Better access to justice for Ontario victims of sexual assault, intimate partner violence and those who have experienced workplace sexual harassment
July 26, 2022 – Toronto, Ontario – Department of Justice Canada
All people in Canada should be safe and free from physical, emotional and sexual violence, discrimination, and harassment, regardless of where they live. The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified systemic and longstanding inequalities. There is now an even greater need and urgency to support survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence (IPV) through law reform and directly through funding to improves services across the country.
Today, the Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, accompanied by Gary Anandasangaree, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice Attorney General of Canada, the Honourable Merrilee Fullerton, Ontario Minister of Children, Community and Social Services and Deepa Mattoo, Executive Director, Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic (BSCC), announced funding for three projects to support victims of sexual assault and IPV and people who have experienced workplace sexual harassment in Ontario. These initiatives build on legislative changes our government has made to the Criminal Code, most recently through Bill C-28, which ensures that individuals who consume drugs and/or alcohol in a criminally negligent manner are held criminally responsible if they harm others while extremely intoxicated.
The Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services will expand services and access to the Family Court Support Worker Program (FCSWP) for victims of intimate partner violence in the family court process. With this project, they will:
- Increase the delivery of services from a number of program partners throughout the province, with a focus on rural and remote communities where client access to services is hindered due to geographical circumstances.
- Strengthen coordination with, and referrals to, other community services that help victims of intimate partner violence as they leave abusive relationships, such as victim services (Victim Crisis Assistance Ontario Program), sexual assault services, shelters/Transition Housing Support Program, legal services, income support programs (Ontario Works, Ontario Disability Support Program), health care organization/counselling, and others.
The “It’s My Choice” project aims to enhance the BSCC’s capacity and expand its services to support more survivors of sexual assault and IPV and gender-based violence in Ontario, by:
- establish a provincial network so that in-person and remote supports can be provided to more victims across the province, including by providing legal services that support survivors with triage services, risk assessment, safety planning, housing, interpretation and counselling services.
- provide training and supports for legal experts to ensure the delivery of trauma-informed legal services that are tailored to survivors’ various lived experiences.
This project will result in greater access to legal supports for victims of sexual violence in Ontario, allowing them to make informed decisions about their situation in a safe, effective and informed manner.
The “#AndMeToo” project will:
- create comprehensive, trauma-informed, multilingual resources to inform people who have experienced workplace sexual harassment in the hospitality and service industries of their rights, the community and legal supports available to them, and how to navigate the justice system and approach their employers.
- give more people who have experienced workplace sexual harassment confidence in their ability to understand and pursue their legal options.
Justice Canada is providing more than $6 million over five years to the Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services and the BSCC for these three projects in support of victims of sexual violence and people who experience workplace sexual harassment in Ontario. This investment supports the Government of Canada’s commitment to help survivors of sexual assault and IPV and address sexual harassment in the workplace.
“Gender-based violence and intimate partner violence have no place in Canada and our Government has made it a priority to end it in all its forms. Providing support for organizations like the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic and the Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services is critical so that they can better support, empower, and keep victims of sexual and gender-based violence safe. These three projects are great examples of innovative approaches to ensuring that all Canadians can feel safe, supported and respected.”
The Honourable David Lametti, P.C., Q.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
“Survivors of intimate partner violence should be able to easily access the support they need, including navigating the family court process in Ontario. Working across all levels of government, the Department of Justice Canada and our community service providers, we must continue to expand and strengthen supports for survivors and their families.”
The Honourable Merrilee Fullerton,
Ontario Minister of Children, Community and Social Services
“We applaud the Honourable David Lametti, and the Department of Justice Canada, for centring the needs of marginalized survivors of gender-based violence at the core of funding action. The funding we receive will directly support our project, It’s My Choice, and allow the Clinic to deepen its expertise through enhanced capacity and broaden our reach into new communities of survivors through partnerships with community organizations across Ontario.”
Executive Director, Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic
Justice Canada is providing $1,463,439 over five years, 2021-22 to 2025-26, for the “It’s My Choice” project and $374,879 over three years, 2021-22 to 2023-24, for the “#AndMeToo” Sexual Harassment project for a total of $1,838,318 to the BSCC. Both will support victims of sexual violence and IPV and people who have experienced workplace sexual harassment in Ontario.
Justice Canada is providing $4.25 million over five years, 2021-22 to 2025-26 to the Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services for its project that will support victims of IPV involved in the family justice system.
IPV, also known as spousal or domestic violence, refers to multiple forms of harm caused by a current or former intimate partner or spouse. IPV can happen in any community, in any type of intimate relationship, including within a marriage, common-law or dating relationship, in a heterosexual or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or Two-Spirit relationship. It can happen at any time during a relationship and even after it has ended, whether or not partners live together or are sexually intimate with one another.
Budget 2018 provided $50 million over five years to address sexual harassment in the workplace. This included $25 million to provide legal advice for complainants of workplace sexual harassment across the country, and $25 million for public legal education and information (PLEI) to better inform workers, particularly those most vulnerable, about their rights and how they can access help if they have been harassed in the workplace. The “#AndMeToo” project is supported through the funding for PLEI.
In 2019, former Bill C-75 created a reverse onus at bail for an accused charged with a violent offence involving an intimate partner, if they have a prior conviction for violence against an intimate partner; requiring courts to consider prior intimate partner violence convictions when determining whether to release the accused or impose bail conditions; clarifying that strangulation, a form of violence frequently committed in the IPV context, constitutes an elevated form of assault and a more serious form of sexual assault; and, allowing a higher maximum penalty in cases involving an offender who has a prior conviction of intimate partner violence.
Budget 2021 provided $85.3 million over five years, to support a national program for independent legal advice and independent legal representation for victims of sexual assault, as well as to support pilot projects for victims of intimate partner violence.
In addition, through the Victims Fund, we have made more than $28 million available to provincial and territorial governments and non-governmental organizations to support projects and activities that encourage the development of new approaches, promote access to justice, improve the capacity of service providers, foster the establishment of referral networks, and/or increase awareness of services available to victims of crime and their families.
Budget 2022 provided $539.3 million over five years, starting in 2022-23, to Women and Gender Equality Canada to enable provinces and territories to supplement and enhance services and supports within their jurisdictions to prevent gender-based violence and support survivors.
The Judges Act and the Criminal Code were recently amended to ensure that sexual assault matters are decided fairly, without the influence of myths or stereotypes. Other changes to the Criminal Code addressed sexual assault laws dealing with consent, and expanded “rape shield” provisions clarifying how and when a complainant’s past sexual history can be entered as evidence during a trial. Together, these amendments sought to ensure that survivors of sexual assault and gender-based violence are treated with the utmost compassion and respect in the criminal justice system.
- Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services
- Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic
- Government of Canada’s Gender-Based Violence Strategy
- Budget 2021: A Recovery Plan for Jobs, Growth and Resilience
- Budget 2018: Equality and Growth for a Strong Middle Class
- Justice Partnership and Innovation Program
- Victims Fund
For more information, media may contact:
Office of the Minister of Justice
Department of Justice Canada
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