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Ontario universities take first steps in combatting sexual assault

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Following a bombshell exposé published by the Toronto Star on the lack of infrastructure to deal with sexual assault in postsecondary schools, Ontario universities have been taking the first steps to address the issue. The report, published in late November, found that only nine out of 78 public universities in Canada have special policies geared towards aiding survivors of sexual assault.

The Varsity, University of Toronto's student paper, reported this week that the university will be establishing an "Advisory Committee" to combat the issue. The announcement came in the form of a letter from the vice-president, human resources and equity, and the vice-provost, students and first entry divisions. Queen's University will also follow suit by developing "initiatives and programs" to help survivors, as reported by The Journal, the Kingston university's student paper.

Beyond these initiatives, each of the 20 Ontario universities will create a special assault website that outlines rights and options for survivors. Further, the Council of Ontario Universities have struck a task force to address how to best provide support for survivors. Though these are necessary first steps, the path towards justice remains murky: sexual violence officially remains in the jurisdiction of municipal police.

According to the report published by the Toronto Star, the universities that already have special policies to address sexual assault are: Lakehead University in Thunder Bay; the University of Guelph, Brock University in St. Catharines; St. Mary's, Acadia and St. Francis Xavier Universities in Nova Scotia; St. Thomas and Mount Allison universities in New Brunswick; and Western University in London, Ont. St. Thomas University in Fredericton has established policies in the form of an appendix on sexual assault procedures, and the University of Ottawa's policies are currently under review following the expulsion of two hockey players for sexual assault. 

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