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President David Barnard’s statement to Senate on sexual assault

The absolute necessity for a culture of respect and consent

April 15, 2016 — 

On April 6, 2016, President David Barnard delivered the following statement to the University of Manitoba Senate.


Sexual assault on university campuses and how universities deal with these assaults continues to be a subject rightfully drawing a great deal of attention. Given recent public conversations on the subject, I thought it important to make the University of Manitoba’s position on incidents of sexual assault clear.

The University of Manitoba condemns sexual assault and sexual violence in the strongest terms. At the University of Manitoba, our first concern is to support the person who has been assaulted. We have developed a Sexual Assault Response Guide to help all members of our campus community respond sensitively and effectively to disclosures of sexual assault and support those who are disclosing assaults to make informed choices about accessing available resources. As such, the University of Manitoba does not require a behavioural contract to be signed by a student bringing forward an allegation of sexual assault.  Individuals who have been sexually assaulted are free to tell their story.  If there is an ongoing threat to the University community, the University itself may issue warnings.

In some cases, there is a formal investigation process under the Respectful Work and Learning Environment Policy which takes some time to unfold.  We do ask both complainants and respondents to respect that process and not talk about an investigation underway except where necessary to obtain support and advice.  Once an investigation is concluded, a survivor of a substantiated assault has freedom to talk about it.  The University does not generally publish investigation reports due to privacy legislation, but it is transparent about the fact an incident has occurred, and does take steps to protect the community where necessary.

In addition, since last year, the University has been undertaking a review of its behavioural policies, including adding specific policies with respect to Sexual Assault.  We have engaged in extensive consultations with members of our community and have received a great deal of feedback, including recommendations that the University introduce a stand-alone Sexual Assault Policy. The Behavioual Policies Working Group is considering the feedback from the community and will be making recommendations later this spring.  The proposed policies will provide an even stronger and more robust policy framework for our community.

Ultimately, the University prioritizes the prevention of sexual assault and sexual violence through education, awareness and building a culture of consent at the University.  This will continue to happen through efforts undertaken in partnership with UMSU, the GSA, our employee groups and all members of the University Community.  Let us all work together to talk openly about Sexual Assault, the absolute necessity for a culture of respect and consent, and ensuring that the supports that are in place for members of our community are well known.


Putting prevention first, update on the University’s Sexual Assault Working Group

In his statement to the Senate on April 6, President David Barnard referenced some of the changes the University of Manitoba is undertaking in regards to sexual assault policies, and prevention programs.

The extensive dialogues the University has held with its community inform these prevention programs, which are being overseen by the University’s Sexual Assault Working Group (SAWG).

Created in April 2014, SAWG’s primary goal is to prevent sexual assaults and in November 2015 it began working with the University community to create new education programs and social media campaigns to build a culture of consent on campus.

“We created the Sexual Assault Working Group to quickly, yet methodically, find the best ways to make our campus safer. We want to change the culture to ensure sexual assaults are far less likely to occur, and to encourage victims of sexual assault to come forward and report incidents in a safe and supportive environment,” says Susan Gottheil, Vice-Provost (Students) at the University of Manitoba.

“SAWG has been succeeding thanks to the support and commitment from our community, especially the student groups on campus. They have been vital in this process and we will continue to work together to further develop and evolve our programming.”


SAWG relies on a large student presence for much of its action planning. Student input is crucial to ensuring the success of campus sexual assault programming, and some student-led ideas implemented include:

  • The #nomoreblurredlines campaign was created by a student and was launched in 2014 and continued to flourish at Orientation 2015. The campaign promotes consent culture.
  • UMSU created a Frosh Fest Code of Conduct (including definitions of sexual assault and consent) that was sent to all students prior to frosh musical festival in September 2015.
  • UMSU supported Consent Culture Workshops provided by the Justice for Women Students Group. Launched in August 2015, this student-run program focuses solely on the topic of consent.
  • UMSU and Student Affairs began including sexual assault and consent messaging at New Student Orientation and other Orientation events.
  • SAWG co-chair Katie Kutryk has worked closely with UMSU, as well as Justice for Women founder Alana Robert, in discussing mandatory consent and/or bystander intervention workshops for student event organizers.


Based on feedback from the community, SAWG is introducing two new programs:

  • Bringing in the Bystander.” This evidence-based program helps prevent sexual assault. Certified staff and student trainers for this program have been deployed on campus and will be offering sessions throughout the year, with a heavy focus on Orientation and Student Residences. A remarkable 110 student leaders were trained in BITB last year.
  • “Healthy U.” A new health educator program in Student Support, Healthy U volunteers are trained to provide peer-to-peer outreach in sexual health topics, including consent, sexual assault, and the UM Sexual Assault Response Guide. If your department or unit or class would like a presentation on the Sexual Assault Response Guide, please contact Katie Kutryk, Health and Wellness Educator: Katie [dot] kutryk [at] umanitoba [dot] ca

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