2024 Independent Review of St. Francis Xavier University's Sexual Violence Response Policy and Practices


In 2019, Watershed Legal Projects (then Canadian Centre for Legal Innovation in Sexual Assault Response, CCLISAR) was commissioned by StFX to conduct an external and independent review of the Sexual Violence Policy and related University policies. Following this review, significant updates were made, including the approval of a new Sexual Violence Response Policy in December 2019 and subsequent changes to procedures and practices.


StFX has engaged Watershed to conduct an external and independent review of the Sexual Violence Response Policy (the “Policy”) and practices under the Policy, as well as relevant intersecting University policies and practices, for the period 2020-2024.  The review will include consideration of the broader campus culture relative to sexualized violence, including but not limited to, power dynamics, attitudes towards consent, and the impact of social norms on reporting, particularly within the context of residence and athletics.

Watershed Legal Projects (Watershed) is a charitable organization committed to improving legal responses to sexual violence and creating more humane processes for survivors of sexualized violence through law reform, research, policy, and education. Watershed is independent, non-partisan, and innovative. Watershed has worked with many Canadian universities on their policies and practices, including StFX in 2019.  

Review Process

The review will be conducted in four stages:

Stage 1: Document review and initial meetings with StFX representatives.

Stage 2: In-person consultations in February 2024, involving relevant stakeholders and the University community in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Virtual or phone consultations may also be conducted. Please note that the date for in-person meetings with the External Review Committee shall be February 8 and 9th, 2024. Please contact Susan Grant to arrange a meeting time. Sample questions for the external review are available here.

Stage 3: Expert Advisory Group (EAG) meeting in early May 2024, with external experts, the Independent Review Panel (IRP), and StFX representatives. A discussion document summarizing key issues and preliminary recommendations will be prepared.

Stage 4: Final report preparation post-EAG meeting, with potential follow-up consultations. The final report will be delivered to StFX by June 30, 2024.

Composition of Panels

The Independent Review Panel (IRP) will consist of three external individuals, led by a practicing lawyer specializing in gender-based harm and university-related complaints processes. The Expert Advisory Group (EAG) will have up to ten members with expertise in university complaints processes, legal responses to sexualized violence, and gender-based harm. Please see the Terms of Reference for further details and composition of the Expert Advisory Group.

Timeline for the Review

  • January 2024: Finalize terms of reference/contract, initiate document review, compile stakeholder list, and schedule in-person consultations.
  • February 2024: Complete document review and conduct in-person consultations at StFX on February 8 and 9.
  • March/April 2024: Chair conducts follow-up consultations/interviews and drafts EAG Report.
  • May 2024: Hold Expert Advisory Group Workshop, conduct any necessary follow-up meetings, and draft the final report.
  • June 30, 2024: Finalize and provide the Final Report to the University.

We encourage all members of the StFX community to participate in this crucial review. Confidential written input can be provided to the IRP via @email during January, February, and March 2024.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter, and we look forward to your engagement in creating a safer and more supportive environment on our campus.


Elizabeth Yeo
VP Students