NDP Critic for the Attorney General, Kristyn Wong-Tam (Toronto Centre) is calling on the provincial government to use their budget to fight back the growing epidemic of sexual violence Ontario.
Wong-Tam was joined at a press conference by Naomi Martey, sexual violence counsellor and advocate at the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape, Tamar Witelson, director of legal services at the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic, and Pam Hrick the executive director of LEAF (Women's Legal Education and Action Fund).
“This week, Statistics Canada released new data that confirmed what survivors and many working in the sector to end gender-based violence already knew: sexual assault in Canada is increasing with no end in sight,” Wong-Tam said. “Where is the provincial government? How are they taking action? The provincial budget must be updated to include significant funds to address sexual assault. We can’t just leave the people most vulnerable to gender-based violence to continue to fight this epidemic alone.”
The rate of police-reported sexual assault has reached its highest level since 1996. It is estimated that only 6 per cent of sexual assaults are ever reported to the police. A survey by the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres found that during the COVID-19 pandemic, 81 per cent of Ontario sexual assault support centres saw increased calls to crisis line support programs.
“Doug Ford’s 2022 budget document tabled before the election did not include a single reference to sexual violence, sexual assault or rape crisis centres,” said Wong-Tam. “We don’t even know if they’re following through on the paltry $2.1 million over three years promised in 2021.”
Jill Andrew (Toronto—St. Paul’s), NDP critic for Women's Social and Economic Opportunity
“There is no excuse for sexual assault and gender-based violence to continue, let alone trend upwards over the past 25 years. The picture painted by Statistics Canada demonstrates the continued failure to protect women, girls, non-binary, trans, and gender-diverse folks, and all victim-survivors through education, access to justice, mental health resources, and the everyday and systemic dismantling of toxic masculinity in our society. This increase in sexual assault and gender-based violence is even more troubling when you consider that the report only captures a fraction of the violence, since the majority of incidents are unreported.”
Naomi Martey, sexual violence counsellor and advocate at the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape
“Despite an increasing city population and a year-after-year increase in reported sexual assault, the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre has only seen a real-dollars increase of $5,800 per year from the province over the last decade. We would prefer to spend our time as full-time counsellors, but we are consistently compelled to fundraise in order to keep the doors open.”
Tamar Witelson, director of legal services at the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic
“At the Barbara Schlifer Clinic, our number of clients almost quadrupled in the last five years, with an 18 per cent jump last year alone. With such an increase in demand for services, static funding will not be able to meet the growing need.”
Pam Hrick, executive director of LEAF (Women's Legal Education and Action Fund)
“We need to expand the options available to survivors to seek justice that works for them. That means investing in the growth of alternative justice systems, like restorative justice. When this government came into office in 2018, it canceled the exploration of restorative justice for sexual assault.”