Keeping post-secondary students safe and healthy has been a key priority for me throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
My commitment to student safety remains steadfast and unwavering when it comes to another important topic - addressing sexual violence on our campuses.
One of the key goals of the Alberta 2030: Building Skills for Jobs strategy is to improve access and the student experience. Addressing campus sexual violence is a flagship initiative under this goal.
Being a young adult is a special time of life, where you discover your passions and pursue your dreams, and lay the foundation for your future career by taking apprenticeship training, completing a diploma, or a degree – the possibilities are truly endless.
Acquiring new skills, building knowledge and making new friendships on campus is all part of this season of life for young adults; it’s truly a rite of passage.
Knowing that some students experience sexual violence while they are on campus is wholly unacceptable to me as Minister of Advanced Education. Post-secondary students have told government we need to do more in this area, that traditional sexual violence policies are no longer enough, and we agree with you. We do need to do more, and we are going to do more, in partnership with students and post-secondary institutions.
Government has set aside $2.5 million in funding to help post-secondary schools update their sexual violence policies by the end of 2022. They must align with best practices and ensure their policies are survivor centric. We know these policies cannot be a one-and-done decision; they will need to be regularly reviewed to stay current.
I appreciate each post-secondary institution will have different ideas and approaches and respect their autonomy in this area to develop policies that work best for their settings and their students. We realize the needs of urban and rural schools are different, as are the needs of schools that are solely online compared to those with in-person classes. We are confident post-secondary institutions will work closely with student unions and advocacy groups, to ensure all voices are heard, and that their policies educate, protect, and prevent sexual violence.
The $2.5 million in funding will also go towards developing a province-wide survey on sexual violence, so we can get a more accurate assessment of sexual violence on campuses. My department will partner with the Ministry of Culture and Status of Women on this initiative, with the survey expected to launch this fall.
Post-secondary institutions can also use the monies for training and awareness campaigns and to ensure survivors get the support and resources they need as they recover, fully acknowledging that survivors will have lifelong scars, impacting their physical, emotional and mental well-being for years. The damage from sexual violence has a ripple effect that impacts everyone in the community – survivors’ friends, family and support systems. The impacts are far reaching, and we want all survivors to know they are not alone.
As Minister, I am confident that by working together we can prevent sexual violence on campus, and make campuses a safer place for all post-secondary students. That’s my commitment and promise to you and to all Albertans.