Interview: Kathleen Wynne on her $41M plan to combat misogyny

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne talks to Anne Kingston about an ambitious package of reforms

Adrian Wyld/CP

Adrian Wyld/CP

Considering what $41 million in government money buys in Ontario, the province’s new three-year initiative “It’s Never Okay: An Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment,” launched today, appears the bargain of the century. Fast-tracked last December when Jian Ghomeshi was dominating headlines and #beenrapedneverreported was trending, the ambitious plan recognizes that addressing sexualized violence requires a multi-faceted approach: a gritty multimedia public-awareness campaign to encourage bystander involvement; beefed-up legislation to create safer workplaces and campuses; training for front-line workers who deal with assault and harassment, including helping those in the hospitality industry recognize high-risk situations; improvements to the judicial system; improved funding for sexual assault centres and education.

Premier Kathleen Wynne didn’t mince words at this morning’s press conference at the Central Toronto YWCA. “Sexual violence and harassment is rooted in deeply held beliefs about women, men, power and inequality,” she said, naming it for what it is: “misogyny, which is deeply engrained in our culture, often in unconscious or subtle ways.” She also didn’t equivocate over whether or not we live in a rape culture. We do, she said, defining it as “a culture where ideas, social practices, media images and institutions implicitly or explicitly condone sexual assault by normalizing sexual violence and blaming survivors.” Everyone is hurt by it, she said, not only women.

Today’s announcement laid out the breadth of the new “road map”; details of the “enhanced prosecution model,” for instance, include a sexual assault advisory group to provide legal and strategic advice to trial Crown attorneys, a mentorship program to Crown attorneys new to sexual assault prosecutions and a pilot program to provide free independent advice to victims of sexual violence who are proceeding toward criminal trial. Wynne also noted improvements to alternative streams: for one, the province will lift the two-year limitation period for civil sexual assault claims to the Criminal Injury Compensation Board—a change that recognizes victims of sexual assault often require longer than that to come forward.

Related Reading: #Project97, a year-long conversation about sexual assault, abuse and harassment 

Universities and campuses will also face new legislation: they will be required to adopt a sexual assault policy that has to be updated every four years, have clearly stated complaint procedures, and publicly report sexual assaults.

Wynne also spoke of  shifting societal norms. To do this, she says, education about gender inequality, consent and healthy relationships is a keystone, one that dovetails with the new sex-ed curriculum covering Grades 1 to 12 that was unveiled by the Liberal government in February.  “Seeding generational change” was crucial, she said, calling on parents and teachers for back-up.  The province’s first female premier also recognized that change takes time, noting today that the discussion is an ongoing one at the government level, one that will include continuing consultation and an all-party committee.

“It’s Never Okay,” announced two days before International Women’s Day, is focused on women being the victims of sexual assault, with men the perpetrators, reflected in the public service announcement taglines:  “When you do nothing you’re helping him” and “When you do something you’re helping her.” Statistics show this is true, with women under 35 being the most vulnerable. But men too are victims of sexualized violence, and have even more limited resources available to them, something I asked the premier about in the video below.


Interview: Kathleen Wynne on her $41M plan to combat misogyny

  1. This social engineering is just another distraction from the imminent default of Ontario. It will create more debt and be unsuccessful in the end. We already have laws, enforce them.

    • LOL worry about Alberta, not us. We’re fine.

      PS 52% of the population is a distraction?

  2. As if Onta-I-Owe wasn’t Broke enough………….

  3. Kathleen Wynne is a hypocrite and this policy is extremely sexists. If you listen to her account of her experience of sexual harassment by an older boss talking to her in the kitchen, and than compare it to the story of how her current partner seduced her, why is one behaviour ok and the other not? In Kathleen Wynne it is never OK, unless you are the woman making the sexual advances.

    “They met in 1973 when Rounthwaite interviewed Wynne for the job of floor proctor at Queen’s University, where Wynne was studying for a Bachelor of Arts.

    “I was head proctor and all these girls came in — yeah-yeah-yeah, fine-fine-fine . . . bor-ing,” Rounthwaite recalls, “and then this woman walked into the room — and wow! She had this big personality (and) I thought, ‘This is going to be a very important person in my life. It was like she had an aura. It was like, ‘ka-boom.’ ”

  4. Where does one begin?
    This is exactly the sort of boondoggle that sums up what is wrong with government interference.
    Even if we didn’t live in a cash strapped province, there would be so much to object to in this plan.
    The obvious starting point is that we rape is not something that we have just discovered. It has always been illegal and unacceptable. No man I have ever known has ever boasted about forcing a woman to have sex with them. There is no rape culture. Feminists think that insensitive jokes about rape imply some sort of acceptance of rape- not at all- it’s just guys being insensitive.
    Even if we restrict ourselves to the concept of date rape, once a man a woman are alone, anything can happen, and a million PSAs won’t make any difference. The basic rules will always apply; if you are a woman, you have to be careful how you deal with men- getting drunk and acting like a slut will get you into trouble and the Premier won’t be there to help you. You have to be responsible. And that isn’t blaming the victim, it’s just common prudence.
    Men understand not to mess with men bigger than them. It may not be fair, but you should understand that you don’t mess with the lion. So teach men? sure , lecture us all you want- men have always been told not to touch women , but they still do- more public education is nice, but its a waste of time.
    Mentoring crown attorneys? How insulting to crown attorneys! Who do you think has been prosecuting rape charges since the dawn of time? crown attorneys- you think they’re not sure how to do it? You think they don’t share info already?
    and universities need special programs? how about banning constant drinking on campus; i mean, if you are really serious about this, separate the boys from the girls and ban alcohol. That will do it. in other words , take us back to the fifties. Im sure the students will love that.
    Make changes to the Criminal injuries comp board- that thing is a joke already- the payouts are pitiful and the application process is brutal and takes forever. Its a waste of time to begin with-
    This is the ultimate sop to public opinion- how can you object to any of this without being branded a mysoginist? this is a no lose for wynne-
    except for one thing- I foolishly voted for wynne in the last election
    that won’t happen again.
    by the way, nice nazi salute there Kathy…..

    • Saying there is no rape culture suggests you’re too deeply entrenched within it, or don’t know enough about it, to be able to recognize it. Insensitive jokes about rape do imply acceptance. Saying women have to be careful how they deal with men is victim blaming. Telling women to “stop acting like a slut” is slut shaming. Don’t mess with a lion? How about don’t be a predator? Public education is a waste of time–Are you hearing yourself?

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