One-time Funding Resources for Ontario Sexual Assault Centres: Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC) Responds

A year ago, on March 1, 2018, the Province of Ontario launched a strategy which would see a significant increase in funding for Ontario sexual assault centres.  At that time, the government — and sexual violence support service providers alike – lauded the plan, which aimed to help survivors of sexual violence “get the support they need, when they need it”. Despite this commitment, under the PC government, the funding increase never became reality.

This week, the Ministry of the Attorney General instead announced a continuation of existing funding for victim services programs, as well as “$1 million in additional one-time funding to sexual assault centres”[1] across Ontario.  

While Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC) acknowledges these resources with appreciation, we are disappointed: it is significantly less than that previously committed to Ontario sexual assault centres. New resources promised in 2018 – though withheld by the current government – would have provided a significant ongoing increase[2] in funding for the sexual violence support sector, allowing each centre to hire a full-time counselling staff. This would off-set waiting lists for supportive counselling to survivors of sexual assault.

In comparison, the current increase represents $1 million in one-time funding, distributed across 42 sexual assault centres in the province—not nearly enough to affect operative or lasting service enhancements.

We also note that other Victim Services under the Ministry of the Attorney General portfolio will receive no fundingincrease —a reality that also impacts sexual assault survivors and sexual assault prevention in Ontario.

OCRCC appreciates this one-time gesture to community-based sexual assault centres, as well as the Ministry of the Attorney General’s recognition of this important work. Indeed, since 2014, sexual assault centres across Ontario have seen a significant influx of new referrals, crisis line calls and intake for counselling services. Awareness of sexual violence is increasing —a significant and positive achievement. With the rise of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements in the last year, community-based sexual assault centres have seen a significant upswing in calls and requests for support. In one year alone, Ontario’s sexual assault centres responded to over 50,000 crisis line calls[3] —up from 30,000 recorded in 2009.

It is our position that no survivor of violence should face a wait for services or to meet with a counsellor. But operating with modest funding allotments has left sexual assault centres to cope with limited resources —and amidst steadily increasing demands for sexual assault support services.

Certainly, a one-time $1 million across 42 sexual assault centres is an appreciated resource to these agencies.

However, it will not fundamentally shift the reality of wait-times at community-based sexual assault centres in Ontario.

Last, we acknowledge the Ministry’s plans to conduct a comprehensive review across government to “ensure victims of crime and their families can access the help they need when and where they need it most”[4]. We too wish to see effective and accessible support for victims. Aligning with this, research that evaluates the work of Ontario sexual assault centres exists. The Final Report: Review of Sexual Violence and Harassment Counselling Services and Helplines, commissioned by the Ministry of the Status of Women and completed by Shore Consulting Group in 2017, points to our service model as a best practice in sexual assault services. Community-based sexual violence support service approaches and model competencies identified in the report include (but are not limited to): believing survivors as a foundational approach to support; culturally safe services and trauma-informed services; applied anti-racist, anti-oppressive, intersectional approaches [5]; and the importance of agencies delivering dedicated sexual assault services, offering a continuum of support options[6]. To have these competencies identified through an external and comprehensive process – and resulting Report findings — is incredibly valuable to our sector and, we hope, to your Ministry and its present review process.

The Ministry of the Attorney General and OCRCC share many of the same concerns and priorities. Together, we are well aware that sexual violence takes a significant economic and human toll on everything —from our economy to our criminal justice sector, to our health care system, to the safety of those in our communities.

We thank the provincial government for its investment in sexual assault support services. We look forward to continuing to work together to improve the lives of survivors of sexual violence in Ontario.

Media Contact:

Nicole Pietsch

Coordinator, Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC)
Tel: 905-299-4428

Web: www.sexualassaultsupport.ca



[1]

Ministry of the Attorney General. February 26, 2019. News Release: Ontario Guarantees Funding for Victim Services . Ministry announces comprehensive review to make victim services more responsive and easier to navigate. Online: https://news.ontario.ca/mag/en/2019/02/ontario-guarantees-funding-for-victim-services.html

[2] The 2018 funding commitment (announced but not realized) would have seen approximately 30% increase in funding over 3 years for the overall sexual violence support sector.

[3] Ministry of the Attorney General, 2016

[4] Ministry of the Attorney General. February 26, 2019. News Release: Ontario Guarantees Funding for Victim Services. Ministry Announces comprehensive review to make victim services more responsive and easier to navigate. Online: https://news.ontario.ca/mag/en/2019/02/ontario-guarantees-funding-for-victim-services.html

[5] Ontario Ministry of the Status of Women and Shore Consulting. November 14, 2017. FINAL REPORT: Review of Sexual Violence and Harassment Counselling Services and Helplines:  6-7.

[6] Ibid, 10.

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