September 8th, 2022
September 8th, 2022
QUEEN’S PARK – With sexual violence on the rise, NDP MPPs Kristyn Wong-Tam (Toronto Centre), Laura Mae Lindo (Kitchener Centre), Jill Andrew (Toronto-St. Paul’s) and Marit Stiles (Davenport) tabled a bill Tuesday to raise consent awareness, and will push the government to make it law before the Legislature rises from its summer sitting.
If passed, the NDP’s Consent Awareness Week Act will create space one week every year for Ontarians to have meaningful, positive, intersectional and age-appropriate conversations around consent – what it means and looks like.
“Consent is the cornerstone of any interaction, and its absence puts people at risk,” said Wong-Tam, who moved a motion Wednesday to fast-track the bill before the House rises, though the Ford government rejected it. “Sexual assault of any kind causes life-long trauma and impacts relationships for the rest of the survivor’s life.”
Wong-Tam held a press conference Thursday to address the bill’s importance, joined by Ontario student leaders Jessica Look, Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) president and vice-president of External Affairs at the University Students' Council at Western University; Kayla Han, OUSA board member and vice-president of Government and Stakeholder Relations at Wilfrid Laurier Students’ Union and Keneisha Charles, student leader at the Consent Action Team at Toronto Metropolitan University.
Consent Awareness Week would be recognized in the third week of September, which coincides with the increase in sexual violence that occurs on post-secondary campuses in the first six weeks of a new academic year.
High levels of sexual violence across Canada, and more specifically across Ontario's post-secondary institutions, tell us that our communities are at risk,” said Lindo. “Though colleges and universities are attempting to enhance gendered violence prevention training and supports, without adequate investments to post-secondary institutions, questions remain about this government's commitment to ending sexual violence on campuses."
Every year, an estimated 636,000 cases of sexual assault are self-reported across Canada, including 41 per cent reported by students at post-secondary education. In 2021, 34,242 cases of sexual assault were reported to the police — 18 per cent higher than 2020, and the highest number since 1996.
“Too few people have a full understanding of what consent means, and the provincial government has a responsibility to address and prevent the rising level of sexual violence we’re seeing across the country,” said Andrew. “Students go to post-secondary education to study, experience life and have fun, not to be subjected to unwanted pain and violence.”
Stiles stressed, “Consent Awareness Week will create much-needed awareness on consent so that everyone is able to be respected no matter where they study, work, live and play. It’s vital that people in Ontario are taught how to interact with others in ways that respect people’s boundaries and bodies.”
The MPPs emphasized that the Ford government has the power to pass this legislation now and should do so.
Jessica Look, Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) president and vice-president External Affairs at the University Students' Council at Western University:
“Officially recognizing Consent Awareness Week signals to students, faculty, and our campus communities that we care for a culture of consent, healthy relationships, and empowered sexual health. Gender-based violence has long been a concern for generations of students, and large-scale change is overdue.”
Kayla Han, OUSA board member and vice-president of Government and Stakeholder Relations at Wilfrid Laurier Students’ Union:
“Many incoming students have likely not had the educational opportunities to connect with their peers and their teachers about sexual health and sexual violence while in a remote learning environment due to COVID-19. It is up to our campus communities to help promote the conversation of consent and healthy relationships for future generations.”
Keneisha Charles, student leader at the Consent Action Team, Toronto Metropolitan University:
“When we talk about and work towards consent culture, we reimagine what our communities could look like - not just for ourselves but for the generations of students who will come after us. Consent Awareness Week empowers young people to imagine and co-create a future founded in care."