I call the meeting to order.
We're very pleased today to have with us Harvey Bate, who is the co-chair of the board of directors of the New Leaf Program, and Cathy Grant, who is a director.
We were supposed to have a representative from Babely Shades, but unfortunately, due to illness, they won't be appearing.
This is our first panel for the day, so we'll start as usual with 10 minutes of comments from Cathy and Harvey and then we'll go to our questions.
Harvey, you may begin.
As far as we know, New Leaf is the longest-running men's intervention program in Canada. We opened the doors in April 1987. What was really interesting is Bob Whitman, who developed and ran the program until his retirement a year and a half ago, did it in talks with the community. He recognized there was a huge gap. The women's shelter was seeing all these different women, which is what they were looking to do, but the same names of the men who were abusing them kept coming up. They realized somebody needs to be working with the men or there's only ever going to be a steady stream of victims. Bob felt that's what he wanted to do.
He was really surprised when he was very often told that the men wouldn't come, the men wouldn't talk about their relationships, and men wouldn't change. That didn't sit well with him, because he believed in men very much. He believed that men would come, they would talk, and they would change, because ultimately men wanted to have healthy, safe relationships, but they didn't know how.
It took him four years of operating this program as a volunteer, in church basements, before he finally got core funding, before he proved, really, that men would come. If you build it, you will see them come.
Since those early beginnings, we have evolved into this really amazing program. I'll read our mission statement first:
To provide an opportunity for men to take responsibility for their abusive behaviour and to effect social change so that the underlying power imbalances no longer exist. To provide support, and to mentor males to ensure real and long term change in their attitudes and behaviours towards females and perception of themselves.
All of this is based on the feminist philosophy that women have the right to determine their own lives and to live in abuse-free relationships. Those are the basic fundamentals the program was built on.
We do all of our work in group work. We sit in a circle because we see domestic violence as a social issue. We're a very grassroots program that really supports and helps men learn how to talk to other men about relationships and about parenting in a good way.
We find that as long as you give them this safe place to really talk, they will. We have two open groups a week. The men are required to come to at least one, and it doesn't matter which one. Because we operate in this way, we have no waiting lists. A guy could call us today and be in the group tonight, once we interview him, because we recognize that it's disrespectful to delay someone who is calling in crisis.
By the time the men usually call our program, some pretty unpleasant things have been happening. They're often in crisis. They're afraid and they have nowhere else to go, so we take them in right away. We will do some suicide counselling, some crisis intervention or advocacy when necessary, but mostly we get them right into the group, talking with other men who have gone through very much the same thing and have mostly been in that same state when first coming in.
It's been a really powerful program, and because of our open group a guy coming in for the first time will be sitting in a room with somebody who's been there for weeks, months, and even years. We have no end point; we remain a safe space for anybody. Once they've been in our program, all they have to do is call us and show up and talk about their stuff. We have one client who has been part of the program for longer than I have, and I've been with the program for seventeen and a half years.
We work really hard to have the men take responsibility for their actions. We say you're not 100% responsible for everything that's wrong in the relationship. You take responsibility for the role that you are playing; take 100% responsibility for that.
We work with them over the long term. We try to keep them for six months to a year, because change is a process and takes time. Forty per cent of our referrals come from the child welfare department and 40% from correctional services. A lot of our clients bring in their sons, and they'll bring in their brothers, their co-workers, and their friends, so more and more self-referrals are happening. We do a lot of partner referrals, women's information sessions, case conferences, high-risk coordination meetings, and high-risk file management.
When Bob first started this program, the average age of the men attending our program was 45. The majority of our clients now are under 30, with most being under 25. In many ways that's very exciting, in that we're getting them young, before they do years of damage to their families and themselves. In a lot of ways, we see that as hopeful.
That's a good segue into what I want to talk about. Because we're trying to effect social change, we try to be preventative. Unfortunately, we don't always have the time to do that.
One of the programs that we've just started is a pilot project called “Changing Male Conversations”. It's funded by the United Way of Pictou County, so it's not part of our regular funding. It was designed to engage young men in discussions around specific topics that are necessary for a young man to develop positive relationships and attitudes about women. It seeks to deal with issues on a more social level, particularly now, when technology and social media create unlimited access to information but also to images and attitudes about women that are very disturbing.
We discussed this with community service providers, we gathered research, and we designed a program for a group of young men over a period of time. We saw some community collaboration.
We also went into the schools and started talking to the young men in a social setting, and we built in an evaluation process. Our focus was primarily on positive engagement with the young men in providing information and inviting them into conversations and discussions about what typically would be considered male locker-room talk or “boys will be boys” kinds of topics. We started engaging them. We picked grade 7s and grade 11s to work with over a period of a year.
For instance, some of the topics would cover what consent is, what sexual assault is, what sexual violence is, what respect looks like in a healthy relationship, how an addiction to pornography occurs, what the effects of the addiction are, what the effects of intergenerational violence are, why there is so much male violence in society, what a male can do if he doesn't want to be violent, and how a male can respond to violent situations. Those aren't all the topics that are covered, but they're a good majority of them.
The feedback from the kids has been really phenomenal so far, and the grade 7s blew us out of the water with their openness about the conversations. We're still in the middle of that project.
I see that my one minute is up, so let me say that in terms of some of our main stumbling blocks, funding obviously has been one. We are provincially funded for two staff; however, in order to get the job done, we have to divide that into three part-time staff in order to have the extra body to at least cover the groups and to get some of the other work done.
A current problem we have, particularly with the justice system, is that crown attorneys, legal aid lawyers, judges, justices, and correctional services workers quite often will make plea bargains for men that assault women. For instance, they'll say that if the men attend, say, six sessions of the New Leaf program, they'll stay the sentence. Unfortunately for us, that undermines what we do. We believe that change needs to be longer-term, so that undermines the ability we have to work with the men and create meaningful change.
The other thing is that we don't have time to do more projects like the Changing Male Conversations project. Those preventative ones are really important to us if we're going to make a change in this, so it's about funding and time.
The other thing I wanted to add is that we now have a website. It's www.newleafpictoucounty.ca. We put the “pictoucounty” in because I think there's the NewLeaf airline now, and we were getting too many hits from people wanting to fly somewhere.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mr. Harvey Bate: Anyway, I think that's my time.
Thank you so much, Ms. Grant and Mr. Bate, for being here today. Coming from Pictou County, I know the good work you guys do at home. I'm so thrilled that you could be here to share your experience and expertise with this group as we embark on this study to prevent violence against young women and girls.
I'll start on the Changing Male Conversations program, because it's not something that was part of your core mandate. One of the things that's come up in some of the prior testimony and some of the questions we've asked previously is that oftentimes programs designed to impact or influence a culture change among young men aren't necessarily getting the right young guys in the room; that is, maybe on a university campus, the people who come out to watch a video or a presentation about preventing violence are the ones who are not likely to be violent themselves.
Is there any tailoring that you've done with that program to reach at-risk communities?
I think it's not enough just to sentence or punish the men. To get real change you have to work with that group of men.
There are not a lot of men's intervention programs in this country. There are a whole lot more services for victims. You can keep helping the victims, but it won't stop the men from doing what they're doing, so there need to be more services for the men. If that means having a mandated service, so be it.
As we said, one of our difficulties is that it has to be meaningful change. You can't throw six anger-management sessions at a man who's been abusive for 20 years and expect him to stop the behaviour, right?
In this business my job is in child welfare, but recidivism in domestic violence is a given. If it happens once, you know it's happened once, twice, three times, four times, or five times. If we're going to make a change, it has to be real change. If I were to recommend something, that would be one thing I would recommend.
Thank you very much. I really appreciate your coming in today.
We have something called Changing Ways in London, Ontario. It has done some unique programming with some of the students, some of the young boys who have found themselves in trouble over inappropriate things being done with young girls.
What are some of the key factors? A lot of times, people will say that the children grew up in a violent home and that violence is all they know, so it is recurring.
Do you find that to be absolutely the case? What are some of the triggers? What are some of the things that you feel are creating this violence? Is it because of the way they were brought up in a situation where violence was a norm in their own home? Are there any triggers you see that we should all be aware of as young mothers and spouses so that we can educate women as well?
The program that you're describing at New Leaf on the east coast of the country sounds very similar to a program that is on the west coast, where I'm elected, in Nanaimo, British Columbia. It's a town of 100,000 people.
The Haven Society, just in the last year or so, has identified that in the first 24 hours after a woman leaves a violent relationship, the male partner—it's almost always the man that's being left—is particularly amenable to intervention, changing his ways, and finding a way to reconcile. Because women so often will return to a violent relationship, the Haven staff are very committed to making it as safe for the woman as they can. This is maybe a conversation from a year ago, so they might have moved on from some of these practices.
I would be interested to know if this sounds familiar to you or if you have ideas here. When they create an exit plan for the woman and they have her and her children come to shelter, she'll leave a little card behind, when they figure out a way for her to do that safely. It will say, “I can be reached through this intermediary at this phone number. Please contact me through this person within the next 24 hours. I would like to talk with you about why I left. I'd like to explain, and I'd like to find a way to make things safe for us and our children.”
That brings the men in to what used to be a women's shelter. I mean not into it literally, but into the process. Although all the women's shelters across the whole country are so stretched, if they can find a bit of capacity to cultivate safe and respectful relationships with the men, that has the hope of ultimately reducing the workload over time.
The program is called “Men Choose Respect”. The men, as you're describing, have to voluntarily want to be part of it, but they have a particular incentive. They'll maybe be able to keep their family together, or at least they'll know they've tried.
I am curious to hear your reflections on that and whether that sounds parallel to some of the programs you've heard about.
I know that on our side, the big crunch is core funding. I'm hearing you say the same, that staffing is your biggest barrier. If you can describe it, what are the constraints on going all the way to that kind of holistic program that we think would help all families in the end?
To address that staffing piece, that's not our only problem. Our funding hasn't increased in 29 years. The budget they give us has been the same for all those years.
On the other piece, I know our program, and that's what I can speak to with the most knowledge. We're not about keeping families together. If that happens, excellent, but sometimes too much harm has been done. If men come in thinking we are responsible for helping him get his family back, then that's a whole other layer of issues that we then have to deal with him on. It's his opportunity to sit back and recognize that his behaviours have been choices. I think that's a big difference with our program. It's not about keeping families together. It's about stepping back and holding yourself accountable and then moving forward in a good way from there.
We work closely with the women's shelter. We do women's information sessions with them. We discuss things about his attendance and whether or not he has participated in the program. We recognize that she's often facing some very difficult decisions. The more accurate information she has, the safer the decisions she can make.
Our program focuses around safety. That's our bottom line. Once that's addressed and people are in their services and moving forward, then we support whatever choices they make after that in terms of what's going on with the family.
We would be able to do a lot more of the work with youth.
The Law Foundation funded us to do that work, and that funding ended. We see it as the only preventative work we do, and so we keep trying to find ways to do some measure of it.
I developed and implemented a parenting program a number of years ago, when we had some funding. There are a lot of amazing parenting programs out there, but this one was based on the premise that harm has been done in this family. The other programs are making the assumption that home is safe.
The men had to work through their issues of minimizing and denying and a lot of the issues with their partners because we would accept them into the parenting program so they could be focused on their kids. They would show up an hour early. The group was two hours long, and I would be kicking them out an hour after the group ended, saying I had to go home to my kids.
Many of them wept on the last night, and I told them I hadn't gone anywhere. They could still show up for group and ask me questions. It was so impactful for them because now they could participate in discussions with the mother of their children, whether they were together or not, and know what they were talking about. We would contact her and offer her the same information as in the handouts and stuff, so he couldn't use this information to sabotage her or to undermine her, because that's always an issue. These relationships have been unhealthy and—
Our hope was to take the Changing Male Conversations program to a manual. With that change, it could be delivered in every school, though obviously not by New Leaf. However, if we had some more funding, we could at least take it to the place where it can be.
About six months ago, one of our long-time staff, Ron Kelly—not the one Cathy mentioned—was retiring. He was reducing his hours. Occasionally we'll get calls from schools to do one-on-one work with young men as a preventative measure. He said he was going to have to reduce that, so he cut it back to 25 young men, and that was on the side.
We've reduced that, but we're still doing some of that. We've got five or six or seven young men who are particularly having problems with anger and dealing with young women in the schools. We work with them one-on-one because nobody else can or will.
We could do a lot more work if we had more funding and more staff.
Thank you very much for that.
I did want to open by thanking you for the work you do, because so many of the people who have come to speak to us in this study are talking about the strategies on how women and girls can protect themselves and, in some cases, closing space: “Don't go online. Don't do this; it's risky.” The idea that rather than teaching girls and women how to avoid harm and instead teaching men how not to cause the harm, I think, is a very good approach.
I'm very interested in something you said about when the men are coming to you, they're in crisis, and you do suicide prevention.
Can you elaborate on that? It's not typically what we think of. We're thinking more about the men who are mandated to come who might be more resistant, and that maybe goes to your initial comment about the men not coming. Are those who are coming to you in crisis self-referred? What exactly is your intervention in that case?
The men who come in crisis come from everywhere. Maybe they have just been arrested and released from jail, or maybe they have just come out of court and their name is splashed all over the radio. They're not allowed to go home. They can't get their tools. They can't see their kids. They're in crisis.
When a relationship ends for any reason, or when there's a nasty, ugly incident, whether physical or not, we get really good at hurting each other with our words and all of those other things. They come in ashamed, horrified, embarrassed, angry, confused, hurt, and feeling like they've lost everything.
For every person who comes in that door, we're ready to spend however much time they need in the interview just listening to them, talking it through, and checking out their resources. Unfortunately, our mental health floor has been shut down, so they don't have that resource anymore. We would often take the men right from the interview to the third floor where they could get the immediate help that they needed in that area.
I think a lot of it is just a matter of realizing that someone will listen to them so that they don't have to keep defending themselves. It's that someone has finally heard them.
They can call us. We will do one-on-one for any one of our clients who is in crisis. They see and hear early on that we genuinely care, and they recognize that the men in the group know it too. Any guy who walks through our doors matters to us, and that comes across in so many different ways. For a lot of us, that's all we need. Sometimes I'll even say, “I'll believe in you until you're strong enough to believe in yourself”, and that goes a long way when they see that you mean it.
Thank you so much to each of you for being here today and for giving us your time. I know that it's very precious.
In particular, I just want to acknowledge the fact that you each do tremendous work. Thank you for the work that you do in order to make Canada better. Particularly when you're talking about employees, the resources that you have available to you, and how you're stewarding those resources, you do very well. I think that's to be commended, so well done.
My first question is for you, Harvey. You're the one who raised it, but you're both welcome to answer my question. What is the impact that pornography and other intimate images or media are having on the views that men, or even young boys, have towards women?
I've been doing a bit of research myself with regard to the impact of pornography. I have been looking at studies in this regard that date back to the 1980s and the 1970s, yet nothing has been done from a governmental standpoint to address these issues. My question has a few parts to it, and we'll have to move quickly because I don't have a lot of time.
First, what impact are you seeing pornography and intimate images having on young men and boys? Second, what can be done about it?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
The theme addressed by the Collectivité ingénieuse de la péninsule acadienne is the exploration of issues faced by young women and the way to build a more consistent application of effective strategies in universities and colleges to avoid violence against young women on campus. That includes the notion of rape culture and definitions and perceptions of consent.
We will begin with observations and comments on our region, northeastern New Brunswick. A little over 50% of its population of nearly 50,000 people consists of women. We have two campuses—a university campus and a college campus.
In 2011 in New Brunswick, 539 sexual assaults were reported to the police. We know that, on average, 90% of victims choose not to report an assault. So the 539 sexual assaults could easily mean 5,000 assaults in reality.
Let's talk about studies and research projects in the region. Only a few studies have been carried out on violence against women in the region. Those initiatives focused primarily on defining the issue and on identifying existing services. Most of these projects were conducted 10 to 15 years ago, so an update is clearly needed.
Social media are the preferred means of communication for young people today. Therefore, they are also the bait of choice for sex offenders. Social media must be treated as vehicles for risk and vehicles for proactively fighting against violence.
Services are available for female victims of sexual violence on the Acadian peninsula. Their cases are handled in the general scope of family and domestic violence.
According to a regional study, a significant number of youth exchange sex for services. We should determine what the relationship between that phenomenon and the use of social media is, and what impact social media have on assaults.
According to organizations that work with female victims of violence in the region, young women are a unique group of victims because they are in the early stages of adulthood and are living their first life experiences outside the family unit. So an effective and efficient strategy should be developed for that group of individuals. The same goes for young men who are at a high risk of being abusers.
There seems to be a discrepancy between the opinions of first responders and those of people interviewed on campuses with regard to the level of satisfaction with the availability of initiatives to combat violence against women.
When it comes to observations and comments on our two campuses, the extent of violence against women on the two campuses seems to be unknown. That lack of awareness is attributed to failure to report. Observations and comments on violence against women seemed to focus on silence and failure to report. The opinion seems to be that silence and failure to report are disquieting signs in the fight against violence.
Regarding awareness-raising, both campuses are adopting measures as part of information sessions on issues such as policy and regulations on sexual harassment and gender-based harassment. That is taking place on both campuses.
However, there is a surprising difference in the frequency of policy revision, which seems to happen more often on the college campus, where it is done annually. On the university campus, policy has apparently not been revised in several years, and that shows a clear lack of pooling of efforts when it comes to making strategies consistent across the campuses.
Regarding statistics on sexual violence cases, university officials represent their institution in initiatives related to violence against women. For example, awareness walks are organized.
However, the data received by campus administration regarding acts of violence on the ground are not shared with those representatives. So a data release protocol should be established.
There is no cooperation or collaboration between the two campuses with respect to violence against women.
The campus stakeholders that were interviewed do not know of any clear and concise strategies on the part of governments to address violence against young women, particularly as regards the notion of “rape culture” and definitions and perceptions of “consent”. Coordination is needed in that regard.
How can we define rape culture and the notion of consent? The notion of rape culture is not addressed on the campuses. The perception of consent is currently the focus of a Université de Moncton study, and the campus in our region is participating. However, the college campus is not participating in that research.
Here is a list of our recommendations:
First, the federal government should implement a mechanism to coordinate measures to address violence against women, to ensure greater uniformity and to share the strategies proposed by various provincial and regional authorities, and university and college communities should play an integral role.
Second, the federal government should implement a mechanism to urge the provinces to coordinate regional actions to address women's feeling of guilt and the fact that they are “involuntarily protecting” their abusers from consequences by not reporting assaults.
Third, the federal government should urge social media platforms to become partners in its efforts to address violence against women.
We want to begin by thanking the committee for inviting us to this meeting to discuss our work and our thoughts following ESSIMU, a study titled “Sexualité, sécurité et interactions en milieu universitaire”—a survey on sexuality, security and interactions in a university setting. The study specifically focused on developing a clear picture of sexual violence in a university setting in Quebec. Today's presentation is an opportunity for us to tell you about the key findings, and the recommendations stemming from this work.
ESSIMU is a recent survey of 9,284 individuals who were studying or working in Quebec universities. Twelve researchers and six universities participated in the study with our community partner, the Regroupement québécois des CALACS. I will share a few of the findings.
Sexual violence in a university setting directly affects a large number of individuals working or studying in Quebec universities. According to our study and the participants, one in three individuals has experienced sexual violence within the university community, since they entered university, and one individual in four has experienced sexual violence over the past year. So acts of sexual violence are still taking place and they are recent.
When it comes to strategies, support services must be accessible and confidential for anyone who wants to use them.
There is another piece of information. According to our research, the typical victim is a female student and the sexual abuser is another student. The study also highlights a number of situations where the victim is a female student, and the abuser is a teacher. This reality must not be overlooked, either, in all these reflections.
The findings indicate that specific groups are also more likely to experience sexual violence in a university setting. More women than men experience sexual violence. Other notable groups are gender minorities and sexual minorities, international students and people with a disability. So we have to meet the needs of those groups and provide support tailored to their reality.
Our study made it possible to see in what context various sexual violence situations have been occurring. First, the vast majority of the situations occurred off the university campus, during social or celebratory events. Second, some of the situations took place during academic activities—so during courses and research internships. It is important to take into account that reality across the various strategies that have been developed. There is a lot of talk about integration activities, or initiations. Of course, sexual assaults may occur during those events, but that is not the case in the majority of situations. Therefore, the strategies must cover all the situations where violence may occur.
Sexual violence in a university setting has a number of consequences. We will not list them all. I think the committee, thanks to its work, has fully grasped the extent of the consequences of sexual violence. In addition, more specifically in a university setting, consequences have to do with young women's academic path. Students interrupt their education owing to situations experienced in a university setting. So some consequences are very specific to universities.
Our study is not only about victims who are directly affected. One person in five has been confided in by someone at the university who experienced sexual violence. Moreover, one individual in seven said to have witnessed some sort of sexual violence within the university community.
We believe that those people have an active role to play in preventing, raising awareness and fighting against sexual violence. The strategies to be implemented must also include them.
Before I yield the floor to my colleague, I will finish by saying that the study unfortunately shows that there is still prejudice. I am talking about prejudice against the victims, mainly, so prejudice that makes victims feel guilty and responsible and, conversely, frees abusers of responsibility for their actions. Strategies must also take into account that prejudice, which is basically hurting the victims.
The findings of our research led us to realize that many victims remain silent, and that is not very surprising. In fact, 85% of those who participated in our online survey said that they never reported the event to their university authorities. That realization, that reality, should be a concern for us. It brings us to ask questions, especially about the sense of mistrust victims of sexual violence in a university setting have toward institutions.
That is why a strategy must focus on the importance of developing legal mechanisms that would force post-secondary institutions to fight against sexual violence in a university setting. Those mechanisms, laws or regulations should really highlight academic institutions' responsibility. In these conditions, those institutions would probably receive more complaints.
Rape culture is also the culture of silence. Quite often, those rare individuals who report their abusers' actions are not kept informed of the nature of penalties imposed on the harassers or abusers. In those circumstances, institutions invoke confidentiality, the need to respect privacy, and so on. However, all that is problematic in many ways.
First, it is problematic in terms of impunity, especially since research shows that abusers are very often repeat offenders. A very concrete problem also arises, as victims can come across their abusers on campus or through their university activities. In fact, sexual violence committed in a university setting is unique, as the victim and the abuser share the same premises. The issue regarding penalties and confidentiality must be a concern for universities, but it must also affect Canadian legislation, in some respects.
I would also like to highlight the need to apply a logic of transparency. When a violent event is reported and dealt with, it seems important to communicate the complaint findings. That is in line with the logic of fighting against impunity. Encouraging reporting and publicly communicating the complaint findings—including the alleged actions and the penalty—would among other things let the victim know that the violent and unjust situation they were subject to was recognized and taken into account by the institution, even the state. It would also reassure the entire university community that every effort would be made to truly eradicate this problem. Finally, probably as a preventive measure, based on that logic of transparency and not the culture of silence, it would have a worthwhile deterrent effect.
As for the issue of under-reporting, university authorities should inform the student body, through all sorts of awareness-raising and training activities, of all the potential ways to report an event. Those would not be only official or legal mechanisms, but also all kinds of other methods that would help take their experience into account and recognize it as an unacceptable problem.
Awareness-raising activities could focus on a variety of other elements, but I guess another issue we could discuss during question period is rape culture.
In this case, we are talking about the college and university setting. I think, however, we need to keep in mind the importance of introducing education about sexuality and the development of equal relationships as early as elementary school. That may fall outside the committee's current mandate, but I think we need to bear in mind the importance of starting early and exposing students to sexual education that revolves around the core value of equality. That is the first thing I will say.
The second thing is that, given the results of the study, there is no doubt that everyone has to be involved in the solution. Strategies must target multiple levels. That means strategies geared directly towards victims, as well as strategies geared towards the whole community. That includes men and women, and an outreach process.
We know that unique approaches exist in that regard, such as those involving bystanders. We will also be exploring the extent to which these programs, in place in the rest of Canada and in the United States, lead to successful outcomes or constitute promising practices. We are now at the stage of examining what is being done elsewhere. It is clear that solutions involve both men and women.
I'll try to keep it brief. What is at work in society are what we call gender relations—a different term could be used. The sexual violence on university campuses is also a function of that dynamic. It refers to an ideology that is somewhat similar to the rape culture. It is really made up of division-based, hierarchical relations, in other words, unequal relationships between women and men. That also includes those who belong to gender minorities. In short, that kind of socialization exists.
A moment ago, my colleague mentioned the importance of educating children as early as possible on the development of equal relationships. That means educating them not just on sexuality, but also on equality, in particular. It's important to view the other person as another version of one's self. That involves encouraging boys to view women as equals, as other versions of themselves, and not to base their entire vision of the world on gender.
I think that's really critical. Having worked on various issues related to sexual violence in different settings, we see that it always comes down to that. The problem always revolves around equality, around gender relations or the relations between the sexes.
There is the issue, then, of attitude-based socialization. It's important to find a way to prevent the exploitation of that inequality. In addition to that is everything attached to this notion of a rape culture, a hot topic and headline maker. That, too, strikes me as interesting.
The issue of pornography certainly falls outside the scope of our participation here today, which focuses on violence in universities. Nevertheless, since the broader scope is the issue of gender equality, we cannot, of course, neglect to comment on sexual exploitation and pornography. Ideological divisions exist around how pornography is viewed. In and of itself, does it constitute violence or not?
I believe you highlighted the problem in terms of representation. There is also a problem tied to the fact that the majority of pornography is becoming increasingly violent. It continues to revolve around masculine sexuality, in other words, a certain dimension associated with virility and performance.
None of that does anything to bring about equal relations or relations where socialization is not based on the division between two categories of humans, men and women. It does not open the door to a range of self-fulfillment possibilities. Consider the tangible impact on self-esteem, for instance. If a female's sexual education comes from watching pornography, which depicts women in a certain way, it will certainly impact us at all levels of society, whether as friends, parents, or otherwise.
Therefore, yes, the problem is tied to sexual violence, in my view.
We actually asked those who answered our questionnaire whether they had a disability. It gave us some idea of who the respondents were.
Living with a disability, be it physical or mental, makes individuals more vulnerable, and a number of studies corroborate that. It's an issue that requires serious attention.
It is quite clear that students with disabilities are vulnerable de facto. They project a certain vulnerability that predators can take advantage of. Some individuals try to play on the fact that these women have fewer networks, are less mobile, or have a harder time getting the results they hope for or should receive under the system, for instance.
In our report, we will take a closer look at the research results tied to this problem.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I would like to thank the four witnesses for presenting their research to us.
I am the only member from Quebec here. I represent the riding of Vimy, in Laval, which is home to Collège Montmorency, a Université de Montréal campus, and a Université du Québec à Montréal campus.
Ms. Ricci, can you describe the work of the Réseau québécois en études féministes in sharing research on sexual assault in Canada, and how such research has been used to prevent or respond to sexual assault in communities and on university and college campuses?
Yes. I can talk about the situation as it relates to Quebec, specifically. Our colleagues can describe what goes on in their region.
It requires major investments. Here, in Quebec, we have the Regroupement québécois des CALACS, an organization that brings together some 40 sexual assault help centres, or CALACS. Some of those centres, however, have long waiting lists. It can take up to a year or a year and a half for someone to access support. What we, at the university, do when female students come to us seeking support services is refer them to the CALACS, which have 40 years of expertise behind them, after all. It's necessary, then, to rely on these organizations, whose experience has been built up over many years. We refer those students to the CALACS, where they wind up on waiting lists up to a year long. Therefore, from an accessibility standpoint, efforts and investments are certainly needed to ensure victims receive timely support. That is a priority accessibility-wise.
I appreciate your question because it gives me an opportunity to reiterate where the major needs lie. Demand has gone up in recent years, but funding has not necessarily kept pace.
When someone has been sexually assaulted on a university campus, what they need most is to feel that the focus is on them. Much of the emphasis is placed on discussing the victim's legal options, helping her file a complaint, and guiding her through the process. Yes, it's important to make it safe for her to file a complaint, if that is indeed what she wants to do, but I think what she needs most is to feel supported, believed, and looked after quickly.
In universities, it seems to be much more common for assaults to go unmentioned and unreported. At the regional level, we hear a lot more about domestic and family violence. The stakeholders are much more active. On university and college campuses, however, the mentality seems to be that, even though an assault occurred, it doesn't go any further. Assaults are never reported, or almost never. As I said, they go unmentioned.
My Quebec counterparts were talking earlier about the need for support in the regions, and this ties into that. A number of years ago, an initial response support system was put in place, a community support mechanism for women by women, and we saw that it worked very well. I think we need a similar system in universities and colleges.
Thank you all for your presentations.
My questions, with my short amount of time, are actually to the collective for the Acadian peninsula.
Ms. Roussel and Ms. Pinet, for 14 years I actually taught business at the New Brunswick Community College, and after that I went on to teach for the University of New Brunswick.
With regard to the province of New Brunswick, we often hear about the divide within the province linguistically. Are you familiar with, or are you aware of, any differences in services provided in the francophone versus anglophone communities in the area of sexual assault for community college campuses?
I know when I was with the college, when I first started there in 1996, it was part I of government, and it's probably in the last seven years that it became part IV of government, so it's a bit more of an extension, a bit more of an arm's length from government. Hopefully, that will also offer some more opportunities, and certainly it offers opportunities to apply for research funding.
We've heard from other witnesses that in the first eight weeks of post-secondary education, there is a high incidence of sexual assault. Can you tell me the services that are available on your campuses to help deal with it, both with males and with females?
That's for anyone.
I may be able to answer at least part of the question.
Regarding the financial support issue, there's the matter of political will and the reputation of the institutions. If there aren't any numbers, there isn't any problem. If there isn't any problem, there's no risk that, for example, registrations or the recruitment of professors will be affected. That's part of the issue. The other part is that, as a result of our current economic situation, the decision-makers in the universities keep telling us that they don't have the means.
For example, three years ago, we and UQAM's senior staff considered creating an off-campus CALACS. The centre would have been funded, or at least supported, by the university. That way, the victims could have received a proper service, as mentioned by my colleague earlier. The service would not have been located on campus because a structure on campus generates a sense of distrust. Immediately, the financial issue was raised. Therefore, funding is a big concern. It's difficult to tell universities that they must do this and that and that they must set up a proper response office, lead awareness campaigns, work on prevention, implement policies and find the necessary money in budgets that are already extremely tight. I think there's certainly a way for them to reorganize certain things, but—
Excuse me, but the time is up.
I want to thank all the witnesses who spoke today. It was magnificent and very interesting.
For the committee, I just want to let you know that because of the Olympians and Paralympians coming, we will cancel Wednesday's session, although we will have a subcommittee meeting in the last hour of that session. You have an opportunity still to get in your motions to the clerk on what we want to study in the next session so she can have them translated, or to bring them when that meeting gets scheduled.
I want to remind you that this Thursday is Hope in High Heels, so we will meet at the centennial flame at noon. Bring your staff and fellow MPs and walk in solidarity for an end to violence against women. In case there's a question, Ms. Nassif and I will not be walking in high heels, but we will be sharing lots of hope and solidarity with you.
Thank you again to all.
Have a good day.
The meeting is adjourned.