McGuinty Government Expands Services To Help Children Overcome Trauma



    Child Victim/Witness Centre Program Helps Children Through Court Process

    OTTAWA, Aug. 21 /CNW/ - The McGuinty government is expanding the
province's innovative Child Victim/Witness Centre program, Attorney General
Michael Bryant announced today.
    "The expansion of this program to all regions of the province will
provide effective support services and court preparation for children,
including many who have been abused or exposed to domestic violence," said
Bryant.
    The government currently funds Child Victim/Witness Centres in London and
Toronto. The expansion, which includes an investment of $1 million, will allow
for a new centre in Ottawa and fund two existing centres in the Regions of
Peel and Waterloo.
    The new centre in Ottawa, to be operated by Catholic Family Service
Ottawa, will provide the following services free of charge:

    
    -  Educating children on court proceedings and the role of witnesses
    -  Providing updates to children and parents or guardians on the
       progress of cases

    -  Assisting with the preparation of victim impact statements
    -  Offering support and assistance through each stage of the court
       process, including accompanying children into the courtroom
    -  Explaining the verdict.

    Children will be referred to the centre by community partners such as
police, Crown prosecutors and Victim/Witness Assistance Program staff.
    The McGuinty government's $1 million investment will:

    -  Establish the new Ottawa facility
    -  Provide provincial funding to two existing centres - the Child
       Witness Centre of Waterloo Region and the Peel Children's Centre
    -  Add three new centres in the central, northwestern and
       northeastern regions of Ontario, bringing the total number of
       provincially funded centres to eight. Specific sites for these
       regions have not been chosen, and proposals will be accepted in
       the fall.
    

    The Child Victim/Witness Centre program complements the work of the
Victim/Witness Assistance Program, which 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.
    The service expansion responds to the release of the "Best Practices in
Child Victim/Witness Programs" report. The government commissioned this report
to provide information on the effectiveness of the province's Child
Victim/Witness programs. The executive summary of the report is available on
the ministry website at www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca. To obtain a copy of
the report, please call 416-326-2220 or 1-800-518-7901 toll free.
    "Child witness support provides substantial benefits to children involved
in the justice system," said Franca DiDiomete, Catholic Family Service Ottawa.
"We are proud to deliver these services that will benefit many children who
are victims of violence or witnesses of violence."
    "The Ottawa Community Committee on Child Abuse led the long effort to
establish a child victim/witness program in Ottawa, and we are delighted that
these much-needed services to children will soon be available in our
community," said Ron Ensom, former Co-chair, Ottawa Community Committee on
Child Abuse.

    
    Disponible en français

                      www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca


    Backgrounder
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                         VICTIM SERVICES IN ONTARIO
    

    The Government of Ontario is committed to ensuring victims of crime have
a strong voice. A broad range of victim services is currently provided through
provincially funded programs. 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 addition to $1 million in new annual funding to support and develop
Child Victim/Witness Centres announced on August 21, 2007, other
provincially-funded programs that help victims of crime include the following:

    Victim Crisis Assistance and Referral Services

    This community response program provides immediate on-site service to
victims of crime, 24 hours a day, seven days-a-week. It currently operates in
48 communities across Ontario and served more than 48,000 victims provincewide
last year. The government is increasing the program's annual budget by
20 per cent, to $9.4 million. The full funding increase will be in effect in
2008-09.

    Sexual Assault/Rape Crisis Centres

    The province invests $13 million per year in Ontario's 38 Sexual
Assault/Rape Crisis Centres, which offer a wide variety of counselling,
information and support services to victims and survivors of sexual abuse.

    Victim Quick Response Program

    A $6 million investment in three new immediate services for victims of
violent crime was announced on July 13, 2007. The services became available
locally in over 50 communities across Ontario on July 16. The three services
are:
    
    -  Emergency Expenses - for eligible victims, to secure premises for
       victim safety, provide crime scene clean-up and cover transportation
       and dependant care costs for a family member to identify a homicide
       victim or support a seriously injured victim of violent crime
    -  Funeral Expenses - to assist eligible families of homicide victims
    -  Counselling - to provide short-term, early intervention counselling to
       help victims of serious crimes recover from their experience.
    

    Community Grants Program

    This program has provided more than $15 million over the past three
years, including $6 million in 2007-08, for 107 locally based, innovative
projects, that enhance services for victims of crime across Ontario.

    Domestic Violence Court Program

    This $22 million program provides victims of domestic violence with
support from specially trained Crown prosecutors, Victim/Witness Assistance
Program staff, police, Partner Assault Response programs, language
interpreters and other service providers. It operates in all 54 Ontario court
districts and is the most comprehensive program of its kind in Canada.

    Victim/Witness Assistance Program

    A cornerstone of services provided to victims of crime, this program
received $16 million in annual 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. Surveys consistently show that over
90 per cent of clients are satisfied with the services they receive. Program
staff maintain close contact with local community agencies to ensure victims
can access the full range of supports they need.

    Guns & Gangs Task Force

    A dedicated 12-member victim/witness assistance team is being put in
place as part of the Guns & Gangs Task Force, which is based at a new
$26 million state-of-the-art Operations Centre.

    Bail Safety Project

    In 10 locations across the province, the Bail Safety Project provides
trained teams of Crown prosecutors, victim services staff and police to
conduct in-depth interviews with victims of domestic violence at the bail
stage. This is a time of high risk for victims. The government has provided
$11 million over three years to help identify high-risk situations, allowing
Crown prosecutors to make better recommendations at bail hearings to help stop
the cycle of violence.

    Victim Support Line

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

    Combating Internet Child Pornography and Luring

    A comprehensive, five-part, $5 million strategy is being implemented to
combat Internet child pornography and 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.
    

    Hate Crimes Community Working Group

    The government established the Hate Crimes Community Working Group in
December 2005. The Working Group tabled more than 80 recommendations aimed at
improving services to victims of hate crimes and preventing further
victimization.

    Community HAte-crimes Response Grants Program (CHARG)

    The government is investing $1.35 million in this program, which responds
to several recommendations of the Hate Crimes Community Working Group. Four
kinds of community-based initiatives are being funded under this program:

    
    -  Projects to enhance community resources and/or address gaps in
       services to victims of hate crimes
    -  A hate crime forum to strengthen networks and share information
       among victims groups, educators and members of the criminal
       justice system
    -  A website for victims containing provincewide information about
       hate crimes and victim services
    -  Templates for community-based victim impact statements for use in
       court.
    

    Nishnawbe Aski Nation

    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.

    Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic

    The clinic is a multi-service agency for female victims of violence in
Toronto. The Ministry of the Attorney General provides $300,000 in annual
funding for a specialized legal service for assaulted women at the clinic.

    SupportLink Program

    Victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking in 20 Ontario
locations can access intensive safety planning and 911-programmed cell phones
through this program.

    Contact:
    Brendan Crawley
    Ministry of the Attorney General
    Communications Branch
    (416) 326-2210

    
    Disponible en français

                      www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca
    





For further information:

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

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