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Victoria council wants sexualized-violence training included in liquor course

"It’s a wonderful opportunity to advocate for people in an industry that does see a lot of concerns around sexual violence," says executive director of Victoria Sexual Assault Centre
Mayor Lisa Helps is expected to write to Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth asking that sexualized-violence prevention training be included in the province's Serving It Right curriculum, which all liquor sellers and servers in B.C. must take. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Victoria city council plans to urge the province to ensure sexualized-violence prevention is included in the liquor-training program for everyone in the hospitality industry.

Mayor Lisa Helps is expected to write to Public Safety ­Minister Mike Farnworth asking that the prevention training be included in the province’s ­Serving It Right curriculum, after the motion passed at council’s committee of the whole meeting Thursday.

Serving It Right is the province’s liquor sales and service program for industry workers. Everyone involved in the sale and service of liquor has to take the course.

“I think this is a really important piece to this overall puzzle of addressing sexualized violence in our community,” said Elijah Zimmerman, executive director of the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to advocate for people in an industry that does see a lot of concerns around sexual violence.”

Zimmerman said the goal of the training is to ensure staff can look for signs of problems, intervene and support ­customers. It’s just one piece of a bigger prevention puzzle, he said.

“To really prevent sexualized violence in our communities, we need to be intervening in our education system when ­children are young and really just addressing, age ­appropriately, consent, gender norms and all these different factors so that people from a young age are already building awareness and understanding,” he said.

He added that a one-time course only works if there is follow-up and continued education. “I hope that some type of curriculum to educate folks would be given on an ongoing basis and particularly because we know this industry has a lot of turnover.”

Zimmerman noted sexualized violence is the one crime in Canada that is not on the decline.

“We know at least one in four women will say they’ve been sexually assaulted in their lifetime and for those that are Indigenous or who have a ­disability, that’s one in two,” he said.

The council motion, brought forward by councillors Jeremy Loveday and Sarah Potts, noted the city has already moved to include sexualized-violence prevention in the mandates of its late-night program, municipal alcohol policy, and late night advisory committee.

Earlier this year, the Ending Violence Association of B.C., which includes Good Night Out Vancouver, the B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association, B.C.’s Alliance of Beverage Licensees as well as Potts and Loveday, was given a grant by the city to develop a training program specifically focused on the hospitality sector in Victoria.

That work, to create a training project to prevent and respond appropriately to sexualized violence in the hospitality sector, spurred the idea of including such a program in Serving it Right.

“While we recognize alcohol consumption is not the cause of sexualized violence, we know there is a correlation between the service of alcohol and increased incidences of violence, including sexual violence,” the councillors wrote in the motion to council.

“It is a fact that alcohol remains the primary substance in substance-facilitated sexual assault.”

They also noted while physical violence is included in the Serving it Right curriculum, sexualized violence is not.

“We view this as a missed opportunity to provide ­foundational education to people with the front-line opportunity to take action to prevent sexualized violence and respond ­appropriately and with care when incidents occur,” they said.

“Broader ­education in policy, response protocols, active bystander intervention and other key planks of sexualized ­violence prevention and response remain important, but this would be an important first step in this regard.”

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