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Sexual violence respondent

Our office provides support to students who are accused of sexual violence at Ryerson University. Below is information about what to expect of the investigation and adjudication process as detailed in the university’s sexual violence policy.

Full version of the policy >>

Our office helps you to understand what the sexual violence policy means and how it impacts you. We will also assist you in arranging any academic consideration that you may require during the process. We do not accompany you to any meetings (you are able to identify and bring an alternate support person) but we can connect you with resources during the process (for example, counselling).

Under Ryerson's sexual violence policy, students, staff and faculty can make a report against another Ryerson community member for sexual violence. The person making the report is referred to as the complainant. They file their report with Ryerson's Human Rights Services which is the office responsible for the investigation process. Human Rights Services does not advocate for any individual or group, and does not take sides.

You can expect a timely, transparent and fair process. You will be advised of your rights and responsibilities, will be kept informed about the investigation and outcome, and will receive regular updates including estimated timeframes and any delays.

You also have the right to a support person throughout the process. Our office can provide this support or you may choose to identify an alternate to accompany you to meetings. This could include a friend, family member, legal representative, etc.

You will know the allegations that have been made against you and the evidence, and you will be given the opportunity to answer questions prior to a decision being made. You will receive notice of the investigation and decision-making process. You may be asked to appear in person before the investigator and decision maker to answer and ask questions in respect to the evidence.

All information related to cases of sexual violence will be kept confidential. However there may be circumstances where university employees require information to carry out their authorized duties, e.g. conduct investigation, make or implement a decision or interim measures, etc. You are expected to keep the details of any case confidential, outside your circle of support, in order to ensure the integrity of the investigation and decision making process.

Ryerson protects personal information and handles records in accordance with its policies, the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Personal Health Information Protection Act, and the provisions of applicable employee collective agreements.

In appropriate circumstances, Human Right Services may follow-up with the complainant and you to determine if you are both willing to voluntarily participate in an alternative resolution process. You may also initiate an alternative resolution process by notifying Human Rights Services.

At any stage during alternative resolution, the complainant may indicate that they would like to move their complaint to an investigation and adjudication process.

Alternative resolution processes could include:

  • Impact Statement/Letter:  A complainant may decide to communicate to you that your behaviour, remarks or communications are unwelcome or uncomfortable. They may choose to communicate their concerns directly or indirectly, verbally or in writing with the assistance of Human Rights Services.
  • Facilitation: A complainant may request that Human Rights Services facilitate a discussion between themselves and you. In such circumstances, a facilitator would try to reach a resolution between the complaint and you by acting as a “go-between.” Neither party is required to attend any face-to-face meetings during this process unless they both agree to do so.  This facilitated process may result in a written agreement that could include behavioural expectations, agreement to no contact, or an apology.

  • Education: You may agree to participate in education and training related to anti-violence, anti-oppression and consent.

  • Restorative Justice: Restorative or transformative justice is an approach used in situations that require a deep understanding of the harm done, the needs of those affected, and the strategies for moving forward as a community and creating lasting change. Using processes such as accountability circles or community conferencing, those who have done harm and various stakeholders are actively engaged in understanding what happened, the impact of a harmful situation and hold those who have done harm accountable and responsible not only for their past actions but for shaping the future.

If a resolution is reached, a written record will be prepared by Human Rights Services to be signed by both parties. The signed resolution will be kept in Human Rights Services. A copy of the signed agreement will be provided to the complainant and you, and may be provided to relevant university administrators if it is required to implement the terms of resolution.

Human Rights Services will monitor the implementation and compliance of alternative resolution processes. If there is a failure to comply with the terms of a resolution, the complaint may be moved to an investigation and decision making process.

A complainant can choose to withdraw their complaint at any point before a decision is rendered (there are some circumstances in which the university may still proceed with the complaint). If this happens, you can still access support through the appropriate offices on campus.

In some instances, it may be necessary to implement interim measures, which are temporary measures put in place to protect the parties and the community. Consequences for violating interim measures will be clearly communicated to you at the time they are applied. Examples of interim measures that might be considered include:

  • Changes within university housing (if you and the complainant live in residence)

  • Restrictions to access campus or parts of campus

  • No contact/communication orders

  • Employment/workplace restrictions

  • Changes to class and/or section enrollments

In some cases,  the university may be required to or choose to investigate an incident of sexual violence even though the complainant has chosen not to file a report. Examples of such circumstances could include, but are not limited to:

  • Where there is risk to the safety of individuals and/or the broader community; for example where repeated allegations have been made about the conduct of the same individual.

  • Where there is evidence of sexual violence in the public realm (such as a video posted on social media).

Human Rights Services will appoint an impartial investigator who has knowledge, training and experience in sexual violence investigations and related issues. The investigator may be internal or external to the university.

If you reasonably believe that the investigator may have a conflict of interest, you may request an alternative investigator. Human Rights Services will consider your concerns to determine whether or not to assign an alternative investigator.

Once an investigator is appointed, Human Rights Services will provide you with a notice of investigation that includes the following information:

i.   The name and contact information of the investigator

ii.   A written account of the complaint

iii.   Confirmation of the right to a support person or representative during the investigation

iv.   Any interim measures that will be in place during the investigation

v.   A link to the sexual violence policy and any other related policies

vi.   The name and contact information of the university support person designated to support you. This is typically one of our staff.

Once an investigator is appointed, they will contact the parties within seven (7) business days to confirm:

i.   Their appointment by Human Rights Services

ii.   The role of the investigator

iii.   Next steps in the investigation process

Human Rights Services will determine the scope of the investigation for each case. The investigator works independently. They develop a plan identifying the issues of the case, who will be interviewed, which questions will be posed and which documents will be requested for review. The investigator conducts all of the interviews. These include interviews with the you, the complainant and any witnesses.

After reviewing the written account of the complaint and any relevant documentation, the investigator will contact you and the complainant to arrange separate interview times. They may need to meet with you several times during the course of the investigation. You will have the opportunity to provide the investigator with information, documents, names of witnesses, and other submissions or evidence that you believe are relevant to the investigation.

Human Rights Services will always aim to complete an investigation as quickly and thoroughly as possible. Depending on the complexity of the case and/or the availability of parties and witnesses, the investigation could take several months.

The investigator will ensure that both you and the complainant have had a full opportunity to review and respond to all material aspects of the allegations, and the evidence upon which the investigator will rely, in order to ensure procedural fairness. The investigator will provide you with the notes from, or a synopsis of, your own respective interviews, and you will have the opportunity to make any clarifications or corrections to your own statements.

The investigator finalizes the investigation report and submits it to the decision maker.

The Director of Human Rights Services or their designate will review the investigator’s report and provide it to the appropriate decision maker for review and decision. In your case, as a Ryerson student, the Vice-Provost Students, typically decides the matter.

Human Rights Services will notify you by e-mail within five (5) business days of receipt of the final report from the investigator and inform you of who has been appointed the decision maker. If you reasonably believe that the decision maker may have a conflict of interest, you may request an alternative decision maker. Human Rights Services will consider your concerns to determine whether or not to assign an alternate decision maker.

The decision maker will review the final report from the investigator.  The decision maker may also request an opportunity to meet with and ask any questions of the investigator, the complainant, you and/or any witnesses separately before rendering a decision. Any in-person meetings will be transcribed so as to document any new evidence presented that does not appear in the investigator’s report.  If in the course of these meetings, new information is presented by any party, you will be given the opportunity to respond to or question that new information, in person or in writing before the decision is rendered.  

Within 10 days of reviewing the investigator’s report and completing all requested meetings with parties involved and reviewing all additional written submissions or questions submitted by either party, the decision maker will make a decision and assign an appropriate sanction/remedy if applicable.

The final decision prepared by the decision maker will indicate whether there has been a breach of the policy or not.

The decision maker will provide you with a summary of the investigation results, their decision, reasons for the decision and any applicable sanctions.

Any request to receive a copy of the investigation report will be subject to restrictions under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Examples of general remedies/sanctions

  • Letter of apology

  • Mandated educational workshops or counselling

  • No communication order between parties

  • Letter of behavioural expectations

  • Restrictions related to accessing buildings or parts of campus or certain activities

  • Community service activities

  • Removal from a course or section of a course

  • Relocation in or eviction from university owned and/or operated housing

  • Suspension from school for a defined period*

  • Expulsion from the university permanently*

* Where a sanction involves a suspension or expulsion, a notation is put on the student record and transcript in the same manner as described in the Student Code of Non-Academic Conduct (Policy 61)

If you appeal the case, it will normally be decided on by the Provost and Vice President, Academic.

If you wish to appeal a finding or a remedy/sanction in a case, you must submit to Human Rights Services a written request for appeal and an explanation of the basis for the request, within 10 days of communication of the original decision. Complainants can also appeal decisions.

They will consider appeals based on the following grounds:

a.   Whether there was a substantial procedural error in the application of the policy  

b.   Whether there is new evidence that could not have reasonably been presented earlier

c.   Whether the decision maker’s finding is consistent with the evidence

d.   Whether the remedy/sanction are reasonable in the circumstances

If an appeal is filed by one party, other parties to the case will be notified that an appeal has been submitted. They will also be invited to make a written submission for consideration in the review of the appeal. In deciding on the appeal the Vice President will review the investigation file, the original findings and remedies/sanctions determined by the decision maker and any other relevant documents or information. The Vice President may also interview the parties. The Vice President will communicate the findings of their review in writing to all parties, normally within 15 days of commencement of the review.

A decision of the Vice President is final with respect to the options available within the university. Where applicable, any party not satisfied with the decision may pursue external avenues for redress.