The Minister of Higher Education in Quebec, Pascale Déry, has recently announced that the provincial government plans to spend CAD54 million (£33,4 million) over five years to prevent and combat sexual violence in higher education institutions.
Two separate studies have shown that over one-third of college and university students in Quebec have experienced at least one form of sexual violence since their arrival at their institution.
This increase of CAD25 million (£15,4 million) over the previous budget is expected to make environments safer for everyone, and provide victims with the necessary support and resources to navigate and recover from their experiences.
The funding will be directed towards improving the safety of high-risk zones on campuses, research on sexual violence in post-secondary institutions, and hiring specialized resources to accompany victims.
The majority of the funds, CAD37.5 million (£23,2 million), will go towards establishing one-stop shops that provide victims with access to counselling, safety measures, and academic accommodations.
The remaining funds will go to partners who will use their expertise in the field to serve the establishments.
Jennifer Drummond, coordinator of Concordia’s Sexual Assault Resource Centre – which has been operating since 2013 – believes that any additional funding in this area is crucial, and she hopes that the funding will enable the Centre to help more people.
The Centre offers counselling, safety measures, academic accommodations, and accompaniment to internal and external resources such as hospitals, police stations, and court systems.
Although many believe that the increase in funding is a step in the right direction, some students feel that the government’s efforts and financing are not enough. Advocates for better sexual violence policies on campuses argue that the money does not get to the root of the issue, and that putting power in the hands of students would be a better solution.
Drummond suggests that students can help by volunteering at the Resource Centre and intervening when they see or hear something that contributes to the culture of sexual violence that they don’t want. She sees it as a multi-pronged approach, and increased funding will enable the Centre to do more of what they are already doing.