Ontario tables legislation against sexual violence, harassment

Bill would require employers to take tougher action on complaints

Ontario is following through on a tougher stance against sexual violence and harassment.

The ruling Liberal party on Tuesday tabled a bill called the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act as part of the provincial action plan to stop sexual violence.

The bill sets out specific employer duties to protect workers, which includes a duty to ensure complaints are properly investigated.

It would also enhance requirements for sexual harassment prevention programs.

Colleges and universities would be required to have stand-alone sexual violence policies, to be reviewed with student input every three years.

The bill also proposes removing the limitation period for civil litigation around sexual assault.

As many as one in three women in Canada will experience some form of sexual assault in her lifetime, according to the Ontario government, and 28 per cent of Canadians say they have been on the receiving end of unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours or sexually charged talk while on the job.

“Many women in Ontario do not feel safe, and that is unacceptable. These legislative proposals would put the strength of the law behind our commitment to make communities, schools, and workplaces safer, and that is an important part of our roadmap to end sexual violence and harassment in this province,” said Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne in a statement.

“We are committed to creating a province where all Ontarians feel secure from the threat of sexual violence and harassment. This legislation, if passed, would give survivors the supports they need while keeping our campuses, workplaces and communities safe,” said Tracy MacCharles, minister responsible for women’s issues.

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