TORONTO–Sexual violence and harassment are “rooted in misogyny,” Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said Friday as she unveiled a plan she said was aimed at changing behaviours and challenging social norms.
The “It’s Never Okay” plan includes new legislation and a public awareness campaign centred around an ad depicting assaults and harassment the premier described as uncomfortable to watch, but much harder to experience.
The ad shows a boy with an inebriated girl at a party, a man rubbing the shoulders of an obviously uncomfortable female co-workers, a student showing friends pictures of his girlfriend and a man at a bar slipping something in a woman’s drink. In each of the situations they look directly at the camera and thank the viewer for not saying anything.
“When you do nothing you’re helping him,” the ad says. “But when you do something you help her.”
The girls and women in the situations then turn to the camera and say thanks for speaking up.
“At its core this is a plan to change behaviours and challenge social norms,” Wynne said.
“The problem of sexual violence and harassment is rooted in deeply held beliefs about women, men, power and inequality…Sexual violence is rooted in misogyny, which is deeply ingrained in our culture, often in unconscious or subtle ways.”
The plan, which comes with a $41-million commitment over three years, tackles workplace harassment, the prosecution of sexual assault cases, a limitation period for civil sexual assault claims, victim support and assaults on campuses.
Wynne announced in December that such a plan would be accelerated after several women came forward to say they’d been harassed or sexually assaulted by former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi, who has denied the allegations, but never reported it.
The province is promising stronger workplace safety legislation requiring employers to investigate and address workplace harassment, including sexual harassment. The plan also includes legislation, to be introduced in the fall, to eliminate a two-year limitation period for civil sexual assault claims and an “enhanced prosecution model” tailored to sexual assault cases.
A permanent roundtable on violence against women will also be established, Wynne said.