Minister of Advanced Education must intervene to help students
HALIFAX, NS – Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Baillie says it’s unconscionable that Dalhousie University is not supporting the school’s sexual assault help line and is calling on the Minister of Labour and Advanced Education to intervene today.
The Dalhousie Student Union announced that the university has “decided to not adequately fund the Dalhousie Student Union’s Sexual Assault and Harassment Phone Line after its successful pilot year.” The student union has called this a “vital service for survivors.”
“There is no excuse for not supporting services for sexual assault survivors,” says Baillie. “Dalhousie University must reconsider this shortsighted decision and adequately fund this vital and valuable service for students. It’s not too late to do the right thing.”
The student union says they will still operate the help line for the first eight weeks of the school year when sexual assaults on campus are at their highest. The service will unfortunately have reduced hours at that time. Baillie says that’s simply not enough.
“This is a matter of priorities,” says Baillie. “Dalhousie must put student safety at the top of their agenda. They are sending a powerful message today, and it’s not good. Minister Regan needs to address this immediately.”
Dalhousie University is already under fire from students and faculty over its decision to spend $387,220 for nine highly paid executives to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The PC Caucus recently shared documents obtained through Freedom of Information that showed Dalhousie University paid an invoice to MIT.
The student union today confirms they could have run the program for $30,000.
“What does it say about an institution that would rather send Nova Scotia’s richest to an elite American school than fund a sexual assault help line?” asks Baillie. “Someone has to answer for this.”
This past spring, the Progressive Conservatives put forward a bill to strengthen the province’s stance on sexual assault prevention and laws.
The bill, titled An Act to Address Sexual Violence at Colleges and Universities, called on colleges and universities to be accountable for any sexual violence against their students. Among other safety items, the legislation forces each college or university to have supports available on a 24-hour basis for students who experience sexual violence.
“The decision by Dalhousie to underfund this help line is a wake-up call,” says Baillie. “We need this legislation to help protect our students.”
StudentsNS called on the government to support the bill last spring.
“We must have legislation in place that will keep our campuses safe in Nova Scotia,” said Fallis Thompson, Chair of StudentsNS, in April. “We believe that Bill 164 calls for appropriate action. If this government is not willing to pass this Bill, they must be willing to draft their own legislation this session. We cannot go any longer without legislation to support survivors and appropriately deal with their perpetrators.”
Baillie says he will fight for this legislation again when the House resumes in October.