Human rights complaint filed against UBC for handling of sexual assault

Former UBC master’s student in the department of history, Glynnis Kirchmeier, has now fulfilled what she pledged to do following last term’s sexual assault scandal — file a human rights complaint against the university for the discrimination entailed in their untimely response to multiple reports about harassment and assault committed by one PhD student.

UBC came under fire last November after a CBC investigation revealed that other students living at the same residence as the assailant, Dmirty Mordvinov, had reported his concerning behaviour and assaults, to which the university responded slowly and allegedly suggested some stay quiet.

One survivor and former UBC student, Caitlin Cunningham, stated that the response or lack thereof by the university was more traumatic than the attack itself. Kirchmeier was involved with the survivors in a support capacity, alerting the graduate supervisor in history, Michel Ducharme, to concerns about Mordvinov in 2014. However, Mordvinov was not expelled until 2015.

On March 21, Kirchmeier filed a human rights complaint to address the allegations of students feeling silenced, as well as what UBC’s own report found to be obvious “delays in the handling of complaints.”

Kirchmeier and her lawyer, Clea Parfitt, have yet to hear back from the Human Rights Tribunal about receiving the complaint, although Parfitt acknowledged to her client that there is usually a slight delay.

According to the complaint, it is being filed at this time because the university’s involvement with Mordvinov has come to an end and sufficient information is available through media, FOI requests and other sources to describe relevant facts.

What would happen after confirmation of receiving the complaint is possibly asking Kirchmeier any questions, then sending the complaint to the defendant.

“We indicated that we’re willing to have an early settlement meeting with them," said Kirchmeier. “[If] the university maybe wants to do that, they don’t have to formally respond, or we could say ‘no, we want you to respond formally to the complaint.’ So there’s a number of opportunities built into the process for the parties to work it out.”

The complaint alleges that the university discriminated for a number of reasons, such as “when it failed to develop and publish a formal sexual harassment and assault policy which included detailed requirements for the steps that would be taken once an internal complaint was filed.”

The complaint also points to a lack of “a fact-finding process which could accept and process complaints about the University’s liability,” and a failure to “formally accept third-party reporting of sexual harassment, sexual violence and sexual assault.”

The fact-finding process called for is different from the independent review that UBC created to look into the concerns brought forward by the survivors of this particular case and highlighted by the CBC investigation. (The findings of this report can be found here.)

According to Kirchmeier, what she really hopes come from the process is helping UBC become free of harassment and discrimination.

“To that end, if it turns out that the university wants to meet the specific critiques that I’ve offered, and say ‘here are the ways that we will correct these,’ then potentially we could settle it early,” said Kirchmeier.

One of the largest changes called for in the complaint is a formal sexual harassment and assault policy, which UBC has been developing since before this particular scandal broke. The complaint asks that this policy be designed in a “trauma-sensitive, do-no-harm framework.”

Kirchmeier confirmed that her lawyer received a letter of confirmation today that the BC Human Rights Tribunal received the complaint.

The university stated that they have not been officially notified that a complaint has been made and will respond accordingly when they have, said Sara-Jane Finlay, associate VP of equity and inclusion in an email to The Ubyssey.

“Sexual assault and sexual harassment are unacceptable and are not tolerated at UBC. Work has begun to create a stand-alone sexual assault policy and a draft of the policy will be ready for our Board of Governors’ review in June and for final approval in early fall,” said Finlay.