Over the past year, I’ve been honoured to work and learn in my role as Manager of Public Legal Education alongside the brilliant student advisors who guided the development of Only Yes Means Yes, our campus-based legal education program about consent and sexual assault. I recently met with a few of them for coffee and a chat about what the project has achieved and how much remains to be done.

What inspired you to get involved as a volunteer on the student advisory committee for Only Yes Means Yes?

Ghezal: What inspired me is my passion for equal communities and safe campuses for all. Especially for women, it’s always been a struggle to have an education in an environment that is safe. It really motivated me to be part of this project, to make our campuses and our community and our society safer for all genders.

It doesn’t matter what race, what culture, or what religion you are coming from—I think we all have a right to feel safe and be accepted in the community.

Group of people working around large table discussing and writing ideas down
Only Yes Means Yes student advisors brainstorming for our animated video.
Photo Credit: Alana Prochuk


What do you think Only Yes Means Yes has achieved so far?

Laurisse: I think that any time you get a group of people together with similar ideals and hopes for the future, beautiful things happen! We wouldn’t really have feminism without it. I think everyone who’s had the chance to experience the workshop or provide feedback on it or just be part of that conversation has been impacted.

It’s an unfortunate reality that a lot of perpetrators might not even know that they’re perpetrators. So it’s great we are taking steps towards a greater understanding as a society, and Only Yes Means Yes is a part of that.

I want to see post-secondary institutions actually listening to students and survivors about what they need


Arden: I think the project sends a clear message to our university administrations and faculty that universities have a duty to protect and educate students about sexual violence, and they must go above and beyond [the requirements of] the current legislative scheme.

Holding workshops also communicated to known predators that their tactics for asserting power and dominance will not be tolerated in our community.

Also, the messaging of the project has reframed consent as a necessary requirement of any sexual activity and not just something that a ‘nice guy’ does. It has inspired more students to critically engage in discussions about power and privilege.

How has being involved with Only Yes Means Yes impacted you?

Hanna: This was my first time being on any sort of advisory committee, and it definitely made an impact in terms of realizing that there are so many people who care about this work and are excited to keep it moving forward. It helped me feel that I’m making an impact on issues that are important to me that can feel so big and overwhelming.

Being on a committee like this gave me the opportunity to realize that a small group of people sharing ideas can make an impact. It has inspired me to keep being involved in this kind of work, for sure.
Group of people posing for photo post workshop
Only Yes Means Yes workshop participants at the AMS Sexual Assault Support Centre 2018 volunteer training.
Photo Credit: Kaymi Yoon-Maxwell


Laurisse: It was really great to see a process that was inclusive of youth and inclusive of folks who might be facing barriers in many different ways. Seeing how you can get people’s voices and ideas when they’re not in the same place or if they’re not able to make it in person was really cool.

What changes do you want to see on your campus to create a culture of consent and anti-violence?

Hanna: I want to see post-secondary institutions actually listening to students and survivors about what they need, what kinds of services and resources they need, instead of just deciding, “Okay, this is what we’re doing.”

If universities are creating these policies to do with sexual assault, they also need to do a better job of letting people know what the changes actually are and what resources they can access.

If we were to actually understand the impacts of violence and rape culture in a real way, then I think we could take steps away from it.


Arden: I would like to see feminist perspectives and history included in all post-secondary classes.

There need to be more opportunities to talk and learn about sexualized violence from more diverse groups of people—even those who believe they may have perpetrated sexual violence in the past. Campuses need men-specific initiatives to support and educate those who statistically perpetrate more often. Ultimately men need to start holding each other accountable in the spaces where they hold power.

And schools need to invest in support providers on campus, which includes professional development training for faculty and staff.

What about changes in the broader community?

Ghezal: We always use that stereotypical thinking that a woman has been asking for it. No – we need to break that mindset, to work on how we’re perceiving things. If we do that, then I think when we work as a lawyer, or as a judge, or as a teacher, or as a professor, then we will [treat] people in a more positive way.

Photo of a sheet of paper that says POWER in the middle with ideas coming off that list where power lives in society
Power brainstorm from a recent Only Yes Means Yes workshop.
Photo Credit: Kaymi Yoon-Maxwell


Laurisse: One of the main things I would like to see is engagement by everyone about this issue. I think a lot of people just remove themselves from it and think, well, it doesn’t have anything to do with me. Engagement can look different for people, whether it’s actually paying attention at a workshop, or listening and trying to be empathetic with someone who is a survivor.

If we were to actually understand the impacts of violence and rape culture in a real way, then I think we could take steps away from it.

Online and on campus, the Only Yes Means Yes project is sparking conversations and building consent culture.

Teaser image from our animated video, to be released in early November.
Image Credit: Ira Hardy


West Coast LEAF is grateful to the team of more than 20 student advisors who helped us develop our Only Yes Means Yes workshop and offer it at campuses across BC—from Nanaimo to Kamloops, and soon to Fort Saint John, Dawson Creek, and Williams Lake! I invite you to contact me at education@westcoastleaf.org to book a workshop at a campus near you in 2019. Also, keep an eye out for our animated video unpacking the history of sexual assault law in Canada, to be released in November 2018.



Arden studies law at Thompson Rivers University on Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc traditional territory.

Hanna is in UBC’s Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice program and works for Camp Out, a social justice summer camp for queer, trans, and Two-Spirit youth.

Laurisse studies gender and peace-building at the University for Peace, works at WAVAW Rape Crisis Centre, and teaches sex education.

Ghezal studies criminology at SFU, works for the YWCA, and volunteers with Amnesty International and on a crisis line.

Alana Prochuk manages West Coast LEAF’s education programs.

Questions? Feedback? Email us at blog@westcoastleaf.org