Photo by Justin Quaintance

CAUS Chair talks sexual violence white paper

By Gayathri Peringod, March 2 2020 —

Earlier this month, the Council of Alberta University Students released a white paper on sexual violence on Alberta campuses.

The paper “calls on the Government of Alberta to better track instances of campus sexual violence, ensure institutions have robust policies and work with institutions to fund campus sexual violence services as well as programs addressing preventative measures.”

CAUS, which represents over 100,000 undergraduate students from universities across Alberta, developed the white paper to provide accurate, up-to-date data on sexual violence on campuses.

“This paper is actually the first of its kind in Alberta to be written by student leaders with research-intensive data, focusing on recommendations for the government of Alberta,” said Sadiya Nazir, Chair of CAUS and vice-president external of the University of Calgary’s Students’ Union.

“Basically, Alberta is one of the few provinces in Canada that does not have any legislation in place specific to campus sexual violence,” said Nazir. “In Alberta, we don’t have a lot of the campus data in order to form a lot of the policy work.”

Nazir stressed, however, that sexual violence is a prevalent issue across campuses. 

“Even just at the University of Calgary, we know that support advocates are working and catering to a community of tens of thousands of people — their offices are quite overworked and they are at capacity with the services that they’re offering.”

Nazir met with provincial government officials to discuss the White Paper on Jan. 29.

“If there are more cuts to post-secondary that will compound the cuts that we saw in 2019, we will have to take a pretty assertive approach,” said Nazir.

The paper also calls on the government to financially support the development of online-based educational training for university staff and faculty on effective responses to those reporting acts of sexual violence.

“Realistically, while it might be difficult to get the government to put in the dollars to address campus sexual violence as per our recommendations, we are hopeful that with continued advocacy and research-based approach that we’ll be able to see some uptake.”

Nazir expects to see a reaction from the students at universities across Alberta regarding the state of sexual violence services on their campus, among other issues.

“With cuts to institutions, university administrations’ hands are going to be tied and so without funding for these crucial services that impact lives, I think across Alberta we’re going to see students come out and really speak up about this issue.”CAUS’s Sexual Violence White Paper can be accessed here.

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