Victoria councillors hope to minimize incidents of sexualized violence and sexual harassment in the city’s bar scene.
A motion put forward by Couns. Laurel Collins, Sarah Potts and Jeremy Loveday suggests stronger measures to create safety in downtown liquor establishments.
This includes adding sexualized violence prevention into the mandate of the Municipal Liquor Policy and Late Night Program, requiring bar and nightclub staff to take sexualized violence training and requiring businesses seeking a liquor license to include a sexual harassment and sexual violence prevention plan within their application.
“The majority of women are going to experience some kind of sexualized violence, and I feel like we have a responsibility to create a safer and more inclusive community,” said Collins.
Currently the city operates its own Late Night Out program as well as an internationally-practised Good Night Out program but there is no comprehensive, mandatory program in place at Victoria liquor-establishments.
“We as a council don’t have a clear sense of how bars and venues are responding,” Collins said. “It’s very possible that a bunch of them are responding, and very possible that a bunch of them aren’t.”
In a report brought to the committee of the whole on May 16, staff provided council with an update on the municipality’s Late Night Program, which currently mandates supervised taxi stands, 24-hour washrooms, Victoria Police patrol officers on Friday and Saturday nights, the availability of hot street food and the establishment of a late night advisory committee.
The report stated that several sexual assault prevention workshops were conducted with bar and restaurant operators, the Victoria Police and taxi stand attendees, but that more steps were required.
These steps include working with licences to address public space safety issues, conducting venue audits, completing an update to the BarWatch program, developing common policies for standards of conduct and initiating awareness patrol teams for late night and weekend activities.
“This has the potential to shift how venues and pubs are responding to sexualized violence and assaults and ideally provide them with better tools and understanding,” Collins said.
The motion will come forward for consideration on Thursday, June 27.