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Canada Wynne unveils action plan to halt sexual violence, harassment in Ontario

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announces Ontario's Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan at a press conference in Toronto on March 6, 2015.

FRANK GUNN/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Sexual violence and harassment are "rooted in misogyny," Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said on Friday as she unveiled a plan to fight such behaviours through legislation, increased funding and a provocative ad campaign.

The "It's Never Okay" plan includes new legislation and an awareness campaign centred on 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 uncomfortable female co-worker, a student showing friends pictures of his girlfriend and a man at a bar slipping something into 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."

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The girls and women in the situations then turn to the camera and say thanks for speaking up.

"Sexual violence is rooted in misogyny, which is deeply ingrained in our culture, often in unconscious or subtle ways," Ms. Wynne said. These are learned behaviours, which means that they can be unlearned – or better yet – never learned in the first place."

The plan, which comes with a $41-million commitment over three years, aims to tackle workplace harassment, the prosecution of sexual assault cases, a limitation period for civil sexual assault claims, victim support and assaults on campuses.

Ms. Wynne announced in December that such a plan would be accelerated after several women said they were harassed or sexually assaulted by former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi – who has denied the allegations – but never reported it. What was telling was the degree of disbelief toward such allegations in a number of high-profile cases at the time, Ms. Wynne said.

The plan also includes legislation, to be introduced in the fall, to eliminate a two-year limitation period for civil sexual assault claims and to strengthen workplace safety legislation. The Occupational Health and Safety Act would be amended to include a definition of sexual harassment and would require employers to investigate and address such incidents.

An "enhanced prosecution model" tailored to sexual assault cases is to include more training for Crown attorneys and police. The government is also promising to boost funding for sexual assault support centres.

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