Last year, the University of Manitoba community launched a revised set of behavioural policies, including a new stand-alone sexual assault policy.
Like other universities across Canada, the University of Manitoba recognized the continued importance of addressing behavioural issues.
Our ongoing goal is to build a culture of consent, respect, trust, and inclusivity and, most importantly, to ensure the safety of our community.
The revised policies, available online at http://umanitoba.ca/human_rights/rwle/index.html, are clear and direct, resulting from broad and extensive consultation with all groups on campus, including students, staff and faculty.
They also are responsive to the needs of our community.
The policies have been tested, and they work.
That doesn't mean they shouldn't be reviewed. They can, and will be. Feedback from individuals involved directly in incidents, especially feedback from complainants, is always valued and will inform revisions, which will be undertaken every three years.
As has occurred recently, the effectiveness of our policies will attract scrutiny. Although I cannot speak to any individual case, I do want to take this opportunity to emphasize the university's unwavering commitment to fostering a safe, inclusive and respectful environment.
That means that we deeply respect the concerns of any members of our community who show the courage to come forward with a complaint. Their thoughts and feelings are important to us. We will support them, we will follow through on their concerns, and we will do what we can to ensure their safety.
These matters are complex, and they require navigating many sensitive and challenging issues, often within a competing framework of rights and interests and legislative requirements. In order for the policies to work effectively, they have to respect the confidentiality and privacy of the complainant, but also of the respondent. That can be difficult to accept when one is directly involved, but it is essential in order to maintain the integrity of the process.
I am confident the policies work, that they help keep our campuses safe, inclusive and respectful.
The policies are critical to building the university we want to be, and we are committed to refining them as required. This is an iterative process. We listen, we learn, and we improve.
Perhaps it is fitting that, as we mark Homecoming Week, celebrating our achievements and successes, friendships and relationships, we also remind ourselves of our pledge to build a community together where we learn and work with one another assured of our safety, inclusion and respect.
David T. Barnard, Ph.D., President and Vice-Chancellor
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