Western University has announced that renowned lawyer and academic Nathalie Des Rosiers, principal of Massey College at the University of Toronto, will lead an independent review of policies and procedures following allegations of sexual violence during the period of Sept. 10-11.
Des Rosiers will be joined by Sonya Nigam, who will act as co-investigator. Nigam is executive coordinator for the Canadian Association for the Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment in Higher Education (CAPDHHE).
Background work for the review is set to start immediately, with in-person and virtual interviews beginning in early January.
“I am grateful to Ms. Des Rosiers and Ms. Nigam for taking on this important work,” said Western president Alan Shepard. “Together, they bring an impressive combination of skills, knowledge and experience as well as a deep understanding of the complexities of higher education.”
Specifically, Des Rosiers and Nigam will look at events that transpired on campus, off campus and online during the weekend of Sept. 10-11 with a view to identifying gaps and outlining recommendations.
A former Western law professor, Des Rosiers practiced law with Lerners LLP in London, Ont. Her scholarship has focused on women’s rights and constitutional law.
She served as president of the Law Commission of Canada (2000-2004), dean of the civil law section, University of Ottawa (2004-2008), and vice-president of governance, University of Ottawa (2008-2009). She was general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (2009-2013), and then returned to the University of Ottawa as dean of Common Law Section (2013-2016).
A former MPP representing Ottawa-Vanier, Des Rosiers served as Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry (2016-2019). She is a Member of the Order of Canada, a recipient of the Order of Ontario, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.
Prior to her leadership role with CAPDHHE, Nigam was the director of the human rights office at the University of Ottawa (2013-2018), where she managed equity and inclusion matters, including employment equity, accessibility and complaints related to harassment, discrimination and sexual violence. From 2008 to 2013, she was the assistant director of the University of Ottawa’s Human Rights Research and Education Centre.
The launch of the independent review is the latest in a series of commitments Western has made to address gender-based and sexual violence (GBSV) and strengthen safety on campus.
GBSV safety training for employees
Western Human Resources has created an online safety training module and web resource for all employees that outline how to support a survivor of gender-based and sexual violence. The training was developed in consultation with student experience, the human rights office, the Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children (CREVAWC) and Western’s gender-based and sexual violence action committee co-chairs. More communication to employees will be forthcoming about this important training.
Action committee on GBSV
An action committee on GBSV was established in October to study student safety and sexual violence issues on campus and make recommendations for changing the culture at Western.
Co-chaired by Terry McQuaid, director for wellness and well-being (student experience), and Nadine Wathen, professor and Canada Research Chair in Mobilizing Knowledge on Gender-based Violence, the committee has formed four working groups focused on consultation/engagement; communication/coordination; policy/accountability; and evaluation/assessment. Regular committee updates are posted online.
New partnership with Regional Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Program
Announced on Dec. 8, a new partnership between Western and the Regional Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Program of St. Joseph’s Health Care London will provide additional support on campus to students who have experienced sexual assault or domestic violence, with 24/7 services as needed.
Mandatory training for students in residence
Mandatory training for students in residence began the week of Sept. 20, with residence dons facilitating in-person floor meetings with students to share information about the available supports and resources on campus and in the community.
On Oct. 21, mandatory online training modules, jointly developed by Western, CREVAWC and community partners such as Anova, began rolling out for all students in residence.
Facilitated in-person, small group sessions that engage students in discussions and reflections on consent, sexual violence and sexuality started Nov. 15. Initial sessions were piloted with select groups of student leaders and first-year students. Their important feedback on its effectiveness has been used to inform the training for all residence students which will take place throughout January, February and March. In the months of November and December, a train-the-trainer program was rolled out to student leaders to ready them to implement the winter GBSV skills development program.
The action committee on GBSV is developing a mandatory, phased training model for all students that will provide awareness, skills development, practice and consolidation in understanding their role in stopping GBSV.
New residence health and safety advisors
Residence health and safety advisors began working overnight shifts on Nov. 7. The advisors engage with students, provide educational conversations, address and document behaviour and escalate concerns, as necessary. To date, 86 advisors have been hired with 75 having completed their training, which includes online modules and “shadow shifts” with current advisors, some who have been serving in the role since last year. The number of advisors is expected to grow to 100 by the new year.
On-campus security enhancements
A team of on-campus security guards has been expanded by 15. Four have been working directly alongside Western Special Constable Service since Sept. 1, and the remainder have been providing evening patrol in residences since Sept. 14.
Western’s survivor-focused supports for those impacted by sexual violence include a dedicated gender-based violence and survivor support case manager (519-661-3568 or email firstname.lastname@example.org). Survivors have support options, including disclosure, filing a complaint and/or requesting support.
In emergency situations, Western’s Special Constable Service and St. Joseph’s Health Care Regional Sexual Assault Program (519-646-6100 x64224) are available 24/7, or a call to 9-1-1 connects to London police, fire or paramedic services. Those visiting St. Joseph’s Hospital’s Urgent Care Centre should ask to speak to the nurse on-call for sexual assault/domestic violence.
Anova (formerly Sexual Assault Centre of London) also operates a 24/7 support and crisis line at 519-642-3000.