Ontario introduces legislation to protect postsecondary students against sexual misconduct

Proposed legislation builds on new regulatory amendments introduced by province last fall

Ontario introduces legislation to protect postsecondary students against sexual misconduct

The Ontario government has introduced legislation to protect students enrolled in postsecondary institutions across Ontario against sexual misconduct by staff and faculty.

The Strengthening Post-secondary Institutions and Students Act, 2022 (Bill 26) seeks to amend the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act and the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005, to help protect postsecondary students against sexual misconduct by staff and faculty and allow institutions to address complaints better when they arise.

The government confirmed that the bill builds on new regulatory amendments introduced last fall to protect students from inappropriate questioning or disciplinary action when reporting sexual violence.

Under the bill, if an employee commits an act of sexual misconduct against a student, the institution may discharge or discipline the employee for that act, and the discharge or disciplinary measure is deemed for just cause for all purposes. The employee will no longer be entitled to notice of termination, termination pay, compensation, or restitution because of the discharge or disciplinary measure.

Moreover, if an employee commits an act of sexual misconduct against a student, and the institution discharges the employee for that act, or the employee resigns from their employment, the institution shall not re-employ the employee.

The bill provides that every institution should have an employee sexual misconduct policy that includes, at a minimum, rules concerning sexual behaviour involving employees and students and examples of disciplinary measures that may be imposed on employees who contravene the policy.

The bill also provides that an agreement between an institution and any person, including a collective agreement or an agreement settling existing or contemplated litigation, should not contain any term that prohibits the institution from disclosing the fact that a court, arbitrator, or other adjudicator has determined that an employee has committed an act of sexual misconduct against a student. Any such term included in an agreement should be deemed void.

“All students deserve to learn in a safe and supportive learning environment,” Minister of Colleges and Universities Jill Dunlop said. “From day one, we have been clear: this government has zero-tolerance for sexual assault, harassment, or any other forms of violence or misconduct. That’s why we are taking action to better protect students from sexual violence and misconduct on and off-campus.”

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