Shame on Doug Ford’s response to sexual violence

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This signed editorial discusses sexual violence and may be triggering for some readers. The Journal uses “survivor” to refer to those who have experienced sexual violence. We acknowledge this term is not universal. 

Last Wednesday at Queen’s Park, Toronto Centre district MPP Suze Morrison asked why the Doug Ford government was withholding millions in funding promised to Ontario’s rape crisis centres.

In response, Ford laughed at her.

Last March, the Liberal government promised $14.8 million to be spread across three years to the province’s 29 rape crisis centres, but failed to deliver the funds before Ford took office.  

While crisis centres hoped Ford would deliver the funds upon his June swearing-in, it took months for Attorney General Caroline Mulroney to set up a “brief call” with the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres, a conversation which left the Coalition without answers.

After facing media pressure, Ford finally caved, announcing he’d maintain the funding for 42 crisis centres in Ontario—and throw in an extra million for good measure. While he may have expected the Coalition to praise him in gratitude for his generosity, advocates quickly found holes in his pledge.

The delay in funding has caused the brunt of the damage. Thunder Bay’s crisis centre had to layoff a recently-hired counsellor. There’s a seven-month waiting list to see a counsellor in Hamilton’s centre. Others have had to cut essential programs and services.

It’s unclear how Ford intends to make up for the delay’s damage. But the biggest gap is Ford’s silence on when his government will actually release the funds to centres in desperate need.

While Mulroney was predictably unavailable for an interview when contacted by The Journal, her spokesperson Brian Gray claimed the province is currently reviewing victim services before funds are released to determine whether they’re “meeting the needs of those who use them.”

According to police-reported data, there were more reports of sexual assault in Canada in 2017 than in any year since 1998. This data is proof funding is needed now more than ever, and it’s been available for Ford’s review since November.

Gray ignored questions asking for clarification about how long the review will take. However, a review for centres in their current state doesn’t make sense.

Ford can’t determine whether victim services are effective for survivors if he’s waiting more than seven months to use them, and he can’t decide if the programs centres offer are useful if they don’t have the means to exist anymore.

The Ford government is also withholding the Student Voices on Sexual Violence survey results, citing privacy concerns as a reason for the delay. But—like Gray—Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities spokesperson Stephanie Rea ignored requests for an updated timeline for the results.

Ford’s pattern of neglecting sexual violence problems in Ontario is disrespectful to survivors. His excuses and ridicule of those who care make his response to this crisis more than insufficient—it’s shameful.

By not giving survivors the support they deserve, Ford puts Ontario on the wrong side of a cultural battle for women’s safety.

Raechel is one of The Journal’s Assistant News Editors. She’s a third-year English student.

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