Why you should be concerned about Bill 132, Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act (Supporting Survivors and Challenging Sexual Violence and Harassment), 2015

Queens Park in Ontario is looking to introduce Bill 132 referred to as the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act.

You can also find the government’s press release here

We at CAFE hope to provide a more comprehensive review of why Bill 132 is concerning specifically from a legal perspective. However, below are some of the highlights.

Removal of the Limitation Period

The removal of a limitation period for civil cases signals that an individual could be hit with legal civil proceedings at any time for any alleged sexual misconduct. The Ontario Limitations Act., governs limitations periods and has been implemented for specific reasons to avoid prejudice to a party during civil proceedings due to the passage of time.

Removal of Limitation Period: Criminal Injuries Compensation Board

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, awards compensation for an injury or death relate to the commission of a criminal offence. However, it should be noted eligibility is not based on whether or not the assailant was even charged and or convicted. Removing the limitation period means that at any time an individual can allege sexual misconduct and make a claim for compensation.

New Duties for Employers

Employers should already have in place workplace sexual harassment policies. Especially, since they will be vicariously liable for the actions of their employees. However, placing stricter statutory obligations on an employer will be concerning. Moreover, employers that do not have the requisite HR department or finances might face difficulties in complying with stricter statutory obligations.

Amendment to the Residential Tenancies Act

The Residential Tenancies Act, governs the relationship between landlords and tenants including tenancy agreements, ending a tenancy, notice periods and other violations. This legislation was an attempt to balance the interests of landlords and tenants with fair and equitable solutions.Bill 132 seeks to shorten the notice period for those who are fleeing a situation of domestic violence and or sexual violence. Some of the concerns here are, how is the landlord to determine if said incidents are occurring. What evidentiary burden must the landlord consider? Is there a possibility that this provision could be exploited? How is a private landlord in a capitalist economy to withstand the economic loss associated with this provision?

Amending University and College Policies

Colleges and universities in the United States have already started the process of drafting policies with respect to sexual assault and harassment. These policies have been criticized for being overly draconian and for violating due process. Recently, a number of Harvard Law professors openly criticized Harvard’s new sexual assault and harassment policies as violating an accused’s individual liberty and rights. What standard will colleges and universities be looking to adopt when it comes to sexual harassment and assault? How will that standard be investigated and enforced?

Conclusion

In the coming months we hope to provide a more detailed and comprehensive analysis with respect to the proposed amendments being brought by Bill 132. The Ontario government should have an open and fair debate about this Bill.