Wynneís plan to combat sexual violence is bold and hopeful






Contributed to The Globe and Mail




Brenda Cossman is a professor of law at the University of Toronto.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced on Friday her governmentís new three-year plan to combat sexual violence. Entitled ďItís Never OkayĒ, the initiative has multiple prongs, from public awareness to funding for sexual assault centres to legislative change. Itís a plan about what can be done, right here, right now, on the ground, by her government. No more hand wringing, no more passing the buck to other levels of government, no more debating or studying whether there really is a problem.

ďItís Never OkayĒ lets the statistics around sexual violence do the talking. ďThere are 460,000 assaults in Canada each year. For every 1000 sexual assaults, only 33 are reported to the police; 12 result in charges laid; only 6 are prosecuted and only 3 lead to conviction.Ē

There is clearly a problem. And the government does not pull its punches in bluntly naming the source of the problem: misogyny and rape culture. The plan even succinctly defines rape culture as ďa culture in which dominant ideas, social practices, media images and societal institutions implicitly and explicitly condone sexual assault by normalizing or trivializing male sexual violence and by blaming survivors for their own abuse.Ē Some wonít like it. But, the government decided it was more important to get serious about sexual violence. You can almost hear them saying Ďtoo bad, it is what it is, letís deal with ití.

The plan recognizes that there are no simple answers, and the responses must be as broad reaching as the problem.

There is the bold multi-media public awareness campaign, encouraging bystander involvement. The ďWho will you help?Ē video spot shows a series of assaults in the making, with the attackers turning to the camera, saying ďthanks for keeping your mouth shut,Ē No, itís not subtle. Itís hard to watch. That is the point Ė we are all implicated if we do not step forward and do something.

There are legislative changes Ė from eliminating the two-year statute of limitations on civil sexual assault claims and claims of sexual assault before the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board to allowing victims of violence to break their leases with less than 60 days notice. The government took a deep look at laws within its jurisdiction, and is fixing the ones that it can.

There is the pilot project to provide victims of sexual assault free legal advice, as they go through the criminal justice system. It recognizes that its hard Ė very hard Ė to be a sexual assault complainant, and it is going to see what it can do to make it a least a little easier.

There are the training initiatives Ė for Crown attorneys and other lawyers, police and educators, health care workers and others on the front line of dealing with victims of assault and harassment. It recognizes that despite the best of intentions, everyone on the front line could do a little better.

Colleges and universities will be required to adopt sexual assault policies, with clear complaint procedures and protocols. Many already have them, but they are going to have to get better, clearer and require student input.

And the jewel in the crown: the provinceís new sexual education curriculum that will ensure that students learn about consent, respectful relationships and gender inequality, through grades 1 to 12.

Instead of simply focusing on punishing those who have offended, it is about teaching the next generation to be better sexual citizens. Itís about nipping rape culture and misogyny in the bud. Itís about stopping sexual assault before it ever happens. Itís a hopeful statement of the power of education.

The plan sees a role for law in combatting sexual violence. But, it also recognizes that law alone is not the answer. While the criminal justice system could do a better job, the plan moves beyond a focus on punishment. It is as much about changing social norms. It is about prevention and education. It is about the future.

Finally, built right into the plan is the acknowledgement that itís not going to solve all the problems. It establishes an ongoing roundtable on sexual violence to review the initiatives and to keep coming up with new ones.

Itís bold. Itís humble. Itís hopeful. It wonít end sexual violence in three years. Sexual norms change slowly. Iím always one to find limitations Ė itís my job. But, itís awfully refreshing to see a government taking the lead on a complex social and legal issue, and seeing what it can do, right here, right now.





Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre

Premier Wynne has yet to address the issue of the Ontario Government's lack of recognition of violence towards men by women.

The funding imbalance equates effectively to a promotion of violence by women towards men and further inequality under law than equality.

We now live in a Province dominated by extreme feminist ideas that have an agenda of ever increasing government funding while never ever, spending a cent for equality under law to remove the financial incentives known as "the rape lottery" whereby the government pays lottery style winnings in tax free money for women who are successful in obtaining convictions against men simply on a she said versus a he said.

Premier Wynn has yet to deal with the legal issues of rape by women or men when other factors are considered. Such as, a lack of consent to protected sex when only protected sex was consented to.

Or, where women claim they cannot get pregnant while actually carefully planning to become pregnant to ensure yet another child grows up without a father who is also forced to pay for the torture he receives.

Ottawa Mens Centre