Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives are earmarking $2 million in new annual funding for the province’s 42 rape crisis centres — one day after the facilities said $1 million had been cut.
In an apparent communications snafu from Ford’s Tories, the centres are in fact getting a cash infusion from Queen’s Park.
“We haven’t heard anything from the minister yet,” Nicole Pietsch of the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres said Thursday.
Pietsch’s comments came moments after Women’s Issues Minister Jill Dunlop stunned the legislature by announcing in the middle of the daily question period that her department was earmarking $2 million in new money for the centres.
That’s in addition to the $14.8 million they receive annually from Attorney General Doug Downey’s ministry.
But on Wednesday, Downey’s ministry said that a “one-time funding increase of $1 million (that) was added to annual funding of $14.8 million to support sexual assault centres” would not continue this year.
The confusion apparently stems from the fact that the government is planning a new strategy to curb human trafficking expected to be announced Friday in St. Catharines.
That $2 million infusion mentioned by Dunlop is part of the upcoming plan to be unveiled in conjunction with Sunday’s International Women’s Day.
Still, last year’s one-time $1-million funding announcement by the Tories was far less than the $14 million over three years the centres had been promised by the previous Liberal government.
The Liberals’ move — on the eve of the 2018 election — came after years of underfunding and amid increasing demand for services in the #MeToo era.
“Despite the failure to protect women by the previous government, this government is stepping up. I am proud to announce this morning that our government is annualizing $2 million for sexual assault centres across Ontario,” said Dunlop.
“This funding will go to support the important work that they are doing for victims and survivors of sexual assault and human trafficking with trauma-informed care,” she said.
“We are restructuring to provide better services that actually serve the victims across Ontario. For the first time, victims are being heard. It is the work of sexual assault centres that make a real impact for those seeking services.”
But NDP MPP Jill Andrew (St. Paul’s) said it’s “a shame” the Tories led Ontarians to believe $1 million was being cut from the centres.
“Both the Liberals and the Conservatives have turned their backs on women and it has to stop now. We cannot play with women’s lives,” said Andrew.
“We need $14 million for our rape crisis centres — $1 million, $2 million, that is peanuts. Rape survivors deserve more,” she said.
Interim Liberal leader John Fraser said “the reality is that these centres need more than $1 million annually, one time.”
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“The crisis centres have experienced a constant increase in demand since the #MeToo movement started. We encourage women and men to speak out about sexual assault, seek help and look to put measures in place to ensure their safety,” said Fraser.
“How is this supposed to happen if the government cannot sufficiently supply the resources that are necessary to meet the demands in this critical sector? It’s too late for the government to act like they’re coming to their senses. These centres need more support.”