is intended to allow institutions to be flexible and responsive. PCCs can review their policies more often if necessary.

II. Ontario Regulation 415/06

Q. What new requirements for PCCs are in the amended regulations under the PCC Act?

A. The amended regulations require PCCs to:

  • Appropriately accommodate the needs of students affected by sexual violence;
  • Include information in their sexual violence policies about supports and services available at each PCC and in the community;
  • Inform students via their sexual violence policies that a formal report of an incident of sexual violence is not necessary to access supports, services, or accommodations;
  • Include specific content in their sexual violence policies respecting each institution's process for responding to and addressing incidents and complaints of sexual violence;
  • Publish their sexual violence policies on their websites; and
  • Provide, or make available, training on their sexual violence policies to managers, instructors, staff, students, and others.

Q. How will the regulatory amendments support survivors of sexual violence?

A. The amendments are intended to ensure that PCCs are more responsive to incidents of sexual violence affecting students. This includes training staff to administer sexual violence policies, setting procedures that clearly indicate the point of contact and the process for reporting incidents of sexual violence, and providing appropriate accommodations. These provisions will help to ensure that students who experience sexual violence have access to the information and the supports and services that they need.

Q. Will PCCs be required to accommodate students who experience sexual violence off campus, or who experienced sexual violence before they enrolled at their institution?

A. The amendments to the PCC Act require PCCs to have policies addressing sexual violence involving students. No distinction is made about whether an incident of sexual violence occurred on campus or off, or if a student was enrolled in the institution at the time. The regulations under the PCC Act require institutions to appropriately accommodate the needs of students affected by sexual violence. Each institution is required to identify the appropriate accommodation.

Q. What does it mean to “appropriately accommodate” the needs of students affected by sexual violence?

A. Appropriate accommodation will need to be determined on a case-by-case basis. It will be each PCC's responsibility to determine what is appropriate for each student seeking accommodation.

Q. Will PCCs have to provide supports and services to their students 24/7?

A. The Superintendent understands that not all PCCs may have the resources to offer supports and services around the clock. The Superintendent encourages PCCs to consult with local community organizations to identify 24/7 supports and services that are available to students who experience sexual violence.

Q. Do survivors have the right to choose whether their PCC will investigate an incident of sexual violence?

A. The regulations require that sexual violence policies include a statement specifying that survivors may choose not to request an investigation by the institution and that survivors have the right not to participate in any investigation that may occur.
The Superintendent recognizes that a survivor's choice should be respected wherever possible. However, in some circumstances, PCCs may have an obligation to investigate an incident of sexual violence to protect other members of the campus community, even if the survivor would prefer otherwise. This requirement seeks to balance a survivor's choice with an institution's obligation, and to ensure that survivors understand that they cannot be compelled to participate in an institution's investigation.

Q. Do survivors have the right to have someone with them during any PCC investigation and decision-making process that may occur?

A. The regulations require that sexual violence policies include a statement that a party to an investigation or decision-making process has the right to have a person present with him or her at every stage of the process. The choice of person rests with each party.

Q. Why was “victim” used instead of “survivor” or “person affected by sexual violence” in paragraph 4 of subsection 36.0.2 (2) of the regulation? (I.e.: “[A] sexual violence policy shall include the following information: . . . The statement that a victim may choose not to request an investigation by the private career college, and has the right not to participate in any investigation that may occur.”)

A. “Victim” was used instead of “person affected by sexual violence,” which is used elsewhere, so that an accused perpetrator, or a witness, cannot decline to participate in an investigation. “Victim” was chosen over “survivor” because “victim” is a term commonly used and understood in legislation.

Q. Why doesn't the regulation address police investigations and how they may intersect with an institution's investigation? Will the Superintendent be providing further guidance to PCCs on how to develop a protocol with local police?

A. The Superintendent has no role or authority with respect to police procedures. It would be inappropriate to set out provisions relating to police investigations in a regulation under the PCC Act. Each institution will need to determine its role during a police investigation.

Q. What does “procedural fairness” mean in paragraph 7 of subsection 36.0.2 (2)? (I.e.: “[A] sexual violence policy shall include the following information: . . . A description of the elements of procedural fairness that will be part of the investigation and decision-making processes.”)

A. This requirement seeks to ensure that sexual violence policies provide information about how a PCC will provide fair treatment to a person reporting sexual violence and the person named as the respondent.

Q. Do individuals have the right to appeal all decisions resulting from a PCC's investigation process?

A. The regulations require that sexual violence policies include a description of the appeal processes that may be available related to decisions resulting from an investigation process. This requirement seeks to ensure that individuals involved in PCC investigations and/or decision-making processes understand which decisions can be appealed, and the manner in which they may do so.

Q. Why don't the regulations distinguish between disclosure and reporting? Will PCCs be required to provide services to survivors without a formal report of an incident of sexual violence?

A. The regulations require PCCs to include in their sexual violence policies a statement that a survivor is not required to report an incident of sexual violence to access supports or accommodations. This provision ensures that survivors who decline to make a formal report continue to have access to the supports and services they need.

Q. Will international students be able to report incidents and complaints of sexual violence without fear of retaliation in terms of their immigration status?

A. Sexual violence policies, which must include measures to protect students against retaliation, apply to all students. No distinction is made between domestic and international students.

Consultation

Q. Were stakeholders consulted during the drafting of the statutory and regulatory amendments?

A. PCCs, Career Colleges Ontario, public colleges and universities, students, and representatives from the violence against women community were consulted on the legislation. The input from these stakeholders informed a number of amendments to the PCC Act and regulations.

Compliance

Q. How soon will PCCs have to be in compliance with the statutory and regulatory requirements?

A. The amendments to the PCC Act and the regulations come into force on January 1, 2017. The Superintendent understands that some PCCs will require time to build the capacity necessary to comply with the new requirements. All PCCs are encouraged to begin planning for these new requirements as soon as possible.

Q. How will the Superintendent ensure compliance with the legislation?

A. The Superintendent is confident that Ontario's PCCs are committed to addressing sexual violence. Over the past year since the Action Plan was announced, many PCCs have provided the Superintendent with copies of sexual violence policies that they currently have in place. Through ongoing reporting by PCCs, and continuing dialogue between PCCs and their inspectors, the Superintendent will have several opportunities to understand how PCCs are implementing the requirements set out in the amended PCC Act and regulations.

Reporting

Q. Will PCCs be required to report publicly on sexual violence? What in particular will PCCs be asked to report on?

A. The amendments to the PCC Act require institutions to collect and provide data and information to the Superintendent, upon request, relating to:

  • The number of times supports, services, and accommodation are requested and obtained by students;
  • Any initiatives or programs established to promote awareness of supports and services;
  • The number of incidents and complaints of sexual violence, and information about such incidents and complaints; and
  • The implementation and effectiveness of the policy.

Q. When will PCCs be required to begin reporting to the Superintendent? And when will that information be made public?

A. No timelines have yet been established for PCCs to begin reporting to the Superintendent, nor has any date been set for making information public.

Q. Will the Superintendent be providing support to PCCs as they work to satisfy the reporting requirements in the amended PCC Act?

A. In collaboration with students, experts, and the postsecondary education sector, the ministry will be developing and implementing a campus climate survey to be completed by students at each publicly assisted postsecondary institution and PCC. The ministry will also be developing a common metric that can be used by all postsecondary institutions to count the number of incidents of sexual violence experienced by students. The information from the survey and the data collected through the use of the common metric are anticipated to satisfy the new reporting requirements for postsecondary institutions in Ontario.

Q. What is a campus climate survey?

A. The anticipated campus climate survey is an anonymous survey of students about the prevalence of sexual violence on campus. The survey could examine both the amount of sexual violence occurring and perceptions of the respondents to issues related to sexual violence. Survey results may also be helpful in evaluating the effectiveness of institutional sexual violence policies, procedures, and programs.

Q. Who will be developing the campus climate survey?

A. The Minister's/Superintendent's approach will be informed by an Advisory Committee with representation from student groups, colleges, universities, PCCs, and experts from the violence against women field. The committee members have made significant progress since February 2016 on understanding and framing the requirements for the campus climate survey.

Q. Will the campus climate survey data be made public? If so, when?

A. The legislation requires that institutions report to the Minister/Superintendent. A campus climate survey is one tool to gather meaningful data, measure prevalence, and identify areas for improvement. Decisions about the timing of the survey, what the survey will include, and its release are expected to be made in the near future.

Q. How will information on “the number of incidents and complaints of sexual violence reported by students” be gathered, and what kind of information will be reported?

A. In addition to the implementation of a campus climate survey to measure the prevalence of sexual violence, a common metric will be developed for institutions to measure the number of incidents and complaints of sexual violence reported to them by students. The ministry's approach will be informed by an Advisory Committee with representation from student groups, colleges, universities, PCCs, and experts from the violence against women field.

Q. How will institutions know what data (from the campus climate survey and common metric) should be included in the reports to the Minister/Superintendent?

A. The Advisory Committee will provide the ministry with guidance as to what data from the survey and metric should be included in the reports to the Minister/Superintendent.

Q. What measures will help to ensure the confidentiality of personal information?

A. The ministry and the Superintendent are subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Ontario) and the protection of personal information provisions under that Act. PCCs are subject to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (Canada). Moreover, the amendments to the PCC Act specifically require that PCCs take reasonable steps to ensure that information provided to the Superintendent does not include personal information.

Awareness and prevention

Q. How can PCCs raise awareness of and help prevent sexual violence?

A. To help PCCs build student awareness of sexual violence, the Superintendent encouraged all PCCs to participate in the provincial “WhoWillYouHelp” campaign. Last September, the Superintendent provided PCCs with digital resources linked to the campaign to use on their websites and social media channels.

In addition, as of October 15, 2015, all registered PCCs are required to include an expanded Statement of Students' Rights and Responsibilities (SSRR) in every enrolment contract with a student. The expanded SSRR provides information about sexual violence. (In the New Year, the Superintendent expects to revise the SSRR thoroughly to reflect the new protections available to students when the amended legislation comes into effect on January 1, 2017.)

Need more information?

If you have questions about the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005 contact the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development at:

Private Career Colleges Branch
Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development
77 Wellesley Street, Box 977
Toronto, ON M7A 1N3

Telephone: 416-314-0500 or 1-866-330-3395
Fax: 416-314-0499

Website: Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development

The full text of the Act and regulations can also be downloaded from the Ontario government E-Laws website.