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Sexual assault support centres to see proposed funding cuts

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By Shawna O'Neill
Sexual assault support centres to see proposed funding cuts
Angela Vinet, Executive Director of SASS of SDG&A.

This story was edited to reflect that SASS of SDG&A expressed interest in hiring a male educator with supplementary funding. SASS never intended to hire a male counsellor and exclusively offers services for women. SASS will provide information about alternative services for men in the community. 

ONTARIO – Under the previous Liberal provincial government, sexual assault support centres were in line to receive a funding increase of approx. 33 per cent, with $14.8 million budgeted to develop centres in under serviced regions and support existing organizations.

According to Sexual Assault Support Services (SASS) of SDG&A, that funding is not going to come through as planned.

“Originally, we were supposed to receive an annual increase of $93,000,” said Angela Vinet, Executive Director of SASS.

Now, Vinet believes the centre will receive a one-time additional funding of approximately $15,000, as per an announcement made by the Ministry of the Attorney General. The announcement proposed continuation of existing funding and $1 million additional, spread across all centres in the province.

“While SASS and other Centres across Ontario like it acknowledge these resources with appreciation, we are disappointed: it is significantly less than that previously committed,” read a SASS press release. “New resources promised in 2018 – though withheld by the current government – would have provided a significant ongoing increase in funding for the sexual violence support sector, allowing SASS to hire a full-time counselling staff.”

Vinet explained that the centre was interested in hiring more counsellors and educators with the original proposed funding, but may only be able to supplement a counsellor for just a short time period with what appears to be allotted under the Ford government.

“It would have been really great to have what was promised,” said Vinet. “It’s very disappointing…I think I can speak for all the (MAG) centres that there is disappointment as we are not necessarily having our clients’ voices heard, who are in need of care.”

Local MPP Jim McDonell contested that more funding may come through when the 2019 Ontario Budget is finalized in April.

“There’s lots of needs out there, lots of loud voices,” said McDonell. “We need to get some reasonable answer to fund some of these organizations…In my time, we saw many of these groups didn’t receive funding for years and years. In a lot of ways, announcements were made but had never been kept. (Now) we are making steps to fulfill them.”

SASS noted that other Ministry of Attorney General funded victim services are slated to receive no funding increase.

“I think we (MAG funded agencies) are all busting at the seams and we don’t have all the resources (we need),” said Vinet.

SASS strives to eliminate wait times with available resources as they understand the importance of survivors meeting with counsellors in a timely manner.

“We know from experience that when services aren’t provided in a timely and supportive way in SDG &A survivors are often forced to turn to more costly services such as emergency rooms or family doctors,” read a SASS press release.

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