A Culture of Consent

Respecting boundaries. Challenging sexist jokes and comments. Talking about gender-based violence and letting friends and family know where you stand on the issue. We can all help create safe spaces and promote a campus culture of consent and respect.

What is consent?

Consent is a voluntary, conscious, active and ongoing agreement to participate in sexual activity. In other words, it's a freely given and clearly communicated “yes.”

According to the Canadian Criminal Code:

  • Consent is voluntary: Consent must be freely given and there is no consent if a person is pressured, manipulated, threatened, intimidated or otherwise coerced into saying “yes” or if a “yes” is obtained when there is an abuse of power, trust or authority.

  • Consent is affirmative: Only yes means yes! Consent is actively communicated by words, body language and other forms of communication in the moment. If a person isn’t communicating yes, or if they say or imply no through words and behaviour, there is no consent.

  • Consent is person-specific: There is no consent if someone else says “yes.” No one can consent on someone else’s behalf, including a spouse or a parent.

  • Consent is conscious: A person is incapable of consenting if they are unconscious, asleep or impaired by drugs or alcohol.

  • Consent is ongoing: Everyone has the right to change their mind and withdraw consent at any time before or during a sexual activity.

Just because consent was given in the past does not mean that it automatically exists for future sexual activity. Each person has to give consent every time, whether in a one-time encounter or a long-term relationship. Sexual contact that’s carried out without consent is sexual assault.

Ultimately, consent isn’t a checkbox or a list of rules: it’s what respect and empathy look like in practice. It’s about taking care of one another and treating our sexual partners as equals whose needs, boundaries and well-being matter.

Create a culture of consent

Understand what sexual violence is

Sexual violence refers to a range of behaviours and includes any action carried out without consent, whether physical or psychological, through sexual means or by targeting sexuality. This includes sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual abuse in relationships, stalking and taking or sharing intimate photos or videos without consent.

Consider what perpetuates rape culture

Rape culture is a culture where sexual violence is pervasive and where social norms, practices, media images and institutions normalize or trivialize sexual violence. In a rape culture, individuals who have experienced sexual violence are often blamed for what happened and people who commit sexual violence aren’t held accountable.

Rape culture can look like victim-blaming, rape jokes, "locker-room talk" and sexist, racist or ableist comments. These kinds of behaviours create an environment where sexual violence is implicitly or explicitly condoned and can make it difficult for survivors of sexual violence to reach our for support.

Practice everyday consent

To create a culture of consent, we need to practice consent, and not just in sexual situations. Asking for consent for non-sexual touch, allowing children to choose whether or not to hug relatives, checking in before taking a picture or sharing a picture on social media, taking no for an answer instead of pressuring a friend to attend a party: these are all opportunities for us to ask about, listen to and respect other people’s boundaries.

Use your voice

We all have a role to play in creating a culture of consent. You can use your voice in small ways every day to contribute to positive change. This can include talking about the realities of sexual violence with friends and family, challenging victim-blaming or pointing out examples of rape culture. Share what you’ve learned about the issue with others, ask questions and be open to ongoing learning and dialogue.

MacEwan University’s Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Violence

MacEwan University is pleased to share the results of our Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Violence, which we conducted to better understand MacEwan students’ and employees’ perspectives and experiences of sexual violence. The survey results guide our efforts to address sexual violence and create a culture of consent. This survey was conducted in 2019.

Sexual Violence Campus Climate Survey Report


Building Momentum: Operational Plan 2020/21 – 2025/26

Our vision is for MacEwan University to be a safe place to learn and work, free from sexual violence. Our Operational Plan outlines our goals, priorities and strategies for delivering sexual violence prevention, education and response services to the campus community.

Building Momentum: Operational Plan 2020/21 – 2025/26

Policy Icon Ilustration

Sexual Violence policy

When you understand the university’s policy on sexual violence, you stand with us in creating a culture of consent. Learn about the rights and responsibilities of all students, faculty and staff.


Protect privacy

Everyone involved in a complaint or investigation of sexual violence is expected to maintain confidentiality and will have their confidentiality protected.