SSMU Releases Update on Proposed Gendered and Sexualized Violence Policy

On July 5, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) published a press release updating their progress on establishing a policy on gendered and sexualized violence. In concurrence with the update, a report by the Community Disclosure Network (CDN) was released the same day, including a timeline for policy updates and content plans.

Both the press release and CDN report come as a reiteration of SSMU’s commitment to addressing gendered and sexualized violence after back-to-back scandals this past winter semester.

Last semester, on February 21, the CDN published an online statement accusing then-SSMU VP External David Aird of multiple instances of sexual assault towards McGill students. The next day, February 22, Aird resigned as VP External and sent the McGill community spinning. Just two weeks later on March 9, SSMU President Ben Ger resigned from his post due to “personal reasons.” In a Legislative Council meeting that night, it was revealed that Ger himself had also been accused of perpetrating gendered violence.

Left scrambling in the wake of these scandals, both how to address their violent nature and reassure the student body, SSMU quickly resolved to put forth their own policy concerning gendered and sexualized violence. Under guidance from the CDN, SSMU initiated a consultation process which took place throughout the winter semester.

In the July 5 press release, SSMU confirmed they have been working on crafting a new policy based on these consultations over the summer, and that they have already sent in a first draft to be reviewed by relevant stakeholder groups. The hope is that these groups will have submitted edits, comments, and recommendations on the draft by the end of August, wherein consultations on the second draft will begin in September through the fall.

Speaking with the Bull & Bear, SSMU VP Internal Maya Koparkar remarked, “Beyond trying to reassure students, we are trying to mobilize them to stand with us and become involved in consultations to address this issue.”

The accompanying CDN report outlines three key focus points for the future policy: a pro-survivor framework, implementation, and accountability. Since the report is based on student consultations, both open and closed, it puts forth a student-led perspective on the campus climate surrounding gendered and sexualized violence.

According to Koparker, “[The proposed policy] effectively identifies some of the gaps that exist in the current protocols of dealing with violence on campus, in particular, the problem of not having any framework for holding SSMU officers accountable.” These gaps – the necessity for a pro-survivor mindset, implementation, and accountability – are explicitly addressed in the report.

Beyond the report, however, SSMU plans on continuing work with all relevant stakeholders on their plans to tackle violence both on and off campus. “As consultations move forward, we will be able to better identify different ways we can collaborate with our membership, as we want to emphasize that these actions will be driven by our stakeholder groups and membership as much as possible,” Koparker explained. “Ultimately, we want our members to know that we are here to listen.”

For more information on this topic, and for a list of Montreal-based resources that offer support on gendered and sexualized violence, visit the CDN website: https://communitydisclosurenetwork.wordpress.com/

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