As if combatting sexism is the thing that women can relate to the most, it’s 2018 and feminism has arrived in the Queen City. The Saskatoon Feminist Collective gathered for a meeting at the Little Toronto Diner last week to strategize and share news about their new grassroots campaign in the effort to legalize sexual assault in Saskatchewan. The goal of the effort is to convince politicians in the province that pushing sexual assault charges to trial is not the answer to deterring victims from coming forward.
“There’s been a shift since the #MeToo movement began but I feel like there’s still a lot of people who think that you can just go to court and fight it and just throw evidence away,” say Maya Biss, a co-organizer of the campaign.
The group is also looking to increase the penalties for offenders and focus more attention on perpetrators.
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“There’s a lot of people who think that perpetrators deserve more than being put in jail. That they should be accountable and re-education, because it’s a byproduct of that of to push the victim away and make them not want to tell their story,” says Biss.
Campaign participants also plan to lobby for changes to the Criminal Code and Speculative Involuntary Sex Injuries Protection Act to allow victims of sexual assault to have a say in their own criminal proceedings.
“The threat of a trial being put against our charge does create a higher risk to go forward and testify, because at some point in our lives we may have been sexually assaulted,” says Sasha Manrissky, another member of the group.
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In addition to this, they want to increase the amount of protection available to complainants who find themselves in the hands of courts.
“In the present system people are going to be heard in court, and that is nice, but we also want to say that there is a much higher standard of evidence that needs to be proven,” says Debra Pringle, one of the organizers.
That’s why they plan to introduce a bill in the spring that calls for a witness registry, counselling for victims of sexual assault in custody, a definition of consent and sexual assault training for police officers. The proposal is in the process of being drafted.
Saskatoon Feminist Collective will be raising their concerns in a parliamentary committee in Saskatchewan next week and talking with officials from across the province in hopes of bringing this up as a matter of public debate.
“I’m going to be that reluctant voice in Ottawa,” says Rhonda Kasper, one of the main organizers.