UBCO fails to have sexual assault tribunal case dropped | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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UBCO fails to have sexual assault tribunal case dropped

University of British Columbia student Stephanie Hale, 22, poses for photograph in Kamloops, B.C., on Thursday, October 20, 2016.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff Bassett
February 01, 2019 - 6:30 PM

KELOWNA - The University of British Columbia Okanagan has lost its first round in a human rights complaint by a former student who says the school's conduct in handling her sexual assault report led to her suffering anxiety and
depression and to drop out of school.

UBCO tried to have the complaint dismissed but in a ruling dated Jan. 31, B.C Human Rights Tribunal member Emily Ohler moved it forward.

The case dates back to 2013, when student Stephanie Hale reported a sexual assault to several UBCO staff and says she received no meaningful assistance. Hale launched complaints with the human rights tribunal against UBCO and her alleged assailant in August 2017 but had the complaint against the alleged attacker rejected. The tribunal stated the complaint was made too long after the alleged attack took place in 2013. The tribunal did, however, allow Hale to file a complaint against UBCO.

Documents filed with the tribunal say Hale enrolled as a student at UBCO in September 2012. In January 2013 Hale says a classmate and friend sexually assaulted her. At the time both Hale and her alleged attacker were 18 years old. Documents state Hale reported the allegations to several UBCO staff but received no referrals to any of the applicable policies. Hale was told to speak to her professors about any possible conflict that had arisen as she and her alleged attacker were both still students of the engineering faculty.

In December 2015 Hale went on medical leave after being diagnosed with anxiety and depression in October of that year.

Hale’s complaint centres on her interactions with UBCO’s policies and processes for responding to sexual assault. In 2015 UBC formed a committee to develop a new sexual assault policy and in February 2016 UBC published a Sexual Assault Response and Support Protocol that explained new practices and procedures regarding sexual harassment and assault and complaints.

In February of 2016 Hale made a complaint through official channels at UBCO and an investigation was launched into the alleged assault and a hearing took place in front of a committee in November that year. In March 2017 UBCO informed Hale the committee was unable to find that "non-academic misconduct occurred.” In May 2017 UBCO's new policy regarding sexual violence and prevention was implemented and the school opened sexual violence and prevention and response office.

UBCO argued that it does not make sense to proceed with the complaint because the processes about which Hale complains have been entirely replaced. But tribunal member Ohler states that while new policies could address elements of the complaint, they don't retroactively make Hale's situation better.

The tribunal dismissed UBCO's application to have the complaint dismissed and recommended both parties resolve the dispute using mediation services.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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