OTTAWA — The Liberal government will consider withdrawing federal funding for Canadian universities if they fail to adequately address reports of sexual assault on campus.
The threat was levied in the federal budget on Tuesday, as the government noted that 41 per cent of sexual assaults in Canada are reported by students.
Citing a need for federal leadership on the issue, the Liberals proposed up to $5.5 million over five years to develop a "harmonized national framework" to address gender-based violence at post-secondary institutions.
But starting in 2019, those universities and college campuses that are not implementing "best practices addressing sexual assaults on campus" could see their federal funding cut, according to the budget plan.
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"Our Turn," a student-led advocacy group, recently gave eight of 14 universities a "C" grade or lower in terms of administrators' handling reports of sexual assaults on campus.
A spate of cases have led to public backlash against some institutions, including Brandon University and the University of British Columbia, over inadequate policies meant to handle reports of sexual assault.
The proposal is one of several initiatives in this year's budget meant to reduce gender-based violence in Canada.
More legal aid for sexual harassment cases
The government is evidently listening to the momentum behind the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns.
For example, $25 million has been pinned to develop a cross-Canada outreach program to raise awareness of what workers' rights are in incidents related to workplace harassment.
There is also a proposal to bump funding for legal aid — a $25.4-million increase over five years — with the goal of curbing workplace sexual harassment.
Officials acknowledged important details, including eligibility criteria, still have to be ironed out. It's unknown if the legal aid funding will cover only initial consultations or other fees.
Status of Women becomes separate department
The government also announced that Status of Women will break out of Heritage Canada to stand as its own federal department.
Maryam Monsef currently serves as status of women minister.
The department's new designation means it will always be represented by a minister and deputy minister, guided by its own legislation.
Officials did not provide an operating budget for the new department.
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