Fondé en 1983 --Unis pour la diversité et l'égalité raciale


Montreal, September 12, 2019 — Concordia University’s new mandatory online training program for faculty, staff and students tackling sexual violence has numerous serious flaws, said a former student who experienced sexual violence on campus three years ago.

Under Bill 151 adopted in 2017, sexual violence awareness and prevention training is a legal requirement for institutions of higher education in Quebec. Concordia’s recently launched training program entitled “It Takes All of Us”, fulfills this requirement. The program was co-created by KnowledgeOne and the Sexual Assault Resource Center (SARC) at Concordia.

“Cathy”, whose case was widely reported two years ago (see Backgrounder), believes the online training fails to take into account victims’ needs and rights, and that it provides incomplete information on the recourses for survivors and the consequences for perpetrators. In this manner, she believes that Concordia is not adequately communicating legal information to its staff and students.

This lack of insistence upon concrete sanctions may in part stem from the fact that the training does not emphasize the criminal nature of sexual violence in the first place. Indeed, on more than one occasion during the training, sexual assault as well as various non-consensual acts are described as constituting "unwanted behaviour" that could leave someone "feeling violated."

“Cathy” stressed that the training program is not survivor-centered, as it is not clear whether survivors were consulted in the development of this training.

Although the creation of an internal reporting system is in part mandated by Bill 151, external resources and legal recourses are not sufficiently promoted, according to “Cathy.” She noted that the scenarios included in the training urge students in “immediate emergency” to reach out to on-campus services, including campus security, for further support, and directing students to call 911 in the event of an emergency.

“The message seems to be that if you’re assaulted or harassed, try to go internal first and avoid going to the police or using external legal recourses. That was the major mistake I made, and I spent two years being “bounced around” from one internal service to another and ended with worse consequences while my aggressor enjoyed the luxury of graduation and a scholarship,” she said.

Furthermore, in terms of recourse, the online training and the SARC website fail to mention the Concordia Student Union’s Student Advocacy Services and Legal Information Clinic, both of which she turned to for help during her time being “bounced around” from one university service to another.

The online training and the SARC website also fail to describe sexual assault and harassment as a violation of civil rights as protected by the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. The Quebec Charter, the provincial civil rights law, guarantees basic rights such as the right to equality without discrimination and harassment, the right to dignity and the right to the security of the person.

Under the Quebec Charter, “Cathy” has filed, with CRARR’s support, a complaint against Concordia, seeking, among other things, significant material, moral and punitive damages from the University. The case is presently under investigation.

“We are concerned that on different university pages, there is no reference to the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission, where victims of sexual harassment and gender-based violence can file complaints and seek financial compensation and remedies,” noted CRARR’s Executive Director Fo Niemi.

In recent years, CRARR has helped victims of sexual and other harassment at Concordia file complaints with the Quebec Human Rights Commission. One of the more widely reported cases was that of “Mei Ling”, an ASFA executive member who took ASFA and two executives to the Commission in 2015 for race and gender discrimination and harassment. The case was settled last summer after the Commission issued a decision earlier this year.

CRARR is currently representing a gay student in a sexual harassment case against ASFA before the Commission, after ASFA failed to act on the student’s complaint of sexual harassment by one senior executive. The case will go to mediation in a few weeks.

“I am both disappointed and disturbed that women’s groups on campus and in the community at large have remained silent about the flaws of this online training,” “Cathy” said.

“Sexual violence is fundamentally a gross violation of one’s civil rights, and as long as any university refuses to recognize this fact, fair access to education or employment in full equality, dignity and security for women and other vulnerable people will always be threatened,” she concluded.

Fichier attachéTaille
Backgrounder “Cathy”.pdf52.48 Ko