Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act
Ontario is moving forward on its commitment to build a province where everyone is free from the threat of sexual violence and harassment.
The government will introduce the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act today to, if passed, support survivors and help make homes, campuses, workplaces and communities safer. The legislation, which is subject to legislative approval, would build on commitments in the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan to:
- Remove the limitation period for all civil proceedings based on sexual assault and, in certain cases, sexual misconduct or assault, so that victims can bring their civil claims forward whenever they feel ready to do so.
- Remove the limitation period for survivors of sexual and domestic violence to make compensation applications to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, giving survivors more time to make applications when they feel ready to do so.
- Make workplaces safer by amending the Occupational Health and Safety Act to include a definition of workplace sexual harassment, enhance requirements regarding workplace harassment programs and create specific new employer duties to protect workers from workplace harassment, including a duty to ensure that incidents and complaints are appropriately investigated.
- Amend the Residential Tenancies Act to shorten the notice period to terminate a lease where the tenant is fleeing domestic or sexual violence, allowing them to be able to leave an unsafe living environment quickly.
- Make campuses safer by requiring every publicly assisted college and university and private career college to have a stand-alone sexual violence policy, and to review their policy at least once every three years. Colleges, universities and private career colleges would be required to report to the Minister/Superintendent on incidences of sexual violence, as well as on initiatives to address sexual violence and their effectiveness as requested by the Minister or Superintendent. Institutions would be required to seek student input in the policy development and review processes.
It's Never Okay: An Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment
This legislation is part of It's Never Okay, the government's three year action plan to help change attitudes, improve supports for survivors who come forward about abuse, and make workplaces and campuses safer and more responsive to complaints about sexual violence and harassment. Since the release of the Action Plan in March 2015, the government has:
- Invested over $1.1 million a year for the next three years in hospital-based Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Centres to enhance specialized counselling services and community outreach support for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence
- Provided $9.3 million over three years to support the Language Interpreter Services program, which delivers interpreter services that help survivors of domestic or sexual violence
- Increased funding by an additional $1.75 million per year for the province's 42 sexual assault centres so they can enhance their services for survivors of sexual violence
- Announced the Creative Engagement Fund, which supports Ontario artists and advocates to challenge attitudes on sexual violence and harassment, consent, and gender inequality
- Launched #WhoWillYouHelp, a public awareness campaign that has reached over 84 million people across the globe
- Established a permanent Roundtable on Violence Against Women which provides advice to the government on ongoing and emerging gender-based violence issues.
Today, as part of the Action Plan, the government is also announcing a $3 million Innovation Fund to support new, creative projects to enhance community support for survivors of sexual violence. This fund will support service providers, women's groups and the not-for-profit sector to create projects that will strengthen the coordination between organizations across sectors and provide more timely, effective and seamless supports for survivors. Interested organizations can learn more about the fund and apply at Grants Ontario.