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ASFA approves sexual harassment policy

by Mia Anhoury October 16, 2018
ASFA approves sexual harassment policy

An investigative committee will handle complaints under new policy.

The Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) unanimously approved its new anti-harassment and sexual violence policy during its regular council meeting on Thursday, Oct. 11. The policy was initially put under review in March.

This new policy is the result of a collaborative process that lasted eight months. Irish studies councillor, Margot Berner, said the policy was developed with the help of the Centre for Gender Advocacy (CGA), the Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC), the Concordia Student Union (CSU), as well as ASFA’s task force.

Berner also consulted students from the University of British Columbia to write the new policy.

The new internal policy creates an investigative committee. Berner said it will be “made of people who have proven to have knowledge about these issues in the past. What that means is that they have either learned experience from their personal life, or are involved in advocacy.” A legal representative and a representative from either the CGA or SARC will also sit on the investigative committee.

“There will be a flowchart to take you through the process if you want to report someone for discrimination, or sexual violence, or racialized violence,” said Berner. Arts and science students who want to file a complaint using ASFA’s policy can go directly to the ASFA coordinators or simply give their report to ASFA’s front desk, Berner said.

The CGA and SARC will also inform students of ASFA’s new policy as an option for those who want to file a complaint. The organization’s representatives will be acting as an intermediary during the complaint process, Berner said, “So people who experience trauma won’t have to deal with us. We’re a lot of folks.”The new policy “explains how we’re going to act when people report to us rather than the university, and it specifies people are welcome to pursue multiple avenues,” said Berner. Under ASFA’s new policy, students will be able to pursue actions simultaneously through the university and the police, Berner said.

“We have proven multiple times in the past that the ASFA is not quite equipped to deal with these types of situations,” Berner said. “We are all students, […] we don’t have training in disclosure, we don’t have training in those things, so having the experts help us out on how we respond is really important.”

ASFA is currently facing its second lawsuit in the Quebec Commission of Human Rights and Youth Rights, filed by the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR). The CRARR filed a lawsuit on behalf of Harris Turpin for ASFA’s alleged failure to address Turpin’s sexual harassment complaints in 2018. The student federation also settled a case with the CRARR in 2015, after a biracial executive was subjected to racial and sexual discrimination.

According to Marguerite Rolland, ASFA’s advocacy and executive coordinator, a first draft of the policy was reviewed by the policy committee and lawyers but was found to be flawed. According to Jane Lefebvre, the women’s studies councillor who was also part of the task force, the first draft was not feasible in terms of the resources ASFA has.

All parties involved in its making—including Berner and Elliott Boulanger, internal affairs and administration coordinator—were working on it the whole summer, said Rolland. “It’s been very diligent.”

Logo courtesy of ASFA.

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