Spring / printemps 2021

Before #MeToo: The Fight against Sexual Harassment at Ontario Universities, 1979-1994

Jeremy Istead
Independent Scholar
Catherine Carstairs
University of Guelph
Kathryn L. Hughes
University of Guelph
Published May 11, 2021
  • feminism,
  • gender,
  • sexual harassment,
  • student politics,
  • university administration
How to Cite
Istead, Jeremy, Catherine Carstairs, and Kathryn L. Hughes. 2021. “Before #MeToo: The Fight Against Sexual Harassment at Ontario Universities, 1979-1994”. Historical Studies in Education / Revue d’histoire De l’éducation 33 (1). https://doi.org/10.32316/hse-rhe.v33i1.4895.


This article examines the campaign against sexual harassment conducted at Ontario universities between 1979 and 1994, looking closely at four universities: York, Queen’s, Toronto, and Carleton. Sources examined included campus newspapers, national media, and the CAUT Bulletin. The term “sexual harassment” was only coined in 1975, but it was quickly taken up by campus feminists in Ontario who successfully fought to have universities adopt policies and procedures to combat sexual harassment. By the late 1980s, they had broadened their campaign to look beyond predatory instructors, focusing on actions and behaviours that created a sexist climate that hindered women’s learning and their full participation in campus life. The arguments of both the supporters and the opponents of the campaign are examined. The article concludes with the failure of the Ontario government to impose a “zero tolerance” policy on sexual harassment at universities. While sexual harassment continues to exist at Ontario universities, campus feminists made significant progress during these years.