In a letter she sent him last week, she urges House leader Simon Jolin-Barrette to consider her proposal: a bill to prevent sexual violence in schools. Christine Labrie tabled it a few months ago, but the government did not accept it.
With the recent arrests of three youths for sex crimes at a Chateauguay high school, the assault allegations against a 15-year-old teenager in Dollard-des-Ormeaux, and the laying of charges against three school basketball coaches Saint-Laurent secondary school, the MNA believes that the context obliges the government to reconsider its bill.
Students who are victims are told all sorts of unrelated things by school officials or management. They are being given really bad advice, being told not to talk about it, to let it go, or being told about civil suitsshe laments.
In her legislative piece, she suggests forcing all schools, from primary to those specializing in vocational training, to adopt a policy to counter sexual violence like that which is in place in cegeps and universities. . Some primary and secondary schools have themselves developed such a policy, but, according to Ms. Labrie, there is no obligation to do so and there are no parameters on which to base it in order to implement it.
She believes the policy should include not only a protocol for filing complaints, but also training and awareness for school staff and students.
Too little, but not yet too late
Christine Labrie senses the government’s openness to look into the matter since it has amended another bill, currently being studied in a parliamentary committee, to that effect. Bill 9, which redefines the role of the student ombudsman, was recently amended by the Minister of Education, Jean-François Roberge.
The latter wanted to give the protector “increased power” in terms of preventing and combating sexual violence. For example, rather than filing a complaint with the school administration, the victims could go directly to the regional student ombudsman, who is neutral and independent.
Other amendments provide for better protection against reprisals and accountability regarding the processing of complaints. The student ombudsman will also have to follow up on each school’s anti-bullying and anti-violence plan.
Since around thirty modifications were suggested by Minister Roberge to strengthen assistance to victims, he asked for the cooperation of the opposition parties:
Let’s make sure we pass the bill as soon as possible and, depending on the weather, we’ll see if we can call the bill 394 [de Mme Labrie]. The important thing is to review the complaint handling process, because it is absolutely necessary to have an independent and credible stakeholder to receive complaints.
The need for a framework law
Christine Labrie maintains that a framework law would be more appropriate.
Nothing is planned for the training of people who work in the school environment or for the protector of the student himself. Nothing either to do awareness and prevention. It’s a whole component that’s missing.
She considers that training adapted and specific to sexual violence is necessary.
I think it is possible to adopt it before the end of the legislature. I have already seen that here: we pass bills very quickly when there is a consensus.
If the government does not seize the opportunity now, she fears that the election campaign and the installation of a new government will delay aid for the victims by several months.