Taking Courageous Action Together: Recommendations For PSIs To Address GBV On Campus (Part 1)

Written by: Carina Gabriele and Anoodth Naushan

Courage to Act: Developing a National draft Framework to Address and Prevent Gender-Based Violence at Post-Secondary Institutions in Canada was released one year ago.

Informed by experienced survivors, student researchers, frontline workers and policy experts, it provided a blueprint for a national Framework and included innovative ideas, promising practices and calls to action for post-secondary institutions (PSIs) to address gender-based violence (GBV) on campus. The report highlighted the good work currently being done on campuses across Canada, alongside a number of key recommendations (#CourageousActions) to support PSIs in improving practices, policies and procedures around GBV and work towards prevention.

This two-part series expands on these key recommendations, offering a closer look at the incredible work happening at PSIs across the country to address and prevent GBV on campus. It takes great courage to act, and we are honoured to learn and work alongside you.

Key Recommendations (Courage to Act Report, 2019, pp. 21)

  1. Implement existing Indigenous-led solutions aimed to end gender-based violence against Indigenous women, girls, Two-Spirit, and non-binary people. A critical piece in challenging GBV on campus is addressing the legacy of settler-colonial violence that continues to impact First Nations, Métis, Inuit (Indigenous) women, girls, Two-Spirit, and non-binary students. A few places where historical context meets contemporary Indigenous led-solutions are in the vital reports – Calls for Justice in the Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (2019) and in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action (2015) – and in the good work currently being done at the PSIs below:

    • Noting that there are 230+ Calls for Justice prescribed in the Final Report of the National Inquiry, and that post-secondary institutions have an important role in actualizing justice for MMIWG, Courtney excerpted the most applicable Calls for Justice as they relate to college and university campuses. In this free worksheet, you will find a list of these Calls for Justice for PSIs with guiding questions to support you and your PSI in exploring these further.

    • Justice for Women at the University of Manitoba was created by Métis law student Alana Robert in 2013 in response to sexism from leaders on campus. In its eight year of operation, it provides education programming and advocates for policy reform.

    • The REDdress project, created by Jamie Black, focuses around the issue of missing or murdered Indigenous women across Canada. It is an installation art project based on an aesthetic response to this critical national issue. This project has been hosted on multiple campuses across the country to raise awareness of MMIWG.

    • UBC Vancouver’s Indigenous Strategic Plan is a response to the TRC’s Calls to Action, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ Calls for Justice. This strategic plan is now in its final stage.

    • In August 2020, Memorial University adopted a groundbreaking new Indigenous policy which aims to provide a more effective, sensitive and appropriate review of all research impacting Indigenous Peoples.

    • In response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Calls to Action, Western University is investing funds and resources into increasing Indigenous curriculum support and professional training efforts. They have hired an Indigenous Curriculum and Pedagogy Advisor.

    • In June 2020, CFS released a membership advisory resource, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2Spirit Final Report Calls for Justice Relevant to Student Organizations and Educational Sector. The report includes education-sector relevant Calls for Justice from the National Inquiry and draws conclusions for implementation.

  2. Utilize a trauma-informed approach to support services, education, and reporting. Working with, and supporting survivors requires all services, education and reporting structures to prioritize a trauma-informed and survivor-centric approach. The following PSIs have implemented programs, policies and practices that embody this:

    • Consent Comes First (CCF) provides support to Ryerson community members (students, staff, faculty, alumni) affected by sexual violence, including those who have directly harmed and those supporting them. CCF offers training, policy work, and education campaigns for the broader Ryerson community.

    • The No Wrong Door commitment at Red River College in Manitoba is a great example of working from a trauma-informed approach to responding to GBV. As a college community, they have collectively adopted a “No Wrong Door” approach when it comes to disclosing, reporting, and supporting those impacted by sexual violence, harassment and discrimination.

    • At the University of New Brunswick and St. Thomas University it is common practice for campus security to meet the person who has been harmed at a location that they determine is comfortable and safe. This could be the support advocate’s office or a public place on campus.

    • Okanagan College has curated a survivor-centric collection of supports and educational resources available for students in an online portal.

    • The Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children at Western University created an online training, Responding to Disclosures of Sexual Violence, for front-line responders and service providers in the law enforcement, social work, and education sectors. The overarching training outcome is to develop effective responses to victims/survivors who report or/disclose experiences of sexual violence that will sustain support and intervention from that point forward.

    • The University of Guelph-Humber and Humber College have created two resources to foster a supportive, aware and safe campus community: Bystander intervention and Consent Peer Education Program

    • The University of Lethbridge outlines their commitment to a trauma-informed approach as part of their practices: “This approach is grounded in and directed by a thorough understanding of the neurological, biological, psychological, and social effects of trauma and interpersonal violence and the prevalence of these experiences in persons who receive services. It involves not only changing assumptions about how we organize and provide services but creates organizational cultures that are personal, holistic, caring, and open.”

  3. Support the leadership of student survivors, researchers, and activists. Efforts to address GBV on campus builds on decades of activism by student survivors, researchers and activists. PSIs should support student leadership by engaging in meaningful collaboration with students, amplifying student voices and leadership, and dedicating funds and resources to sustain their important work. The following are examples of student-led research, programs and advocacy that can be brought to your campus:

    • The Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario developed a useful toolkit titled Campus Toolkit for Creating Consent Culture to support ongoing campus-based work at students’ unions and gender resource centres. This toolkit explores a number of best practices for outreach, awareness and policy creation on campus. The Canadian Federation of Students (national) also wrote a report titled A Provincial Vision for Consent Culture in Post-Secondary Education, which details ongoing work across the country.

    • Silence is Violence is a survivor-led collective of feminist organizers tackling issues of sexual violence and rape culture on university campuses. Listen to a Silence is Violence speaker panel here.

      1. The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) penned a policy paper titled Sexual Violence Prevention And Response (2016) that outlines the legislative and regulatory steps that the Ontario government could implement to ensure that PSIs are held accountable to the policies they have implemented on their campuses.

      2. A report titled, Sexual Violence on Campus Recommendations for the Government of Alberta was created by the Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS). The report focuses on the central role that the Government of Alberta occupies through its position in providing oversight, support, and funding. The report contextualizes GBV on campuses in Alberta, provides policy recommendations and discusses the government’s role in ensuring that post-secondary institutions feature a wide range of education programs and support options.

      3. The Active Bystander Network is comprised of both SFU and FIC undergraduate and graduate students who work with the Sexual Violence Support & Prevention Office to provide outreach initiatives, events and workshops to increase student awareness and understanding of sexual violence.

      4. An article by Dr. Carrie Rentschler titled, #MeToo and Student Activism against Sexual Violence examines the movement organizing and media activist work Canadian university students do to address sexual violence, the problem of faculty/student relationships, and the failures of some institutional response.

  4. Work with broader movements to end gender-based violence. In each of our communities, there are committed advocates, frontline workers and community researchers with valuable expertise. Creating opportunities for meaningful collaboration is key in enhancing a strategic approach to addressing and preventing GBV at PSIs. The following are examples of successful campus partnerships at PSIs across Canada:

    • The Waves of Change program was created by the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre and Sexual Assault Services Association with funding from Justice Canada and in partnership with various Nova Scotian post-secondary institutions to address sexual violence on campus. This province-wide program is made up of five separate training modules that take a prevention approach to sexual violence on campus.

    • In May, Courage to Act wrote a blog post about 6 ways campuses can collaborate with GBV organizations. Our shared goal of ending GBV requires collaboration between community organizations and PSIs. Here are six ways that GBV organizations and PSIs can work well together:

    • #IBelieveYou is an Alberta-wide campaign about how to respond to survivors of sexual assault, created four years ago by the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services (AASAS).

    • We Make it Our Business, a program out of Western University’s Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women & Children has a comprehensive handout on guidelines for balancing safety and confidentiality in situations of workplace domestic violence that could be adapted to use at PSIs.

    • Creating a memorandum of agreement between PSI and community organizations to share student services and counselling to provide more trauma support is one way to effectively utilize resources and expertise. A number of these collaborations are in place already:

      • University of New Brunswick, St. Thomas University and the New Brunswick Community College has a partnership with the Fredericton Sexual Assault Centre to provide trauma-informed support for students and staff on the tri-campuses that started in 2015.

      • Laurier University has a memorandum of agreement with the Sexual Assault Centre of Brantford and the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region to provide sexual violence counselling on-campus on both their campuses.

      • Trent Central Student Association has a student levy of $3.41 per student annually that goes to the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre. The Centre offers their services off-campus, including individual counselling, group counselling and workshops, peer support, public education, and professional training.

    • Established in 2006 by American activist Tarana Burke, the #MeToo Movement has given a powerful platform to women and demonstrates the extent of sexual assault and harassment across society. In Canada, the Movement has had implications not only for survivors, but also for support service providers, educators, law enforcement, employers, and the government. Listen to the Unlocking Us Podcast with Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo Movement, and Brene Brown for more information about this movement and its impact.

  5. Develop and implement performance measurements, evaluation, and climate surveys. Assessment and evaluation should be used to help PSIs understand how effective their policies and processes are in addressing and preventing GBV. Are your services doing what they are intended to do? Are resources being taken up adequately? Is campus education improving consent culture? What is the impact on students, faculty and staff? Performance measurements, evaluation and climate surveys all serve to provide a clearer idea of how your campus resources are working for the community. The following are examples of government, PSI, and other resources that use performance measurements, evaluation, and climate surveys to address GBV on campus.

    • In February and March 2018, the Ontario government conducted the Student Voices on Sexual Violence survey at PSIs across Ontario. A summary of the survey findings highlighted the need for continued response and support and prevention efforts on campus. Frequently administered provincial-led climate surveys help strengthen provincial commitments to listening to student voices and the student experience, and to fund advocacy related to GBV.

    • In 2019, the Canadian government administered the Survey on Individual Safety in the Postsecondary Student Population (general population) to obtain an accurate picture of the nature, extent and impact of inappropriate sexual behaviours that occur in a school-related setting. Survey results will be released in Fall 2020.

    • The student-created report OurTurn, provides a scorecard to evaluate your campus sexual violence policy. It was developed following a comprehensive, research-based review of over 60 post-secondary sexual violence policies throughout Canada which included consultation with dozens of stakeholders.

    • In October 2017, McGill administered two anonymous Climate Surveys on Campus Sexual Violence (for students), and Climate Surveys on Campus Sexual Violence (for faculty and staff). They were conducted as part of a research project entitled: IMPACTS: Collaborations to Address Sexual Violence on Campus to improve university policies and programs on sexual violence generally.

    • Ryerson University conducted an Anti-Black Racism Campus Climate Review led by the Office of the Vice President of Equity, Community and Inclusion. The review sought to capture Black students, faculty and staff experiences in accessing support from campus services. Recommendations and next steps were presented to administration.

    • West Coast Leaf created the Gender Equality Report Card which monitors BC’s compliance with provisions in international law that protect individuals against gender-based discrimination.

    • The Courage to Act Frontline GBV Campus Workers Community of Practice are creating an evidence-informed PSI GBV Services Evaluation Tool, which will be released in early 2021. Stay tuned!

    • St. Francis Xavier University published the Sexual Violence Climate Survey as a task of the Advancing Women’s Equality (AWE) Project in partnership with the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre and Sexual Assault Services Association.

  6. Commit to sustainable funding for gender-based violence services and education. This work requires ongoing, dedicated and sustainable funding from multiple sources including government, PSI and private institutions. Read on for some examples of how sustainable funding is supporting GBV initiatives and services at PSIs in Canada:

    • Student Levy: Student levies (or student fees) are used at PSIs across Canada to fund campus services, initiatives, programs, and support. They are administered through campus student unions. While campuses have found innovative ways to utilize student fees to support critical GBV initiatives, it’s important to note that the onus should not be on students to fund these supports. If these supports are to be sustained, universities and provincial and federal governments must also commit to ongoing funding.

      • Queen’s University: Queen’s University Students’ Union (AMS) has a $1.00 Mandatory Fee that is distributed to the Kingston Sexual Assault Centre, an off-campus non-profit organization providing free, confidential, non-judgemental crisis support, referral and advocacy services for survivors in Kingston and the surrounding areas.

      • University of British Columbia: The University of British Columbia’s Students’ Union (AMS), has a mandatory $9.30 student fee which funds the student union’s on-campus Sexual Assault Support Centre.

      • Dalhousie University: Dalhousie Students’ Union, DSU, has a mandatory $2.50 student fee which funds the DSU Survivor Support Centre. 

    • The Sexual Violence Prevention Committee (SVPC) was formed as a commitment of the 2015-19 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Province of Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia Universities. In the context of the Province’s efforts to address the issue of sexual violence through its strategy, Breaking the Silence: A Coordinated Response to Sexual Violence in Nova Scotia, the parties to the MOU committed to working together to address this issue on university campuses.

    • In 2019, The Nova Scotia Provincial Government Nova Scotia created a five-year memorandum of understanding that will see universities get just over $2.3 million in grants to prevent sexual violence on university campuses. Out of SVPC and funding from the provincial government came a number of reports, policy recommendations, and resources:

    • In 1991, the Ontario provincial government created the annual “Women’s Campus Safety Grant” for colleges and universities in Ontario, which gives campuses the opportunity to distribute limited funding to students, staff, faculty, and departments for gender-based violence initiatives.

    • Announced in June 2017, It’s Time: Canada’s Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence is the Government of Canada’s response to gender-based violence. Budget 2017 included $100.9 million over five years, and $20.7 million per year ongoing, to support the implementation of the GBV Strategy. Courage to Act is supported through this funding commitment.

Read more about these key recommendations in the Courage to Act Report (2019). The remaining recommendations and accompanying resources will be covered in part 2 of our series. Stay tuned!


Suggested Citation: Gabriele, Carina., Naushan, Anoodth. (2020, August). Taking Courageous Action Together: Recommendations for PSIs to Address GBV on Campus (Part 1/2). Courage to Act.


Carina Gabriele

Carina Gabriele (she/her) graduated with an Honours BA in Women’s Studies and a Major in English Language and Literature from Western University in 2018. While attending Western, Carina served in a number of elected leadership positions and worked on multiple gender-equity projects in the London community. In her fourth year, Carina was elected as an Executive Officer of Western’s student union. In this full-time position, Carina created Western’s first federal “Women in House” program, created a free campus menstrual equity pilot program, and advocated against campus gender-based violence. Outside of her work with Courage to Act, Carina serves as a Young Director for Girls On Boards, and serves as a Board Member for OSTA-AECO and People for Education. She is currently pursuing a Master of Education in Education Policy at the University of Toronto.


Anoodth Naushan

Anoodth Naushan (she/her) is a social researcher, policy analyst and educator who has spent several years building programs and policies in Canada and the UK to advance gender equity. Intersectionality, equity, empathy, curiosity, collaboration, storytelling and community capacity building are guiding principles that continue to inform her work. Anoodth graduated with distinction from the Masters in Social Policy and Social Research program at University College London (UCL). She can be reached at:

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