In August 2016, West Coast LEAF wrote to post-secondary institutions in British Columbia about the implementation of legislation requiring them to adopt sexual violence and misconduct policies.
We’re encouraged that the BC government is taking initiative to protect the rights of survivors on campus with Bill 23, the Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy Act (“the Act”), which will come into force in May 2017. However, the Act sets out only a minimum standard for campus sexual violence policies rather than outlining best practices, and we’re urging post-secondary institutions to do better than what the Act requires.
West Coast LEAF is particularly concerned that the definition of sexual misconduct under the Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy Act is out of sync with criminal laws. The Criminal Code of Canada makes it an offense to distribute intimate images of another person with reckless disregard for whether that person consented, yet such behaviour is not captured by the Act’s definition of sexual misconduct.
Under the Act, sexual misconduct would be found only where the images were distributed with the intent to distress the survivor. This is not only inconsistent with criminal law, but it also ignores the reality that the sharing of images online often occurs spontaneously, instantaneously, and with little forethought, making it difficult to establish intent. Institutions should devise definitions that align with Criminal Code provisions concerning the sharing of intimate images without consent and that reflect the reality of cyber misogyny.
Read our letter about sexual misconduct policies on campus, our news alert profiling our work in this area, and our #CyberMisogyny report, which explores how laws lag behind technology in addressing gender-based harassment online.