PC Government commits $2 million for human trafficking; but ends funding to reduce wait-times: OCRCC Responds

Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC) has learned that the PC Government intends to commit to $2 million in annual funding for Ontario Sexual Assault Centres for work with survivors of sexual violence impacted by human trafficking. On March 5, Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues Jill Dunlop shared with the legislature that her office was earmarking $2 million in new resources for the centres: “This funding will go to support the important work that they are doing for victims and survivors of sexual assault and human trafficking with trauma-informed care”[1].

This announcement comes a week after the Ministry of the Attorney General confirmed its plan to end $1 million in funding[2] to sexual assault centres in Ontario to address demands for service and crushing wait lists for supportive counselling to survivors of sexual assault across Ontario. 

Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC) receives the announcement from the Ministry of Community and Social Services with some trepidation. While we share the priorities identified, such as preventing human trafficking and supporting sexually-exploited survivors of violence, this funding comes with unknown parameters at this time.

Ontario sexual assault centres have been supporting survivors of sexual violence and exploitation through human trafficking for many years —while some centres have done so with designated resources for work with trafficked survivors, many centres have done so without the benefit of designated anti-human trafficking funding. In this, we are pleased to see that the Ontario government is prioritizing investment in community-based services for trafficking prevention and response, including the work of community-based sexual assault centres. It is encouraging to see Ontario’s investment here, and OCRCC awaits more information from the province on the allocation of these funds and the parameters associated with them.

At the same time, while the above resources are positive, our centres – and survivors of sexual violence in Ontario communities ‒ will continue to feel the impacts of the end of the One-time Funding Resources to reduce services wait-times.

A year ago, in the face of increased demands for service, growing wait lists for supportive counselling to survivors of sexual assault, and other reduced resources for sexual violence support services[3], the Province of Ontario provided “$1 million in additional one-time funding to [42 community-based] sexual assault centres” across Ontario[4]. In the last year, sexual assault centres used the $1 million in additional funding to create services aimed at reducing wait-times, implementing programs such as walk-in services[5] and group counselling programs, and by hiring additional counselling staff.

With the $1 million in funding (2019) from the Ministry of the Attorney General ending, these programs will likely come to a close. The funding for increased work with trafficked survivors doesn’t change this. The One-time Funding Resources to reduce services wait-times did not eliminate any wait-list for sexual violence support services across the province.

More, the One-time Funding resources to reduce services wait-times enhanced support services to all survivors of sexual violence. Comparatively ‒ and while we acknowledge that we do not know the details of parameters attached to the new funds yet ‒ the $2 million announced more recently will enhance supports for one group of sexual assault survivors only– that is, survivors of human trafficking.

In a social climate where awareness of the prevalence and impacts of sexual violence continue to increase, as do demands for sexual violence support services, we would hope that service investments address the needs of all survivors of sexual violence. Certainly, while the funding announced recently is appreciated, it remains our goal that no survivor should ever have to wait for sexual assault centre services in Ontario.

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 look forward to we look forward to working with government to ensure that sexual violence services meet the increasing demands, and to improve the lives of survivors of sexual violence in Ontario.

Some facts about sexual violence in Ontario:

  • With the rise of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements in recent years, 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[6] —up from 30,000 recorded in 2009.
  • A survey of our member centres (Anglophone sexual assault centres only) in June 2019 and again in February 2020 also saw these heightened numbers.
  • Statistics Canada released its findings of Incident-based crime statistics[7] in Canada in September 2019. In these statistics – and aligning with our experiences –sexual assault in Ontario rose from 7,434 police-reported incidences in 2016 and 8,782 in 2017 to 10,634 in 2018 —revealing a year over year increase of almost 19%.
  • The Incident-based crime statistics draws on data[8] on police reported crimes in Canada. As many sexual violence survivors choose not to engage in the criminal justice system[9], this means that the prevalence of sexual violence incidents is in fact higher than the Incident-based crime statistics show, because most incidences are never reported[10].
  • In 2019, the Ontario government announced changes to the Victim Quick Response Program + (VQRP+), and the wind-down of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (CICB)[11]. CICB recognized the pain and suffering experienced by victims of sexual crimes, including childhood sexual abuse survivors, and provided compensation that could be used towards their healing. In September 2019, CICB came to an end—eliminating one more support option available to survivors of sexual violence, and increasing service demands to community-based sexual assault centres.
  • The most efficient way to end violence is to stop it before it even starts: money invested in prevention education is money saved in policing, health and social services. While it is true that in one year Ontario sexual assault centres took over 50,000 crisis line calls and supported over 17,000 survivors of sexual violence, we also provided over 3000 violence prevention events for youth, families, professionals and community groups[12].

[1] Benzie, R. for Toronto Star. March 5, 2020. Tories to inject $2 million in new funding for rape crisis centres — one day after signalling $1 million had been cut: Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives are earmarking $2 million in new annual funding for the province’s 42 rape crisis centres — one day after the facilities said $1 million had been cut. Online: https://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/news-story/9877068-tories-to-inject-2-million-in-new-funding-for-rape-crisis-centres-one-day-after-signalling-1-million-had-been-cut/

[2] Ministry of the Attorney General. February 26, 2019. News Release: Ontario Guarantees Funding for Victim Services and 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

[3] In March 2018, the previous government 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, that funding increase never became reality. The 2018 funding commitment (announced but never realized) would have seen approximately 30% increase in funding over 3 years for the overall sexual violence support sector.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Women’s Support Network of York Region. Walk-in counselling available every Thursday starting July 11th, 2019. Online: https://womenssupportnetwork.ca/services/

[6] Ministry of the Attorney General, 2016

[7] Statistics Canada. Incident-based crime statistics, by detailed violations, Canada, provinces, territories and Census Metropolitan Areas. Data release – July 22, 2019. Online: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=3510017701&pickMembers%5B0%5D=1.16&pickMembers%5B1%5D=2.16

[8] The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS), in co-operation with police, collects police-reported crime statistics through the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey (UCR). The UCR Survey was designed to measure the incidence of crime in Canada: see this link for more.

[9] Patel, A. October 30, 2014. for Huffington Post Canada. 460,000 Sexual Assaults In Canada Every Year: YWCA Canada. Online: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/10/30/sexual-assault-canada_n_6074994.html

[10] According to Canadian research, just 33 out of every 1,000 sexual assault cases are reported to the police[10], and just 29 are actually recorded as a crime. While it is important that sexual assault survivors have access to the legal system, these survivors of crime also need alternative supports. Community-based agencies such as shelters and sexual assault centres are uniquely positioned to support them. 

[11] Ministry of the Attorney General (Ontario). Ontario Providing New Supports to Victims of Crime: Government making system faster and easier to navigate. Online: September 6, 2019. 

[12] This information was compiled by Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres, with data provided by member centres in 2019.

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