Ontario’s rape crisis centres urge Ford government to keep promise to boost funding

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TheStar.com – Politics/Provincial Politics
Jan. 22, 2019.   , Queen’s Park BureauOntario’s rape crisis centres are requesting a meeting with Attorney General Caroline Mulroney, urging the provincial government to keep a promise made to them almost a year ago for a boost in funding.

That promise, made by the previous Liberal government last March, was a 33 per cent increase in funding over three years to address skyrocketing demand for sex-assault services.

“Despite this commitment — and our attempts for information on it from regional and provincial government representatives — this funding increase has yet to become a reality,” states the letter from the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres and its French-language counterpart, representing 37 centres across the province.

“Many sexual assault centres across Ontario have seen a significant influx of new referrals, crisis line calls, intake for counselling services and requests for public education sessions. Awareness of sexual violence is increasing — a significant and positive achievement. With the rise of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, community-based sexual assault centres have seen a significant upswing in calls and requests for support.”

The letter, signed by Nicole Pietsch and Maïra Martin, also asks why Women’s Issues Minister Lisa MacLeod was able to announce $11.5 million increase to shelters and counselling services, yet “Ontario sexual assault centres and other violence support services have not yet seen new resources.”

In one year alone, centres have been swamped dealing with more than 50,000 calls, up from almost a decade ago when they took 30,000 such calls.

Jesse Robichaud, spokesperson for Mulroney, said in a statement to the Star that “Our government is committed to providing victims, their families and witnesses of violent crimes with the supports and services they need in the communities where they live.”

“Our staff have met with the coalition and we will continue to engage with it on these important issues.”

The extra funding would have provided one full-time staffer for most centres, which is desperately needed, said Lauren Power, executive director of Muskoka Parry Sound Sexual Assault Services.

Her centre — which was expecting an extra $89,000 last year — hasn’t seen a change in full-time staffing levels since 1993.

“It’s quite overwhelming at times for our staff,” she said, and for those who have been assaulted, “they are facing waiting lists all over the province now. It’s really disheartening, to be honest.”

Her agency is currently servicing 300 per cent of its original caseload. “Everything is growing and growing — except for our budget,” Power said.

With two full-time therapists, two full-time co-ordinators and herself — with a couple of part-timers funded for a short-term contract under a Trillium grant — the centre has moved from individual counselling to group counselling so that women don’t have to wait too long for help.

In Toronto, Deb Singh of the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape, has said her centre would have gotten an additional $159,000 in one year. Without it, women continue to wait 18 months for services.

Power is hoping the funding comes through for the next fiscal year, given this one is almost over. She said her local PC MPP Norm Miller — who represents Parry Sound-Muskoka — wrote to Mulroney last summer to advocate for the centre.

However, no additional funding has flowed, though centres have also not been told they won’t be getting it.

“To ensure that investment decisions in victim services are effectively meeting the needs of those who use them, the government is reviewing all of the programs offered across the province,” Robichaud, from Mulroney’s office, said.

“We recognize that these organizations do important and valuable work in their communities, and this review will be an opportunity to align service levels with needs and better co-ordinate and deliver services in the most sustainable and effective way.”

Toronto Centre New Democrat MPP Suze Morrison said “it’s particularly upsetting, given how long it’s taking” the government to decide what it’s going to do.

“They have left the centres in limbo,” added Morrison, herself a sexual assault survivor.

Before the holidays, the Ford government showed huge support for the Shoebox Project for Shelters — a charity founded in part by Mulroney — that provides boxes with luxury items like perfume or shampoos for women in shelters, in decorated boxes. Those niceties “make life a little more bearable” for women in shelters, Morrison said, “but shoeboxes aren’t going to address systemic change.”

She had urged the government to put funding letters in the shoeboxes it collected.

“They are ignoring the needs of women in this province,” Morrison said.

Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics.

https://www.thestar.com/politics/provincial/2019/01/22/ontarios-rape-crisis-centres-urge-ford-government-to-keep-promise-to-boost-funding.html

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One Response to “Ontario’s rape crisis centres urge Ford government to keep promise to boost funding”

  1. […] 88. Refuses to honour funding for sexual assault centres. Funding will be only one quarter what it was. CBC News: Ontario Sexual Assault Funding and SPON: Ontario’s Rape Crisis Centres Urge Ford… […]

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