Government To Appoint Chief Justice Roy McMurtry To Review Victims Compensation System



    Invests More Than $20 Million In New Funding To Help Victims

    TORONTO, March 2 /CNW/ - The McGuinty government is taking immediate
action to address the Ombudsman's report on the Criminal Injuries Compensation
Board (CICB). Attorney General Michael Bryant announced today that he will be
appointing the Chief Justice of Ontario, Roy McMurtry, to forge a new
framework for victim support and compensation following broad-based
consultation. The government is also providing additional funding to the CICB,
and creating new government programs for victims of crime.
    "I am so pleased the Chief Justice has agreed to take on this important
role immediately upon his retirement from the bench this May," said Bryant. "I
can't think of a more suitable leader to help us overhaul the compensation
system to improve victim services."
    The government is providing additional funding to the CICB to address
case backlog by:

    
    -   Investing $12.75 million to enable the CICB to directly compensate
        victims of violent crime
    -   Providing an additional $2 million to allow the CICB to hire
        additional adjudicators and staff to speed up the compensation
        process.

    The government is also investing more than $6 million to establish new
programs, to be administered by the Ontario Victim Services Secretariat of the
Ministry of the Attorney General, which will provide services to victims in
the immediate aftermath of violent crime, when they need and want the help
most, including:
    -   Emergency Expenses - to reimburse eligible victims for emergency
        expenses incurred in the immediate aftermath of a violent crime, such
        as child-care or new locks/window replacement
    -   Funeral Expenses - to reimburse eligible families of victims of
        homicide
    -   Counselling - provided to the victims of most serious crimes to help
        reduce the impact of trauma.
    

    "These new initiatives address the Ombudsman's recommendations and will
help ensure quick improvements to the way victims are compensated and
supported," said Bryant. "For the longer term, Chief Justice McMurtry will
hold meaningful and broad-based consultations on a proposed new framework with
both victims organizations and communities."
    Chief Justice McMurtry has dedicated his life and career to public
service. He has had a significant impact on the legal and social framework of
Ontario and has been a longstanding advocate for the province's most
vulnerable. He has been the Chief Justice of Ontario since 1996. Prior to his
appointment to the bench in 1991, he served as attorney general from 1975 to
1985. From 1985 to 1988, Chief Justice McMurtry served as Canada's high
commissioner to Britain.
    The CICB, established in 1971, is an independent agency that reports
through the Attorney General.

    
    Disponible en français

                      www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca



    Backgrounder
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

                         VICTIM SERVICES IN ONTARIO

    The government of Ontario is committed to ensuring victims of violent
crime have a strong voice. Government and community-based services support
victims in the immediate aftermath of crime, throughout the criminal justice
process and as they work to rebuild their lives.
    In 2007-08 the Ministry of the Attorney General is investing more than
$6 million to introduce three new, easy-to-access government programs that
will respond quickly to ensure that victims of violent crime receive
immediate, effective and compassionate assistance.

    These include:

    -   An emergency expenses fund to ease financial hardships caused by
        expenses in the immediate aftermath of a criminal incident, such as
        child care or new locks/window repair. Two million dollars has been
        dedicated to this fund for 2007-08.
    -   A counselling program to provide victims of the most serious crimes,
        such as domestic violence and sexual assault, with professional
        counselling and support to help reduce trauma. The government is
        investing $4 million in this initiative over two years.
    -   Costs for funeral services will be provided to eligible families of
        homicide victims. Two hundred fifty thousand dollars have been set
        aside for this program in 2007-08.

    The ministry is also providing $14.75 million in additional funding to the
Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (CICB) in 2007-08, to help it resolve
outstanding applications:

    -   $12.75 million of this funding will be used to directly compensate
        victims of violent crime.
    -   $2 million will allow the CICB to hire additional adjudicators and
        staff to speed up the compensation process.

    The ministry provides annual funding for the Criminal Injuries
Compensation Board, which was established in 1971 and operates at arm's length
from the ministry. It was one of the first programs in the country to award
financial compensation to victims of violent crimes. The board received an
extra $5.23 million in 2006-07 to assist with claims-related costs.
    In addition to victim compensation provided by the Criminal Injuries
Compensation Board, the ministry also provides many other supports and
services to victims, and funds a broad range of victim service programs across
the province:

    -   The Victim/Witness Assistance Program, a cornerstone of services
        provided to victims of violent crime, is celebrating its 20th
        anniversary in 2007. This program receives $16 million annually in
        funding and helped more than 66,000 Ontarians last year. It provides
        information, assistance, referrals and support to victims and
        witnesses of crime throughout the criminal court process, in all 54
        court districts across the province. Client surveys consistently show
        that over 90 per cent of clients are satisfied with the services of
        this program, which maintains close contact with local community
        agencies to ensure victims can access the full range of services they
        need.

    -   The Victim Crisis Assistance & Referral Services, a community-
        response program, provides immediate on-site service to victims of
        crime or disaster, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The government
        invests more than $6 million per year in this program, which operates
        in 41 communities across Ontario, and served more than 68,000 victims
        provincewide last year alone.

    -   The Domestic Violence Court Program provides victims of domestic
        violence with support from specially trained Crown attorneys,
        Victim/Witness Assistance Program staff, police, Partner Assault
        Response programs, language interpreters and other service providers.
        The government invests $22 million per year in this program, which
        had been expanded to all 54 court districts by the end of 2006. It is
        the most comprehensive program of its kind in Canada.

    -   A dedicated 12-member victim-witness assistance team is now in place
        as part of the McGuinty government's $51 million package of
        initiatives to fight gun and gang-related crime. This team works with
        the Guns and Gangs Task Force to help address the unique needs and
        circumstances of victims and witnesses of gun violence.

    -   The province is committing $15 million over three years to the
        Community Grant Program. This program funds time-limited projects
        across Ontario that address gaps in supports and services to victims.
        All projects must directly benefit victims to be eligible for
        funding. Sixty-nine projects across the province are being funded by
        the program in 2006-07.

    -   The province invests $13 million per year in Ontario's 38 Sexual
        Assault/Rape Crisis Centres, currently operating in 30 communities.

    -   The Bail Safety Pilot Project, in 10 Ontario locations, provides for
        specially trained teams of Crown counsel, victim services staff and
        police to conduct in-depth interviews with victims of domestic
        violence at the bail stage, because this is a time of high risk for
        victims. The project is receiving approximately $11 million over
        three years to help identify high-risk situations, allowing Crown
        attorneys to make better recommendations at bail hearings, to help
        stop the cycle of violence.

    -   A $5 million Internet child anti-pornography and anti-luring strategy
        is being implemented to offer support to victims and refer them to
        appropriate community services. It includes:

        -   an undercover team of municipal police officers working online to
            identify suspects and victims, and prevent further victimization
        -   dedicated Crown prosecutors to ensure a uniform level of
            excellence with respect to victim support and prosecution
        -   victim support to ensure that identified victims are connected
            with the specialized services they need.

    -   The government established the Hate Crimes Community Working Group,
        which tabled more than 80 recommendations aimed at improved services
        to victims of hate crimes and preventing further victimization. An
        inter-ministerial team has been struck to consider the
        recommendations and plan the investment of $1.3 million to help
        strengthen Ontario communities by taking action against hate crimes.

    -   A northern victim services expansion project receives annual funding
        of more than $1.5 million to provide programs and services for
        victims of crime, suited to the local needs of victims in five
        northern communities - Kapuskasing, Greenstone, Michipicoten,
        Marathon/Manitouwadge and Fort Frances.

    -   The Nishnawbe Aski Nation is receiving more than $700,000 over three
        years to provide services to male victims in northern Aboriginal
        communities who have suffered sexual abuse.

    -   The Victim Support Line is a free provincewide information line
        providing services in English and French. This program provides
        services including referrals to community agencies, information on
        the criminal justice system and access to information about the
        status and scheduled release date of provincially incarcerated
        offenders.

    -   The Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic is a multi-service agency
        for female victims of violence. The Ministry of the Attorney General
        funds a specialized legal service for assaulted women at the clinic.

    -   The SupportLink Program provides victims of domestic violence, sexual
        assault and stalking with intensive safety planning and 911-
        programmed cell phones in 20 Ontario locations.

    -   Child Victim/Witness Centres in three Ontario communities offer court
        assistance to thousands of children who are victims or witnesses of
        violent crime each year.

    Other McGuinty government initiatives to help victims and to prevent
victimization include the following:

    -   Committing $5.9 million to train front-line workers, professionals,
        neighbours, friends and families across Ontario to recognize the
        signs of abuse, and help women and children get the supports they
        need

    -   Developing CYBERCOPS software for Grade 7 and 8 students in Ontario
        schools, to help cyber-proof children against cyber-stalking, child
        pornography and Internet luring

    -   Investing $4 million over two years in the Employment Training Pilot
        Program to help women who are victims of domestic violence, or at
        risk, develop new skills, find employment and achieve economic
        independence.

    Disponible en français

                      www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca
    





For further information:

For further information: Greg Crone, Minister's Office, (416) 326-1785;
Brendan Crawley, Ministry of the Attorney General, Communications Branch,
(416) 326-2210

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