Toronto

Ford government appears to backtrack on cancelling extra funding for rape crisis centres amid outcry

The Ford government appears to be backtracking on a decision to cancel a funding boost for Ontario's rape crisis centres — just one day after advocates raised alarm bells that the move would result in a dramatic spike in wait times for sexual assault survivors seeking counselling and support.

Ontario now committing to $2M in new, annualized funding, one day after centres revealed cancellation

Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues Jill Dunlop did not respond directly to questions from reporters about how rape crisis centres can use the funding or why the centres were told the funding boost was being cancelled just days earlier. (CBC)

The Ford government appears to be backtracking on a decision to cancel a funding boost for Ontario's rape crisis centres — just one day after advocates raised alarm bells that the move would result in a dramatic spike in wait times for sexual assault survivors seeking counselling and support.

On Wednesday, the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres announced they were told directly by Attorney General Doug Downey last week that the $1 million in additional funding they received last year would not be renewed for 2020.

That funding was about a quarter of what the previous Liberal government had promised rape crisis centres — money that wasn't disbursed before the party lost power in the June 2018 provincial election. 

But on Thursday, Associate Minister of Children and Women's Issues Jill Dunlop announced in the legislature that the province would now commit to $2 million in annual funding in addition to the ongoing baseline $14.8 million that the centres receive each year.

The cash is "part of a broader modernization to provide better services to victims across Ontario," Dunlop told reporters at Queen's Park.

No word on why funding boost was cancelled days earlier

The minister did not respond directly to questions from reporters about how rape crisis centres can use the funding, nor did she address why the centres were told the funding boost was being cancelled just days earlier.

Dunlop did say that at the moment funding for the centres comes from a collection of government bodies the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, Office of Women's Issues, and the Ministry of the Attorney General.

"We're looking at how we can better work with the sector and the organizations that serve women, and cut the red tape in those areas but provide better services and supports to women," she said, adding there would be further announcements Friday. 

Deb Singh, and advocate and counsellor at the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape, told CBC News on Wednesday that additional funding by the PCs last year reduced allowed the centre to hire three additional staff, bringing down wait times for victims seeking help from 18 months in the Fall of 2018 to six months by March 2020.

Deb Singh, with the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre and Multicultural Women Against Rape group, says she has heard nothing directly about the funding announced Thursday. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

With that funding cancelled, she said those workers would have to be let go and that wait times would "absolutely" go up.

So far, Singh says she has heard little about how the new funding will work but she worries there could be restrictions on how the money is used. 

"It doesn't have to be as complicated as it is," Singh said Thursday.

"Playing around with communications as to whether we're able to provide that reliable high-level services to survivors is not OK," she said. 

"We really urge the government to be very clear about what this promise means in the house and to communicate with us so that we can provide the services to survivors across Ontario."

CBC News has asked the province for clarification whether the money will be restricted to any particular services and on when the decision on the additional funding was made. So far, there has been no response. 

About the Author

Shanifa Nasser

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Shanifa Nasser is an award-winning journalist interested in national security, the justice system and stories with a heartbeat. Her work has led to two investigations by CBC's The Fifth Estate. She was previously a Munk Journalism Fellow and holds an MA in Islamic Studies from the University of Toronto. shanifa.nasser@cbc.ca

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