Programs and Services for Victims of Crime
A Report to the Community, Victims, Survivors and Service Providers
- Minister's Message
- Victim Services Awards of Distinction
- Feature Stories
- Programs Helping Victims in Ontario
- Victims' Justice Fund
The Ministry of the Attorney General is committed to ensuring that victims of crime receive the supports and services they need, when they need them most. Our ministry has a strong history of supporting victims of crime with compassion and fairness.
Thousands of people have benefited from these programs and since 2003, the Ministry of the Attorney General has provided over $757 million and in 2010/11 we have allocated an additional $120 million for vital services for victims of crime.
This report provides an overview of programs and services that the Ontario government funds across the province. These supports respond to every phase of the survivor's experience to rebuild and to reclaim their lives.
In addition to the many supports and services available to victims in Ontario, this report also recognizes the dedicated service of people and organizations in this field, and victims who have bravely forged a better future for themselves, their families and their communities.
Together, we continue supporting the needs of victims of crime and their families.
The Honourable Chris Bentley
Attorney General of Ontario
Victim Services Awards of Distinction
In December 2006, the Ontario government announced the Attorney General's Victim Services Awards of Distinction to recognize exceptional achievements by dedicated professionals and volunteers in victim services. The awards also acknowledge the strength, creativity and courage of individual victims who have overcome adversity to forge a better future for themselves, their families and their communities while raising the profile of victims' issues in Ontario. By recognizing innovative services and supports to victims of crime, the awards seek to encourage the sharing of best practices and unique achievements among victim services professionals and volunteers across the province.
For information on eligibility, the nomination process and nomination deadlines for next year, visit the OVSS web site at www.ontario.ca/victimservices.
The awards recognize excellence and outstanding achievement in the following areas:
- Victims and other individuals personally impacted by crime who have raised the profile of victims' issues in the province;
- Service providers who deliver exceptional services to victims of crime;
- Field practitioners who develop and implement innovative victim service programs and projects;
- Volunteers who offer their time and personal resources to help victims;
- Youth who dedicate their time and effort to support victims in their communities.
Individuals and organizations may be nominated in more than one category. Multiple nominations are grouped at the end of this section.
A panel of three community members and two representatives of the Office for Victims of Crime, supported by staff from the Ministry of the Attorney General, reviewed more than 50 nominations, and submitted their recommendations to the Attorney General.
Congratulations to all those who were nominated! The following are the recipients of the 2011 Victim Services Awards:
Victims and other individuals personally impacted by crime who have raised the profile of victims' issues in the province
When violent crime strikes close to home, victims and their loved ones often find comfort or a renewed sense of purpose in the company of others who have suffered through similar circumstances. Sometimes, they join existing groups, and sometimes they establish new groups that help meet a specific need in their community. The following individuals are recipients in this category.
Jeremy Dias was a victim of discrimination at a young age and became an advocate for social justice. He overcame systemic racism and homophobia in a small community, with few resources, and through his personal story, he offers hope and encouragement to other victims. He established the not-for-profit organization Jer's Vision, which provides educational workshops targeting high school students regarding hate crimes based on racism and homophobia. The organization's advisory group helps to accurately reflect the voices of minority groups and marginalized communities in the province and Canada.
Kim Gibson was assaulted and stabbed multiple times by an ex-partner. Her story of survival, strength and determination has inspired other victims of intimate partner violence to seek support. She is a leader and advocate for the ongoing education and awareness of violence against women, often speaking with other victims, victim service workers and the police to provide a better understanding of the struggles victims of intimate partner violence face.
Timea Nagy, herself a survivor of human trafficking, is the founder of Walk With Me, an organization dedicated to increasing awareness and assistance for human trafficking victims throughout Canada. She works with victims on the frontline, in partnership with the police and service providers, offering guidance and understanding about the dynamics of human trafficking and its victims. She is frequently sought by the media as an expert and is the author of the book, Memoirs of a Sex Slave Survivor.
The Vince and Dupont families both lost loved ones in gendered-based workplace violence tragedies. In the aftermath, family members successfully advocated for legislative changes and raised public awareness about gendered workplace violence. The have supported other victims in similar circumstances and influenced policies that ensure women are better protected from violence in the workplace. Receiving this award are Jim Vince, husband of murder victim Theresa Vince; Jacquie Carr and Catherine Kedziora, Theresa's daughters; and Barbara Dupont, mother of murder victim Lori Dupont.
Also nominated in this category were:
Service providers who deliver exceptional services to victims of crime
All across Ontario, service providers give compassionate care to countless victims every day, often in the most difficult circumstances. All deserve our thanks, but this year special recognition goes to the following recipients:
Julie Bechard-Fischer is the founding executive director for Cochrane district's francophone sexual assault centre and francophone women's shelter. She is also the chair of the Timmins Family Violence Inter-Agency Action Committee, and, through this committee, she has supported victim-centred initiatives, including the Abuse Shatters Lives conference and booklet, ensuring its material was culturally responsive to the needs of francophone and Aboriginal Peoples. Mrs. Béchard-Fischer is currently overseeing the development of two programs in partnership with the Timmins and District Mental Health Unit, and Child and Family Services of Timmins and District. One is a community integration program assisting victims with mental health issues, while the second will help ensure francophone women receive victim services appropriate to their culture and language.
Sexual Assault & Violence Intervention Services of Halton is a leading innovator of programs that provide free, confidential and non-judgemental support to all survivors of sexual assault, 24 hours a day. To ensure all women have access to its programs and counselling services, it offers programs and services at satellite locations and in the evening. The organization is dedicated to ending sexual violence, oppression and inequality by advocating against violence in the community and promoting prevention through education. Its commitment to diversity is reflected in its employees, volunteers, clientele and work with survivors.
The Sexual Assault Survivor's Centre Sarnia-Lambton is dedicated to assisting survivors of sexual assault and sexual abuse, as well as ensuring that a comprehensive range of crisis support, counselling, information and advocacy services are available to these victims. The centre provides a crisis line that is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Trained volunteers provide callers with information, emotional support and non-directive counselling. Through its advocacy activities, educational programs and work with the media, the centre has increased its community's awareness of violence against women, sexual assault and sexual abuse.
Also nominated in this category were:
Child Witness Program, Peel Children's Centre
Ganohkwastra Family Assault Support Services
Judy and Kevin Gallagher
Huron County Victim Services
Victim Services of Leeds and Grenville
Mary Pat Bingley
Field practitioners who develop and implement innovative victim service programs and projects
The Ontario government supports professional, comprehensive compassionate victim services in communities across the province. In doing so, it relies on countless field practitioners who turn policy into practice and deliver programs in ways that best meet the needs of their communities. Recipients in this category were:
Yevonne Culligan, an Outreach Crisis Counsellor at Herizon House Women's Shelter, recognized that police and women's shelters were not working as closely as they could in cases involving violence against women. To help bridge the gap, Ms. Culligan established a collaborative project that allowed Durham Regional Police Services to tour Herizon House and shelter workers to accompany officers during their shifts, which included attending domestic violence calls. Through this project, Durham police gained insight into the complexities of domestic violence cases, while Herizon House staff learned how the police prioritize and conduct domestic violence investigations. This project has led to better collaboration and a stronger bond between women's shelters and the police, and more importantly, improved services for victims of domestic violence in the Durham region.
Hearing Healing Hope provides innovative services for male survivors of sexual abuse in the Owen Sound area. It is the only victim service program in Ontario that focuses on a cross-cultural perspective in terms of victim treatment. Its approach embraces both a clinical and counselling perspective, as well as an Aboriginal healing basis to its service. Hearing Healing Hope serves both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal men, fostering greater sensitivity and understanding for men of all cultures. It offers a robust Family & Friends program, which helps educate and support family members of male survivors. Its curriculum has been documented in a program manual, which includes an informative evaluation of its clinical services. The organization played a key role in the first provincial conference on male survivor services.
Also nominated in this category were:
Amelia Rising Sexual Assault Centre
The Next Steps Project
Peel Committee on Sexual Assault
Volunteers who offer their time and personal resources to help victims
Volunteers are the lifeblood of many community organizations, and many victim services programs rely on their volunteers to deliver their services. This year's recipient is:
Sparky J, a survivor of abduction, rape and childhood sexual abuse who chose not to remain a victim. Sparky stands up for justice and is always willing to help support a victim who has been impacted by crime and/or mental health. She spends countless hours educating people, working with victims individually to help them find the support they need. Her integrity, compassion, kindness and perseverance as an advocate have made a huge difference in many lives. She continually speaks to victims, sharing her story, at various workshops and rallies, and is an inspiration to many people.
Also nominated were:
David Todd Morganstein
Youth who dedicate their time and effort to support victims in their communities
Young people may contribute to their communities in ways that often go unrecognized,but nevertheless have a real impact on others' lives. This year, the Attorney General's Victim Services Awards of Distinction is pleased to recognize one such individual.
Sophia Gran-Ruaz created the charity Snug As A Bug — Kids Helping Kids when she was just 11 years old. Snug as a Bug creates care packages for children and teens staying in community shelters. The packages provide comfort during an often difficult and frightening time. Miss Gran-Ruaz's persistence and commitment led to 500 packages being made in the first year. The charity has grown each year and continues to flourish. Currently, 13,000 children and teens across the Greater Toronto Area have received a care package, and there are plans to deliver 3000 more this year. In addition to running Snug As A Bug, Sophia regularly speaks at various events, including schools and conventions, and has inspired many.
Some nominations encompassed more than one award category. Individuals nominated in multiple categories were:
Organizations nominated in multiple categories are:
Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres
Remember Me — Survivors Support Group
Sexual Assault Centre Hamilton and Area
Shape Your Life
Victim Services of Perth County
Congratulations to this years recipients and nominees!
The Ontario government understands that going to court can be an intimidating experience for those not familiar with the practices and procedures of a trial. That's why it has put in place programs to help victims and other witnesses who may be called to testify. The Victim/Witness Assistance Program, the Child Victim/Witness Program and the Family Court Support Worker Program are all designed to provide information and support for those involved in the justice system.
The Victim/Witness Assistance Program (VWAP) is delivered by Ontario public servants and operates in 62 offices across the province. It provides information, assistance and support to victims and witnesses of crime to increase their understanding of, and participation in, the criminal court process.
Services are provided on a priority basis to the most vulnerable victims and witnesses of violent crime, such as domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, homicide and hate crime. Families of traffic fatality victims are also eligible. Services begin once police have laid charges and continue until the court case is over.
VWAP staff provide:
- Crisis intervention
- Emotional support
- Case specific information (court dates, bail conditions)
- Court preparation and orientation information
- Needs assessment
- Referrals to community agencies.
Staff also advise Crown attorneys on issues related to sexual assault and domestic violence. In addition, staff participate in public education activities, engage in community initiatives and the development of related protocols with community partners.
The Child Victim/Witness Program offers support and services to child victims and witnesses during the criminal court process. Delivered through community-based service providers, the program may:
- Assess children's needs in court
- Prepare children for court
- Communicate with Crown attorneys, defence lawyers and judges
- Accompany children to court
- Support parents and guardians
- Help with victim impact statements and other forms
- Provide service referrals
- Conduct post-court followup.
Where a Child/Victim Witness Program is not available, V/WAP can provide similar services.
The recently established Family Court Support Worker program extends the kind of support V/WAP offers during criminal proceedings to victims of domestic violence involved in family court during separation or divorce proceedings, when they are at the greatest risk of further violence. The support workers provide victims with information about the family court process, document the history of abuse for the court, refer victims to specialized services and supports in the community, help with safety planning related to court appearances, and, where appropriate, accompany victims to court proceedings.
The following stories provide a more personal glimpse into the incredible work that court support workers offer to victims and witnesses every day.
Child Witness Program Helps Son Find His Voice
Domestic violence is a terrible crime that is made even worse when children are caught in the middle. The effects that these situations have on children can be tragic, but fortunately, Child Witness Program caseworkers are there to help. These caseworkers explain court proceedings to child witnesses and victims, and help make sure that children’s voices are heard.
The role of the Child Witness Program Caseworker is demonstrated in the following real life example. In this case, a man was charged with assaulting his wife, and the assault was witnessed by their 6-year-old son. After a police interview, it was anticipated that the little boy would have to testify during the trial.
Before the trial, the boy met with his Child Witness Program caseworker, and, through play, learned the role of the Judge, the Crown attorney and the defence lawyer. What’s My Job In Court?, an activity book provided by the Ontario Victims Services Secretariat, helped him to learn about his role and the importance of telling the truth. He visited an empty courtroom and played in the Judge's chair. All the while, he expressed his love for his dad and his mom and said he understood what was about to happen. He was happy and articulate when he met with the Crown attorney, and everyone agreed he could testify.
On the day he was to testify, the boy came to the designated waiting area, ready to tell his story. Then, at the last minute, his father decided to plead guilty, saving his son the ordeal of testifying. The Judge handed down sentence on the father and made the appropriate court orders.
But the real story was just beginning. As the caseworker told the boy that he would not have to testify, he slid under the table and cried, tears streaming down his face. He refused to come out and his cries grew louder and louder. The caseworker sat on the floor and started to ask him questions. It became apparent that he wanted to tell the Judge his story – he wanted his day in court; but his father’s well-intentioned guilty plea meant that the boy would not be able to talk to the Judge.
The caseworker called the trial coordinator, who spoke to the Judge, who agreed to meet the boy. The caseworker also asked that the Judge be robed, so the little boy would know he was a “real” Judge. When the little boy learned that he would meet the Judge, he came out from under the table and, with the caseworker’s help, caught his breath and set off, hand-in-hand, for the Judge’s chambers. The boy met the Judge while the caseworker waited outside the office.
Afterwards, the Judge called for the caseworker, who asked how the meeting had gone. The Judge said that the little boy told him the caseworker needed a more up-to-date Game Boy and, most importantly, he wanted his parents to stop fighting and love each other.
This story demonstrates that a caseworker’s job is not necessarily over when a Judge issues a ruling. In this instance, a little boy needed to be heard after the case was over. The caseworker understood this and advocated on his behalf, and in doing so provided the support, safety and opportunity this little boy so desperately needed.
Team Effort Supports Record Number of Victims
The arrest, prosecution and conviction of Russell Williams resulted in more than 50 victims receiving support from the Belleville Victim/Witness Assistance Program (V/WAP) staff, the largest number of victims ever assisted by that office in relation to a single offender.
Because of its scope, Belleville staff enlisted help from other V/WAP offices (notably Kingston) to provide the much needed support to the victims in this tragic case. V/WAP staff worked with Crown attorneys, Belleville and Ontario Provincial Police services, and local court staff.
“The most intense time for staff was just before and during Williams’ three and a half day guilty plea in October 2010,” said Michele Arsenault, V/WAP Manager in Belleville. Help for victims during this time included providing updates on proceedings, giving advice about victim impact statements, accompanying victims and their families to court, arranging meetings with police and prosecutors, assisting with Criminal Injuries Compensation Board claims and connecting victims with counselling services.
Going above and beyond their normal services, Belleville staff also played a key role in partnering with local community organizations to plan and coordinate a community vigil on April 17, 2010, to promote healing after these and other violent crimes in the community. The vigil was attended by almost 300 community members.
As a result, the victims and their extended families were better able to cope with these traumatic events, and many have expressed their appreciation for the work of the V/WAP team, which continued to support many of the victims after the matter had concluded.
V/WAP Supporting Gladue (Aboriginal Persons) Court
Providing services to victims of crime involved in the criminal court system can be difficult work, and when those victims are from traditionally disadvantaged or marginalized populations, there are unique challenges.
Victim/Witness Services Workers at Toronto’s Old City Hall courthouse are meeting the needs of Aboriginal victims referred from the Gladue Court by providing help and support for victims to heal, and move forward with their lives.
The Gladue courts were established approximately 10 years ago after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that judges must consider the special circumstances facing Aboriginal offenders. In effect, the Supreme Court decision and a series of subsequent decisions held that courts should be more respectful of Aboriginal cultures and should make better use of alternative sentencing strategies based on Aboriginal concepts of justice. (For more on Gladue courts, see http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/aboriginal_justice_strategy/increase_access.asp.
Yvette Barnes, Victim/Witness Assistance Program (V/WAP) Manager at Old City Hall, explained that front-line V/WAP staff underwent an intensive training program to gain a broad understanding of Aboriginal cultures. Led by Ryerson professor Dr. Cyndy Baskin, staff learned about Aboriginal history and the impact it has on First Nations people to this day.
They also heard from Shawn Pollock, a V/WAP Manager in Central Region who turned her experience dealing with an especially difficult and lengthy child abuse case into a training opportunity for other V/WAP services workers dealing with Aboriginal victims of historical sexual assault.
Another aspect of working with the Gladue court is the need to develop better connections to resources in the Aboriginal community. Anishnawbe Health Toronto (http://aht.ca/about-anishnawbe-health-toronto) provides much more than just health services, and has been especially helpful in this regard, Ms Barnes said.
Many victims prefer to try to find services within their own community, while others do not want to be connected to Aboriginal services, seeking to protect their privacy. The number of Aboriginal victims seeking out the V/WAP services is small but progress is being made to increase contact with this community and to ensure that victims’ services are able to meet the unique needs of Aboriginal victims she added..
Special Challenges for Guns and Gangs V/WAP Workers
Victims and witnesses involved in guns and gangs cases may need the same services as other victims, but delivering those services can prove to be a challenge, according to two veteran Victim Witness Services Workers.
Helen Ferreira and Sarah Marshall have worked with the Guns and Gangs Victim/Witness Assistance Program (V/WAP) for five and three years respectively. They agree the principle difference between their work and that of their colleagues are the issues faced by the clients they seek to help.
The cases this team works on usually involve homicides, attempted murders or home invasions. The victims and witnesses are often concerned about their own safety and that of their family, particularly if they are seen to be assisting authorities. This, Helen and Sarah agree, can stop victims from seeking help.
Other challenges include the complexity and length of gun and gang cases and engaging witnesses that don’t trust those involved in the criminal justice system.
Overcoming these challenges means getting involved with clients early and providing as much information as possible. “Information is the key,” says Sarah. “Clients need to understand their role as witnesses, or be able to anticipate what the process involves so they can be as prepared as possible for what is ahead.”
Adds Helen, “Connecting with victims and witnesses at the early stages of the process enables us to establish a rapport, address their questions and concerns, and advocate on their behalf. The more supported a witness is, the greater likelihood that she or he will feel integral to, and engaged in the prosecution. It is a challenge to keep victims and witnesses involved and committed to following a case through to trial and as such, it is critical for us to establish a respectful and long-lasting relationship with victims and witnesses.”
Witness concerns range from personal safety to childcare to transportation. Sarah and Helen remember one young man called to testify in Toronto who was unemployed and did not live in the city. They advocated for the court office to reimburse him for his travel expenses immediately and made arrangements for transportation prior to his arrival to the city. Small issues that can be addressed in advance can make a huge difference to the client’s ability and willingness to participate in the criminal justice process.
Helen and Sarah say that, like all Victim Witness Services Workers, their goal is to provide support and information to people who find themselves in strange and often frightening situations. Explaining court processes, even something as simple as helping witnesses get to the courtroom itself, and connecting them with appropriate community agencies all helps to relieve the witnesses’ anxiety. And, they add, the more supported victims and witnesses feel, the more likely they are to cooperate and participate fully in the court process.
Programs Helping Victims in Ontario
Ontario has long been a leader in developing programs to help victims of crime. In 1967, the province enacted the Law Enforcement Compensation Act, which allowed peace officers, police officers and firefighters to be compensated for injuries resulting from criminal acts. That Act was amended in 1969 to include other victims of violent crime, and, in 1971, it was replaced by the Compensation for Victims of Crime Act (CVCA) creating the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board.
In 1996, the Act Respecting Victims of Crime – Victims’ Bill of Rights, which supports and recognizes the needs of victims of crime, was proclaimed, establishing the Victims’ Justice Fund. In 2001, the Act was amended to establish the Office for Victims of Crime as a permanent advisory agency. The Act’s preamble and the principles that form the Victims’ Bill of Rights are included in the appendices.
On this foundation, Ontario has built a network of professional, comprehensive and compassionate programs and services that assist victims of crime across the province.
While many of Ontario’s programs are designed to help victims of specific crimes, such as domestic violence or sexual assault, others are based on providing services to victims regardless of the nature of the crime.
Victims or those seeking information on behalf of a victim can call the Victim Support Line (VSL) 24-hours a day, seven days a week, to learn about victim services in their community. Information is available in more than 100 languages, including those of Ontario’s First Nations.
The VSL also allows victims, witnesses or other concerned citizens to register for the Victim Notification System. Registered users will receive automated telephone calls with updated information on a specific offender such as release dates, parole hearings and unescorted temporary absence requests. Call the Victim Support Line toll-free at 1-888-579-2888, or in the Greater Toronto Area, 416-314-2447. For information on federally incarcerated offenders (those whose sentence is more than two years), please call the Parole Board of Canada at 1-800-518-8817.
The Victim Crisis Assistance and Referral Service (VCARS) provides immediate help to survivors of crimes or disasters, 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Police officers on the scene can arrange for VCARS staff or trained volunteers to provide on-site, short-term assistance and make referrals to other community agencies for longer-term help. VCARS is delivered in 48 communities.
VCARS also provides financial and other support to victims of violent crime through the Victim Quick Response Program (VQRP). Through this program, eligible victims who have no other financial means can access:
- Emergency expenses to pay for crime scene clean-up, emergency accommodation and meals, securing premises to ensure safety, and transportation and dependant care costs for a family member who must identify a homicide victim or support a seriously injured victim of violent crime
- Funeral expenses to help families of homicide victims
- Counselling to provide short-term, early intervention to help victims of serious crime.
The province also offers compensation through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (CICB), which may provide financial support to any victim of a violent crime that occurred in Ontario and who makes a claim to the board. Claims must normally be filed within two years of the incident. The maximum payable as a lump sum to one applicant for one incident is $25,000. Monthly awards for permanent injury or support can be ordered up to a maximum total of $365,000.
Survivors of violent crimes, sexual assaults and domestic violence are often required to testify in court and participate in other aspects of the criminal justice system. The Victim/Witness Assistance Program (V/WAP) is key to helping these victims. Operating in 62 offices across the province, V/WAP provides comprehensive, court-based support services to victims and witnesses of violent crime, enhancing their understanding of, and participation in, the criminal justice system. This includes explaining court processes, helping victims prepare victim impact statements for use in court, and providing referrals to community agencies.
When an offender is being considered for early release on parole at a provincial parole board hearing, the government helps survivors attend and participate. Drawing on the Victims’ Justice Fund, the government will reimburse the expenses of victims and individuals who accompany them. They may attend as observers, or they may make submissions to the board on matters that may influence the Ontario Parole Board’s decision. For more information, visit www.opb.gov.on.ca/english/victim/victim.html.
Other programs that help victims include:
- The Aboriginal Victims Support Grant Program, an investment in improving services to Aboriginal survivors of crime by supporting Aboriginal communities and organizations that deliver victim services to Aboriginal men, women, children and youth in Ontario.
- Elder abuse prevention initiatives, offered through a partnership between the Ontario Seniors Secretariat and the Ontario Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse. Initiatives address three key priorities: improving coordination of community resources, building capacity of front-line staff serving seniors, and raising awareness through public education.
Women who have experienced domestic violence can receive counselling from more than 180 agencies in communities across the province. Specialized supports are also available for children who have witnessed violence in their homes.
Several government sponsored programs offer support for women leaving abusive relationships. These include two telephone services in English (1-866-863-0511) and French (1-877-336-2433) that support abused women and provide information to concerned family and friends. To help women escape such situations, the government funds 98 shelters across the province. These shelters provide temporary housing as well as emotional and practical support, including helping women complete safety plans designed to prevent re-victimization.
The Transitional and Housing Support Program connects women with a range of community support services intended to help them transition to a life free of violence.
Language Interpreter Services are offered by community organizations across Ontario to help women with limited English or French skills gain better access to shelters, the justice system and social and health services for victims.
Recognizing the complex needs of many survivors, the province supports the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic, a unique multi-disciplinary organization that provides counselling, legal representation, interpretation services and information and referral services to women. For more information visit www.schliferclinic.com.
SupportLink helps those at risk of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking develop personal safety plans. The program also provides information and referrals to community services, followup contact and, where appropriate, a cell phone pre-programmed to dial 911. To find the SupportLink program nearest you, visit the online Victim Services Directory at www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/ovss/FindHelp.asp or call the Victim Support Line toll-free at 1-888-579-2888, or 416-314-2447 in the Greater Toronto Area.
The Ontario government supports programs that help ensure the safety of victims of domestic violence by intervening early in the criminal justice process, when an accused person is being considered for bail. For example, the Bail Safety Program operates in 10 locations across the province. This program provides trained teams of Crown prosecutors, victim services staff and police to conduct in-depth interviews with victims of domestic violence at the bail stage, a time of high risk for victims. The Bail Safety Program helps identify high-risk situations, allowing Crown prosecutors to make better recommendations at bail hearings to help stop the cycle of violence.
Ontario’s Domestic Violence Court (DVC) Program is the most comprehensive and extensive of its kind in Canada. Teams of specialized professionals work together to help end the cycle of domestic violence, improve support for victims and investigate and prosecute cases more efficiently. DVCs operate in all 54 court jurisdictions. To find the location nearest you, visit the online Victim Services Directory at www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/ovss/FindHelp.asp or call the Victim Support Line toll-free at 1-888-579-2888, or 416-314-2447 in the Greater Toronto Area.
The government is supporting victims of domestic violence by implementing a Family Court Support Worker program that will provide assistance to victims during separation or divorce proceedings, when they are at the greatest risk of further violence. Support workers will provide victims with information about the family court process, document the history of abuse for the court, refer victims to specialized services and supports in the community, help with safety planning related to court appearances, and, where appropriate, accompany victims to court proceedings.
The Partner Assault Response program (PAR) is a key component of the Domestic Violence Court Program. PAR programs are 16-week education/counselling programs offered through community organizations for offenders who have abused their partners. Attendance is by court order. During the program, offenders are urged to examine their attitudes towards domestic abuse, and PAR staff helps victims to create personal safety plans, learn how their partners are progressing and access other community resources.
Lack of financial independence is a common barrier for women seeking to leave an abusive relationship. To help overcome that obstacle, the province provides employment training programs, skills training and employment support services to women experiencing or at risk of domestic violence.
Women’s centres, located throughout Ontario, provide safety planning, pre-employment services, information and referrals. Other initiatives offer peer support, and information and resources for survivors of violence against women on a local and regional basis, and at the provincial level through the Women’s Centre for Social Justice.
The Ontario government supports a wide range of public education campaigns to end violence against women. For example, Neighbours, Friends and Families raises awareness of the signs of abuse so that those close to an at-risk or abusive partner can help. The program has been adapted for Aboriginal and Francophone communities, and reaches out to diverse communities across Ontario through its website, www.neighboursfriendsandfamilies.ca
In March 2011, the government launched its Sexual Violence Action Plan, targeted at ending sexual violence and improving supports for survivors. The plan includes programs designed to prevent sexual violence through increased public education, including initiatives that reflect the diversity of communities across the province. These programs will expand and improve access to a wide range of services for survivors of sexual violence, including supports for the front lines and in healthcare settings. It will strengthen the criminal justice system’s response to sexual violence, and increase coordination and training for police, Crown counsel and other justice personnel.
To assist women who are survivors of sexual assault, the Ontario government supports 41 community-based agencies that provide support and counselling to survivors of sexual crimes.
Thirty-four hospital-based sexual assault and domestic violence treatment centres help to ensure that survivors of sexual assault are treated with the appropriate sensitivity by the health care system. These programs provide acute care and forensic services, using resources provided by the government, to those who have been sexually assaulted or are survivors of domestic violence. They also treat sexual assault victims to lessen the risk that they will contract HIV as a result of the assault.
In February 2011, the Ontario government launched a coordinated, multi-pronged campaign to combat the crime of human trafficking by raising public awareness and providing additional support to victims. The program will focus on prevention, enforcement and support for victims, and will include a 24-hour a day, seven day a week crisis hotline for victims, Crown attorneys specializing in human trafficking cases, and an awareness campaign directed at victims.
Male Survivors of Childhood Abuse
Ontario is moving forward with its plan to provide, for the first time, province-wide services for male survivors of sexual abuse. The initial government investment will be $2 million over two years to provide these specialized services, which build on the advice provided to the government in consultation with current service providers, experts and survivors.
The new services will include a crisis and referral line, individual and group counselling sessions and peer support. Agencies will also provide training and other ongoing professional development activities for local service providers.
The government will also establish a provincial advisory group to help ensure that provincial services are rolled out smoothly and effectively and are responsive to the needs of survivors.
The Men’s Project, an individual and group counselling program for men who have experienced sexual or physical abuse as children, continues to offer counselling and a toll free help line (1-877-677-6532).
Programs for Aboriginal Women and Families
The government has established the Joint Working Group on Violence Against Aboriginal Women. This cooperative committee is made up of a wide range of ministries and identifies priorities and opportunities for support, development and implementation of new programs and services that help prevent and reduce violence against Aboriginal women and their families.
Aboriginal children and youth who may have experienced violence or are at risk of committing violence can receive supports through the Akwe:go and Wasa-Nabin Aboriginal programs. These programs address the mental, physical, and emotional health and wellness of Aboriginal children and youth in a culturally relevant and holistic manner. They provide supports, tools and activities that promote healthy lifestyle choices. Both Akwe:go and Wasa-Nabin services are community-based and tailored to meet individual needs. Aboriginal children, youth and their families can access the Akwe:go and Wasa-Nabin Programs through their local Friendship Centre.
Programs for Children
Children are among the most vulnerable of victims. Ontario recognizes this with specific programs to assist child victims, including:
- The Internet Child Exploitation Counselling Program, which provides short-term, immediate counselling to child victims of Internet sexual exploitation. A victim’s immediate family may also be included.
- The School-Based Prevention/Diversion Program, a partnership among schools, school boards, community-based agencies and police, helps high school students less than 18 years old who are at risk of becoming involved or are already involved in violent and/or offending activity increase their chances of school success. Trained peer mediators and school and community staff work together to address issues leading to offending behaviour, develop new skills, increase school attachment and take on leadership roles.
- Youth Justice Committees bring together youth who have committed minor offences and their family with victims and community representatives to find solutions that promote healing and prevent future harm.
- Child Victim / Witness Program offers support and services to child victims and witnesses during the criminal court process. The community-based program offers a number of services, including preparing children for court, communicating with Crown attorneys, defence lawyers and judges, supporting parents and guardians, and helping with victim impact statements. In areas where a Child Victim / Witness Program is not available, the Victim / Witness Assistance Program provides similar services.
Victims' Justice Fund
The Victims' Justice Fund (VJF) was established in 1996 under the Victims' Bill of Rights 1. The Victims' Bill of Rights requires that the VJF be used to assist victims of Criminal Code offences. The VJF receives most of its revenues from surcharges applied to fines under Provincial Offences Act (other than for parking offences), the Criminal Code of Canada and the federal Contraventions Act.
In the fund's early years, the fund took in significantly more money than it paid out to programs, and a surplus accumulated. In 2003 the Victims' Justice Fund balance stood at $77.7 million. Since then the government has distributed a significant amount of this surplus to a broad range of victim-centred programs for both ongoing and time-limited activities. The majority of the March 31, 2011 Victims' Justice Fund balance of $34 million was committed to new future year program spending. The balance remaining uncommitted at March 31, 2011 was 2.8 million.
A graph showing VJF revenues and expenditures over time is presented below.
Note: Fiscal years 2011/12 and onwards are estimated figures.
Since its inception, the Victims' Justice Fund has provided more than $450 million to government funded and community-led programs. In the 2010/11 fiscal year, the government spent approximately $42 million on services for victims out of the Victims' Justice Fund.
The Victims' Justice Fund is an important source of funding for key victims' services programming throughout the province, but it is only part of the Ontario government's commitment to victim services. A number of programs and services that receive funding from the VJF may also receive funds from other government and non-government sources. Since 2003, the government has spent more than $856 million on vital services for victims of crime and we estimate that it will spend an additional $118 million in fiscal year 2011/12.
1 The Victims' Bill of Rights is a provincial statute that establishes the Victims' Justice Fund as a special purpose account within the government's Consolidated Revenue Fund.