Rape crisis centres call on attorney general to reverse cuts
Ontario's revamped compensation program unavailable to victims of historical sexual crimes
A network of sexual assault and rape crisis centres across Ontario is demanding Ontario's attorney general reverse recent changes to victim compensation services.
According to the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres, survivors of historical sexual abuse are now unable to access the trauma therapy they need.
"We've been communicating with government and asking them to review this," said Nicole Pietsch, an advocate with the coalition.
"Ideally, changes like this would have happened in consultation with experts and community-based workers working on the ground with victims of sexual crimes. In this case, we don't think that happened."
While there were consultation sessions held last summer, Pietsch said the changes don't reflect what staff from sexual assault centres told bureaucrats at the time.
Earlier this fall, the province phased out the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, which helped assault victims access services including psychotherapy.
The new system, called the Victim Quick Response Program + (VQRP+), isn't available to victims of historical crimes.
Under this program, brought in Oct. 1, an applicant must have visited a "victim service agency" within six months of the crime against them, or within six months of disclosing that crime to authorities.
According to a recent statement from the Ministry of the Attorney General, the compensation system has been "enhanced" to better meet the immediate needs of victims following a violent crime.
But Brea Hutchinson, executive director of Sexual Assault Centre Kingston, takes issue with that.
"It's totally a cost-cutting measure. They didn't solve any problems with this program. They saved a lot of money, they didn't enhance it," Hutchinson said.
The cuts have caused a lot of anxiety and confusion among survivors of childhood abuse who no longer qualify for therapy, according to Ally Crockford, executive director of the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre.
"To have ... this kind of support snatched away from you, it's effectively somebody saying you don't matter," Crockford said.
"It's really counterintuitive and contrary to what we would like to be telling victims."
The #MeToo movement has prompted more survivors to come forward and seek therapy, and that demands a "significant increase in funding for sexual assault centres," Crockford said.
She and her counterparts across the province are trying to get the attention of the Ontario government, including Attorney General Doug Downey. So far no meetings have been scheduled.
"This is a pattern that we're seeing with respect to this government and the decisions that it's making for survivors," Crockford said.
"They overturned money to sexual assault centres and offered a much smaller one-off pot of money instead, and now they've gone and cut this program that survivors — the most vulnerable survivors — were so reliant on."
New Democrat MPP Jill Andrews is also calling for action.
Happening tomorrow Nov 19, 6pm @ Queen's Park I'm doing a "Late Show" - the Attorney General will have 5mins to get his response to survivors of sexual violence right this time. All are welcome. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/women?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#women</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/onpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#onpoli</a>—@JILLSLASTWORD
The representative for Toronto–St. Paul's recently stood up in the Ontario Legislature and called on the government to "do the right thing and reverse course" when it came to cuts to victim compensation.
The attorney general defended the changes, saying his government had reformed outdated programs and is putting "resources in [survivors'] hands immediately, at every turn."