The student protector to denounce sexual violence in schools

Quebec wants to strengthen the role of the student ombudsman so that he becomes the “direct gateway” to denouncing acts of sexual violence in schools, changes that do not go far enough, however, according to a collective representing youth.

The Minister of Education, Jean-François Roberge, tabled a series of amendments in a parliamentary committee on Tuesday morning aimed at giving the new student ombudsman, whose role is redefined by Bill 9, a “increased power in preventing and combating sexual violence”.

“It’s a very, very important step. We show that we are capable of adapting,” said Minister Roberge.

In parliamentary committee, the collective The voice of young people counts had denounced the absence of protocols adapted to receive this type of complaint and the lack of support for victims, which contributes to reinforcing the omerta that exists in certain school environments.

With the amendments tabled, a student or a member of the school staff who wants to report a situation of sexual violence will be able to contact the regional student ombudsman directly, a “neutral and completely independent” intervener, without having to go first by the school administration.

These changes come as TVA reported on Monday that young people from a Montreal high school, who were allegedly sexually assaulted by a student, claim to have received no help from their management who would have asked them to be quiet instead.

At Saint-Laurent secondary school, where three coaches were accused of sexual crimes against two students, the omerta of the management was also denounced, recently reported La Presse.

The changes presented on Tuesday also provide for a strengthening of the protection mechanism against reprisals and separate reporting for complaints of sexual violence.

Listen to Geneviève Pettersen’s interview with Mélanie Lemay, co-founder of the Quebec movement against sexual violence, on QUB radio:

The regional student ombudsman will also be responsible for monitoring the plan to combat bullying and violence in the establishments.

Quebec thus believes that it is responding “in large part” to the demands of a coalition which is instead calling for a framework law to fight against sexual violence in the school environment, like the legislation which governs CEGEPs and universities.

The collective The voice of young people counts, however, is not of this opinion. These modifications make it possible to provide “piecemeal” solutions to certain issues, but do not solve the problem on the merits, affirms its co-coordinator, Mélanie Lemay.

“To say that we invite people to denounce is not enough to ensure a safe climate,” she says.

“We are not thinking about how to repair the impacts of what they have experienced either, we leave them in suspense in the face of a denunciation. There is no corridor of services that will be integrated into the daily lives of young people,” deplores Ms. Lemay.

For her part, the member for Quebec solidaire, Christine Labrie, continues to demand a framework law rather than “small amendments haywire”.

“How many scandals and then broken children will it take before the CAQ decides to adopt a bill to prevent and counter sexual violence in our schools? “, she launched in the National Assembly during the question period on Tuesday.

The Minister, Jean-François Roberge, meanwhile, has not closed the door to a framework law. “I’m not ruling anything out. The goal is to have healthy and safe schools,” he told the Journal.

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