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Bill for Bystander Intervention Training

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Communications Assistant
Thu, 06/29/2017 - 09:30

Written by Sarah Wiley, Feds Vice President Education 2016-2017.

When I started as VP Education for Federation of Students in May 2016, I knew I wanted to make a difference for students at the University of Waterloo. I quickly learned that change is slow and I would have to be very comfortable standing up for my ideals. Sometimes, advocacy work can feel like you are hitting your head against a wall when progress moves at a snail's pace. It gets frustrating to feel like no one wants to listen to the undergraduate woman talking about student housing, course evaluations and gender equity. However, there are also times when you remember why it’s all worth it and you see the difference that Feds and individual students can make. I had one of these moments recently, now that my term has ended, when I heard that MPP Peggy Sattler introduced her bill, “The Safe Night Out Act."

Sarah WileyAdvocacy in sexual violence prevention and response is one of my key passions in life and was one of my priorities last year as VP Education. I lobbied for consent education for all students, wrote a paper with other student leaders for OUSA with recommendations for the provincial government, and I wanted to see bystander intervention training added to Smart Serve for bar staff.

Antonio Brieva, now Feds President, was then working with me as Government Affairs Commissioner. Together we developed an idea to educate bar staff on how to intervene in unsafe situations. We wanted to give bar staff the tools to prevent sexual violence on the front lines, in bars, where we know risk is elevated. Students are at especially high risk for for sexual violence, and we know that assaults don’t just happen to students on campus but often violence is occurring off campus, in the community. This is why it is critical that all bar staff receive training in bystander intervention, not just those working in campus bars.

Antonio and I brought this idea to MPP Peggy Sattler while visiting her in London, and she quickly saw the potential. It is very exciting to see an idea that was cooked up in the Feds offices become a bill less than a year later. Feds and OUSA will continue to support this bill as it moves through the legislative process and hopefully becomes law. However, sexual violence is a big problem that requires a multifaceted response, and Feds will continue to advocate for improved prevention and response.

“The Safe Night Out Act” reminds me of the power of advocacy and how important it is for students. Advocacy work can be slow and difficult but this shows the impact advocacy can have in the lives of students. Feds, and the new VP Education, Andrew Clubine, continue to ensure that student voices are heard at all levels of government and with university administration.

Learn more about Feds advocacy.

Bill 145, "The Safe Night Out," has passed first reading. It will now go through the regular legislative process, and may go to the Legislature for a vote in the fall. Feds and partner organizations will continue to advocate in support of this bill.