It’s Never Okay – The Plan

It’s Never Okay – The Plan

Kathleen Wynne and the Government of Ontario have released an action plan to solve a major issue: sexual assault and harassment. This action plan is titled “It’s Never Okay”. It’s 40 pages long, and is available in plain English (and 26 other languages!) RIGHT HERE! It was released on Friday March 6, and not a minute too soon.

All of the talking and sharing and reporting has made a mark on the political landscape in Ontario. Kathleen Wynne and her government have heard us loud and clear. We need change in the way victims are treated – by first responders all the way through to judges and juries. If implemented properly, this could make a huge impact to the number of assaults that are reported and even prosecuted.

There was a similar reform created in 2010, but it lacked the accountability and timelines that we see here. This is a 3 year plan that has promised annual progress reports, legal provisions, and a permanent task force.
Under “It’s Never Okay”, the next generation could see some radical changes. More rapists prosecuted. Fewer victims blamed and shamed. More talking, more action, less violence against women. This is important stuff!

The action plan includes 13 commitments (pg 11):

1. Legislation
Introduce legislation to strengthen provisions related to sexual violence and harassment in the workplace, on campus, in housing, and through the civil claim process.
2. Public Education and Awareness
Launch a public education and awareness campaign across Ontario to challenge attitudes, promote immediate change in rape culture behaviour, and encourage a longer-term generational shift to end deep-rooted attitudes and behaviours.
3. Best Practices for Law Enforcement
Develop tools and identify best practices to support a compassionate and sensitive response from law enforcement authorities to encourage more survivors to report sexual assaults.
4. Enhanced Prosecution
Increase supports and develop an enhanced prosecution model to improve the experience of survivors navigating the criminal justice system.
5. Sex Ed
Update the Health and Physical Education curriculum to help students from grades 1–12 gain a deeper understanding of a host of important issues, including healthy relationships and consent.
6. Accountability on Campus
Introduce legislation to require colleges and universities to work with students to adopt campus-wide sexual violence and harassment policies that include training, prevention, complaint procedures and response protocols.
7. Hospital Based Treatment Centres
Strengthen supports provided by hospital-based Sexual and Domestic Violence Treatment Centres to maintain 24/7 access to excellent, appropriate and timely care.
8. Training for Frontline Workers
Develop up-to-date training for frontline workers in the health, community services, education and justice sectors to better support survivors of sexual assault and harassment and develop training for workers in the hospitality sector to empower them to know how to help when they encounter high-risk situations.
9. Funding for Community Based Support
Stabilize and increase funding for community-based sexual assault centres.
10. Free Legal Advice for Victims
Create a pilot program to provide free independent legal advice to sexual assault survivors whose cases are proceeding toward a criminal trial.
11. Ongoing Discussion
Establish a permanent roundtable to make Ontario a leader within Canada on issues of violence against women.
12. Tightening OH&S Regulations around Sexual Harassment
Enhance workplace laws to strengthen enforcement under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, including establishing a Code of Practice to help employers develop stronger sexual harassment policies.
13. Creative Engagement
Launch a creative engagement fund that supports Ontario artists to develop projects that provoke conversation and dialogue on issues of consent, rape culture and gender inequality.

I am relieved to see a call to action to the Federal government to establish a national public inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls in Canada (pg. 33), as well as several mentions of visible minorities, newcomers to Canada, women with disabilities, and the LGBTQ community.
Several footnotes and graphics show statistics that detail the prevalence of these crimes against women. I was happy to see some gender neutral language in the introduction and throughout the document, however would have liked to see a couple of statistics showing the prevalence of these crimes against men.

Another thing that really stuck out to me was the general tone of the document. It seemed to say “we believe you”, and “you’re not alone” and I felt the theme of solidarity. It showed the gravity of the situation, but also provided solutions and a goal to work towards. Parts of it were a tough read, but it didn’t feel like just more talking about the same old thing. It really is a call to action to everyone, because it makes it clear that everyone is impacted by sexual or domestic violence in one way or another and we all have a part to play in ending it.

Because of my experiences, and all of the support systems I encountered, this plan was abundantly clear to me. I understood all of the terms and their meanings all too well. This system and the terminology that surrounds it has been my life for a long time.  The lovely Lauren is drafting up a piece right now about what this plan really means, and what victim blaming actually is. Stay tuned!

A lot of the solutions that I have spent years hoping for are finally happening – a look at the judicial system, training for professionals, public awareness campaigns, accountability for college and university campuses, protection for victims of domestic violence, funding for crisis centres, and most of all, a feeling that someone in a position of power has seen our struggling and can help in a real way.

I have never been more proud to have been born and raised in Ontario, and I can not wait to hear the updates to legislation and best practices that come from this promise. Let’s hope the rest of Canada catches up soon… I’m looking at you, Alberta!

Here are some more links for those of you who are following this as obsessively as I am:
Kathleen Wynne Unveils 3 Year Plan To Curb Sexual Assault
A thank you from front line workers
logistics and how the $41K will be spent

Keep talking, keep sharing.
Elizabeth

Author

Elizabeth

Elizabeth

Hi! I'm Elizabeth, a blogger on When You're Ready.org I spent 2 years struggling with PTSD and panic attacks following a violent attack. I want to use my experience and my voice to raise support for others. I desperately want to make the world a safer place for girls and women, especially my two little sisters. Keep talking, Keep sharing. When You're Ready, I'll be here.

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