A York University student has filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, alleging the school's policy on sexual assault discriminates against victims, most of whom are women.
Mandi Gray, 26, filed the complaint on Monday, five months after she alleges she was sexually assaulted by another PhD student after an informal, campus-related gathering.
In her complaint, Ms. Gray says she had to disclose details of the alleged assault to more than 15 York University employees in an effort to get information about how the school responds to incidents of sexual violence. She also claims she made multiple calls to the York University Sexual Assault Survivor's Support Line, most of which went unanswered, and fought for months to receive counselling through the school, which she did not receive.
Her alleged attacker was arrested and charged in February with one count of sexual assault by the Toronto Police Service. He was released on bail and after a 10-day suspension returned to campus.
Fearing she would run into the man at school, Ms. Gray resigned from her position as a teaching assistant and dropped one of her courses.
Ms. Gray's complaint alleges the university discriminates against women on more than a dozen counts, including by equating sexual violence with other violations outlined in York University's Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities such as plagiarism, and failing to provide victims with clear, consistent and complete information.
Ms. Gray chose to file through the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, rather than civil court, because it is within the tribunal's jurisdiction to enforce policy change upon York. She opted to waive a publication ban on her name when she pressed charges, to push the issue forward with a real person's story.
"We know what we want," Ms. Gray said. "We don't necessarily have the solution, but we have an idea of how we could make it better."
The complaint also seeks damages for breach of her human rights, emotional and psychological pain and suffering, losses associated with her withdrawing from a teaching position and out-of-pocket expenses for counselling services.
York University, which put a sexual assault policy into effect in February, confirmed it received a copy of Ms. Gray's complaint Monday afternoon.
Janice Walls of media relations for the school told The Globe and Mail that services are available to victims, and include crisis intervention support, emergency financial support, emergency housing, counselling, safety planning and academic accommodations.
York is working on additional procedures, Ms. Walls says.
Ms. Gray's complaint comes at a time when universities' responses to sexual assault and harassment on campus are under fire, and it could force changes all over Canada.
"Certainly for Ontario it would serve as a precedent," said University of Ottawa professor Elizabeth Sheehy, an expert on sexual assault law.
"[It] would be a strong indication for universities across the country that their respective provincial human rights codes will also likely be interpreted so as to call such policy failures prohibited sex discrimination," she said.
"I think … counsel for universities across the country will be telling their clients that."