OPSEU/SEFPO calls for long-term investment to end gender-based violence

OPSEU/SEFPO’s leaders are calling on the government to invest in long-term prevention of gender-based violence in Ontario following multiple reports of sexual assault from Western University students.

Earlier this week, reports of gender-based violence at Western University began to surface on social media and in the news, with allegations of 30 or more female students being drugged and/or assaulted and an additional four women reporting sexual assault on-campus at Western University, where OPSEU/SEFPO represents campus police.

OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas expressed his solidarity with the survivors, stating that more must be done on a provincial level to put a stop to gender-based violence.

“It is unacceptable that so many women students at Western are starting their university careers with this trauma and anxiety,” said Thomas. “Gender-based violence has been taking place in our colleges, universities, and in our communities for far too long. This is not only the problem of one university; it is a problem that our entire province must address.”

Since the sexual assaults came to light, Western University announced an action plan that includes strengthening policies, increasing security on-campus and training around consent, personal safety, gender-based violence and sexual assault. Additionally, the government announced changes to simplify the sexual violence reporting process in Ontario’s colleges and universities.

OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer, Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida noted that, while these actions are important, to prevent gender-based violence in the long-run, investment in our education system is key.

“To truly fight against this violence, education around consent and equal treatment has to be a part of our education system from early on,” said Almeida. “Enhanced campus security and easier reporting at the university are important steps forward, but it’s time that our province invests in preventing gender-based violence before it can ever begin.”

Dianne Clarabut, Chair of OPSEU/SEFPO’s Provincial Women’s Committee (PWC) expressed her support for the survivors at Western University and all of the students affected by these horrific events.

“Every woman deserves to feel safe in their home, campus, workplace, and community,” said Clarabut. “Rape culture and misogyny have no place in our society, and we will continue fighting to strengthen our systems of accountability and increase education around equality so that we can finally end the sexual assault crisis.”