No NDAs in campus sexual misconduct cases, new provincial bill says

The Ontario government is proposing legislation that will ban the use of nondisclosure agreements in cases of sexual misconduct by faculty so they can’t hide when applying to other universities or colleges.

The legislation, introduced Thursday afternoon by Colleges and Universities Minister Jill Dunlop, would also give schools clearer rights to fire faculty when they are found to have abused a student — and stop them from being rehired.

“All students deserve to learn in a safe and supportive learning environment,” said Dunlop in a written statement about her bill, the Strengthening Post-Secondary Institutions and Students Act.

“From day one, we have been clear: This government has zero tolerance for sexual assault, harassment, or any other forms of violence or misconduct. That’s why we are taking action to better protect students from sexual violence and misconduct on and off-campus.”

The bill, which amends the current legislation covering public colleges and universities — as well as that for private career colleges — is to “help protect students in cases of faculty and staff sexual misconduct but also allow the institutions to better address complaints when they arise,” the government said, and will “strengthen the tools available to institutions to address instances of faculty or staff sexual misconduct against students (i.e., deeming sexual abuse of a student to be just cause for dismissal and preventing the rehiring of employees found to have committed sexual abuse of a student).”

It will also “prevent the use of nondisclosure agreements to address instances where an employee leaves an institution to be employed at another institution and their prior wrongdoing remains a secret.”

The legislation will also mandate that schools have employee sexual misconduct policies that outline expected behaviour towards staff and students as well as consequences for faculty and staff who violate them.

A year ago, the province enacted changes so that students who launch complaints to their school about sexual assault or harassment cannot be asked about their prior sexual history, nor can they be disciplined for coming forward — as some were for violating their school’s drug or alcohol policies when they were harmed.

Meanwhile, the proposed bill would also formally change the name of Ryerson University to Toronto Metropolitan University. The school changed the name in May after months of deliberation after deciding to disassociate itself from Egerton Ryerson, who is seen as the founder of Ontario’s public education but his work has also been linked to the residential school system.

“The proposed change of Ryerson University’s name to Toronto Metropolitan University supports our government’s efforts to ensure Ontario has a post-secondary system that embraces diversity, inclusivity and promotes success for all learners — including Indigenous learners — so they can find rewarding careers,” said Dunlop.


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