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Changing attitudes, changing lives - Ontario’s Sexual Violence Action Plan, Progress Report June 2013

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Message from the Minister

On behalf of the Ontario government, I am pleased to provide this update on the province’s Sexual Violence Action Plan.

In Ontario, we believe every woman has the right to be safe and to feel safe in her home and in the community. With the launch of the Sexual Violence Action Plan in 2011, our government took an important step toward making this a reality for all women.

Sexual violence affects women of all ages, cultures and means. Through the dedication and commitment of organizations working to end violence against women and provincial ministries, we have been addressing the issue on many fronts:

  • To help Ontario’s colleges and universities keep young women safe on campuses, we released a resource guide in January 2013 that provides valuable information, resources and tools for administrators and student organizations to prevent sexual violence in the campus community.
  • To promote the safety and security of our older women, we brought together more than 170 participants from the health, social services and justice sectors for a forum on sexual violence against older women in June 2011.
  • To provide survivors of sexual violence whose first language is neither English nor French with the supports they need, we expanded the Language Interpreter Services program in 2011.
  • To better respond to the needs of women in their communities, we are investing $3 million over four years to help sexual assault centres across the province deliver quality services.
  • To create a safer online environment, we have urged the federal government to amend the Criminal Code of Canada to make it an offence to distribute intimate visual recordings of a person without that person’s consent.

Through these and other initiatives, we have improved supports for survivors and encouraged all Ontarians to play an active role in ending sexual violence.

I am privileged to work closely with so many exceptional women’s advocacy organizations. Their tireless work for the women of Ontario continue to inspire me, and I am hopeful that with their support, our province will achieve its goal of being a society in which every woman can live without fear of violence.

Laurel Broten
Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues

Introduction

Violence against women is a serious and pervasive problem that affects communities across Ontario. It has no place in society, and it will not be tolerated.

The Ontario government is committed to ending all forms of violence against women, including sexual violence. In March 2011, we launched Changing Attitudes, Changing Lives: Ontario’s Sexual Violence Action Plan. The Action Plan takes a coordinated and collaborative approach to prevent sexual violence and improve supports for survivors. It commits to working across ministries and with community organizations to implement public education campaigns, develop and deliver training, and enhance the service system response.

The Sexual Violence Action Plan was developed by the Ontario Women’s Directorate, in consultation with ministries and more than 350 survivors, service providers and experts in the community, health, education and justice sectors from communities across Ontario.

The scope of the Action Plan recognizes the complex and evolving nature of sexual violence. It responds to many different forms of sexual violence, including sexual assault, harassment, cyber harassment and sexual exploitation through human trafficking. The Action Plan acknowledges that sexual violence affects different women in different ways, and that focused and unique responses are required to address the diversity of Ontario's communities.

In the two years since the Sexual Violence Action Plan was introduced, the Ontario government has worked to implement many of the initiatives. This report highlights the actions we have taken to date.

Preventing sexual violence

Everyone in Ontario has a role to play in ending sexual violence. The government is investing in public education to raise awareness and understanding of sexual violence, and change the attitudes and behaviours that perpetuate it. Our campaigns are encouraging all members of the community to play an active part in preventing sexual violence from occurring in the first place.

The government is also supporting a number of focused initiatives to respond to the unique needs of women across Ontario, including women in the North, young women on campus, and older women.

Public Education

In June 2011, the Ontario Women’s Directorate funded a provincial forum that brought together approximately 200 professionals involved in sexual violence prevention to explore how best to develop effective sexual violence public education campaigns. Participants provided advice on approaches that would work best in Ontario, including strategies for engaging men and boys as well as bystanders. The knowledge we gained from the forum has informed our support for community organizations in developing, implementing and evaluating prevention campaigns.

Following the forum, the Ontario Women’s Directorate funded Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes and the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres to develop a provincewide, bilingual public education campaign to prevent sexual violence. Draw the Line / Traçons-les-limites, launched in May 2012, encourages Ontarians to become an active part of the solution to end sexual violence. The interactive multimedia campaign uses real-life scenarios related to consent, sexual harassment and sexual assault to engage the public in deciding how they would “draw the line” to stop sexual violence from happening. It encourages conversation and challenges common myths about sexual violence, and provides bystanders with information on how to intervene safely and effectively. The campaign website can be found at: http://www.draw-the-line.ca / http://www.tracons-les-limites.ca/.

The Ontario Women’s Directorate is also funding a number of new initiatives to expand Draw the Line / Traçons-les-limites to reach and reflect the unique needs of diverse populations across the province:

  • Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes is developing a video and facilitation guide to help raise awareness of sexual violence in Francophone communities. The resources will reflect the unique needs of Francophone women in various populations, including ethno-cultural communities, women in remote communities, women in the North, women with physical and intellectual disabilities, Aboriginal women, and older women.
  • The Newcomer Centre of Peel is translating Draw the Line / Traçons-les-limites resources into multiple languages, and creating new resources to address cultural barriers, values and stereotyping. The organization is also hosting training sessions for settlement workers, as well as community workshops and webinars. These resources and training sessions will help build effective supports for ethno-cultural groups, new immigrants and refugees.
  • Mujer is leading community consultations, workshops, video productions and social media projects to engage Latin American communities in Ontario in developing solutions to sexual violence.
  • The Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres is adapting Draw the Line / Traçons-leslimites campaign materials to reach marginalized women and girls who are at particular risk for sexual violence. The campaign will be designed to reach diverse populations, including the Deaf community.
  • Egale will conduct research and public education projects to address violence and discrimination against trans-women. This will include activities and resources that target youth.
  • Fédération de la jeunesse franco-ontarienne is developing additional Draw the Line / Traçons-les-limites campaign materials to engage Francophone youth in Ontario in preventing sexual violence.
  • The Toronto District School Board is developing a social media initiative to generate conversations about sexual violence prevention among secondary and postsecondary students across the province. The initiative will be promoted by partnering school boards, colleges and universities. The resources will reflect the lifestyles and experiences of the student population, and will help students know how to intervene safely and effectively.
  • The White Ribbon Campaign is developing and promoting resources to help secondary school educators and community youth workers engage young men in ending human trafficking and other forms of sexual exploitation of women and girls.
  • The White Ribbon Campaign is also creating multimedia resources to empower men to act as positive role models and influence other men and boys in promoting gender equality.

The Ontario Women’s Directorate has also funded Nishnawbe Aski Nation to adapt Draw the Line / Traçons-les-limites for rural and remote First Nations communities across Ontario. More information on this initiative can be found on pages 17 to 18.

Supporting Northern Communities

Service providers in Northern Ontario face challenges in reaching out to communities across vast geographic areas. To support Northern communities, the government is providing enhanced funding to local sexual assault centres, women’s centres and other community organizations to support their ongoing efforts to prevent sexual violence and support survivors.

These organizations have engaged in a range of initiatives, including training sessions for staff on the impact of trauma, and outreach to local schools, colleges, universities and seniors’ centres to raise awareness of prevention strategies and local supports.

Preventing Sexual Violence on Campus

We know that young women in colleges and universities are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence. Many are living away from home for the first time, and are facing new social situations. The government and Ontario’s colleges and universities share a commitment to campus environments where students can pursue fulfilling academic careers and social lives, free of sexual violence.

To this end, the government created a resource to support Ontario’s colleges and universities in their ongoing efforts to prevent sexual violence. The resource was developed by the Ontario Women’s Directorate and the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, with the input of representatives and experts from the postsecondary sector and from organizations working to end violence against women. Developing a Response to Sexual Violence: A Resource Guide for Ontario’s Colleges and Universities, released in January 2013, provides practical information and tools that colleges and universities can use to develop or enhance sexual violence prevention policies and response protocols. The resource can be found at: http://www.women.gov.on.ca/english/resources/publications/campusguide.shtml.

The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities is continuing to provide colleges and universities with annual Women’s Campus Safety Grants to assist with the prevention of all forms of violence against students, faculty, staff and visitors. The grants support a variety of initiatives on campus, including public education activities, the establishment of prevention policies, and improvements to security systems to enhance physical safety.

Responding to Sexual Violence Against Older Women

The safety and well-being of Ontario seniors is a priority for the government. In 2010, the Ontario government introduced provincial legislation to protect seniors living in retirement homes. The Retirement Homes Act, 2010 establishes care and safety standards that are mandatory for all retirement homes in Ontario. It also establishes residents’ rights, including the right to live in an environment that promotes zero tolerance of abuse or neglect.

Through Ontario’s Strategy to Combat Elder Abuse, the government is also continuing to support the Ontario Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and its work with more than 50 local elder abuse networks and community agencies across the province. The strategy is aimed at preventing elder abuse and enhancing supports through the coordination of community resources, training for front-line staff, and public education.

Building on these efforts, the Ontario Women’s Directorate partnered with the Ontario Seniors’ Secretariat, the International Federation of Aging, and Ryerson University to host a forum on sexual violence against older women. The forum, held in June 2011 as part of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, brought together more than 170 participants from the health, social services and justice sectors to share information and identify strategies for preventing sexual violence against older women. The event was also supported by the Ontario Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, the Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, and the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse. Participants gained a deeper understanding of the links between domestic abuse, elder abuse and sexual violence. They also learned the risk factors for sexual assault, and ways to improve prevention and response efforts.

In January 2013, the government reaffirmed its commitment to the well-being of older Ontarians with the release of its Action Plan for Seniors. The safety and security of seniors is a key component of the Action Plan. Initiatives aimed at preventing elder abuse include the development of an e-learning resource for police services and community agencies, and the collection of data on the prevalence of elder abuse to inform prevention initiatives.

Improving services

Women who have experienced sexual violence need a strong support system to help them overcome trauma and to heal. Early and effective intervention by professionals can help mitigate the impact of sexual violence, and reduce the risk for longer-term physical, emotional and psychological problems.

The government is providing funding for a wide range of training initiatives to help front-line service providers better respond to and support survivors of sexual violence. We are also enhancing and expanding a number of services for survivors, including those who have been sexually exploited through human trafficking. As well, we are improving access to services for Francophone women, and women whose first language is neither English nor French.

Training for Service Providers

Women who have experienced sexual violence turn to a range of service providers and professionals for help. To stay current with promising practices, practitioners need access to ongoing professional development and training tailored to their fields.

The Ontario Women’s Directorate is providing funding to help train more than 6,000 professionals in the health, education, justice and social service sectors on evidence-based practices for treating and caring for women who have experienced sexual violence. This includes training for professionals who support Francophone women, women from diverse communities, and older women. Some initiatives have already been completed, and others are underway.

  • The Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children developed an evidence-based resource to help professionals better understand the impact of sexual violence, and how to provide effective supports and referrals. Overcoming Barriers and Enhancing Supportive Responses: The Research on Sexual Violence Against Women is available through the Learning Network at: http://www.vawlearningnetwork.ca/.
  • The Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres trained staff from sexual assault centres across Ontario on how to support women with disabilities and women from marginalized communities who have experienced trauma. The organization also developed and delivered training for community-based service providers on sexual violence and on effective supports for survivors.
  • Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes developed a French-language resource and training program to train professionals on how to support Francophone women from diverse communities who have experienced sexual violence.
  • The Ontario Network of Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment Centres supported training for professional counsellors and nurses to help them develop skills for supporting those who have experienced trauma.
  • Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes is training staff from sexual assault centres who support Francophone women on practices related to post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • The Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic is training professionals on how to support women who are at risk of sexual violence from forced marriage.
  • The Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants is providing cultural sensitivity training to settlement workers who support immigrant and refugee women who may have experienced sexual violence as part of war or civil unrest in their countries of origin.
  • The Ontario Network of Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment Centres is training emergency room doctors and nurses on how to use standardized procedures to examine and support those who have been sexually assaulted, and to collect evidence.
  • The Women’s College Hospital is training health care providers on how to support women who have experienced sexual violence, including adolescents and older women.
  • The Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children is training professionals on how best to support women from diverse communities who have experienced sexual violence, given their unique vulnerabilities and barriers to disclosure and reporting.

Enhancing Services

Women who have experienced sexual violence can access a wide range of supports through local community-based sexual assault centres and hospital-based sexual assault treatment centres.

Community-based sexual assault centres provide survivors with counselling, information, referral and other support services. The Ministry of the Attorney General is providing $3 million over four years to 42 sexual assault centres across the province, to help them respond better to the needs of women in their communities.

Ontario’s hospitals are an essential component of a coordinated community response to women who have experienced sexual violence. To help ensure that survivors across the province have access to quality care and support, the Ontario Women’s Directorate funded the Ontario Network of Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment Centres to develop provincial standards for hospital-based Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment Centres. Standards of Care: Ontario Network of Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence Treatment Centres can be found at: http://www.sadvtreatmentcentres.ca/Standards_of_Care___Jan_2012_FINAL.pdf.

In partnership with the Ontario Hospital Association, the Ontario Network of Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment Centres also developed guidelines for emergency departments at acute care hospitals that do not have a specialized treatment centre. Hospital Guidelines for the Treatment of Persons Who Have Been Sexually Assaulted outlines best practices and response protocols for treating and supporting a patient who has experienced sexual assault, including drug-facilitated sexual assault. The resource is available at: http://www.oha.com/CurrentIssues/Issues/Pages/SAGuidelines.aspx.

The Ontario Network of Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment Centres is currently training treatment centre staff and emergency department staff at acute care hospitals on the new standards and guidelines. An online tool is also being created to extend the reach of the training.

As well, information on the services available at hospital-based treatment centres and educational material on drug-facilitated sexual assault are being disseminated to health care professionals and community agencies across the province.

Improving Access to Services for Francophone Women

For women who have experienced sexual violence, the ability to access services in their own language is essential to their recovery. Francophone women often face challenges in finding services in French, and turn to English-speaking service providers for support.

A joint working group has been established by the Ontario Women’s Directorate to facilitate collaboration between government ministries and the Francophone community. The working group includes representatives from Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes, the Ministry of the Attorney General, the Ministry of Community and Social Services, the Office of Francophone Affairs, and the Ontario Women’s Directorate.

The working group provides a forum for participants to exchange knowledge and information on current issues and promising practices, and to collectively explore and identify opportunities to improve the delivery of French-language services for women who have experienced violence.

Expanding Access to Language Interpretation

Many women who have experienced sexual violence face language barriers when coming forward for help. The Ontario Women’s Directorate has provided increased funding to the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration to expand the Language Interpreter Services program to help women access the social, health care, and legal services they need at a time of crisis. The program provides interpreter services in more than 70 languages, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Through this increase in funding, the program is now available at no cost to women who have experienced sexual assault as well as those who have been sexually exploited through human trafficking. The program has also been expanded to include sign language interpretation for women who are Deaf, oral deaf, deafened or hard of hearing.

Ontario previously funded spoken language interpretation only for those who have experienced domestic violence. This expansion means that approximately 7,000 women will get help each year, or 1,000 more than before. As well, training has been provided to program staff throughout Ontario to increase their understanding of sexual violence, including human trafficking.

Combatting Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a crime that knows no borders and exploits the most vulnerable members of our society. During our consultations, we heard that women who have been sexually exploited through human trafficking have very specific needs. Participants also spoke of the need for a more coordinated response to human trafficking. The government has been collaborating across ministries and with other levels of government, police services and community organizations to respond to this complex issue.

The Ministry of the Attorney General has established a Human Trafficking Advisory Committee, made up of representatives from police services, community organizations, survivors and experts on human trafficking, to provide advice on programs and initiatives to combat human trafficking and support survivors.

The Ministry of the Attorney General has also trained front-line staff at the Victim Support Line to respond to calls from trafficked persons and those who support them. The Victim Support Line is a provincewide, toll-free information line that provides callers with referrals to local support services for victims of crime. It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and the service is available in more than 150 languages. The number for accessing the Victim Support Line is 1-888-579-2888 toll-free, or 416-314-2447 in the Toronto area.

The Ministry of the Attorney General and the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services have invested in a wide range of initiatives to combat human trafficking, including prevention initiatives, specialized support services for trafficked persons, and efforts to strengthen enforcement and prosecution.

Prevention

  • The Sexual Assault/Rape Crisis Centre of Peel, the Windsor-Essex Anti-Human Trafficking Action Group, and the Sarnia-Lambton Committee against the Trafficking of Women and Children have developed and distributed a wide range of public education materials in their communities to raise awareness of human trafficking.
  • Police services from Peel Region, York Region and Windsor also developed and distributed public education materials in multiple languages to increase community awareness and support outreach efforts. These posters and flyers help the public recognize signs of human trafficking, and provide information on how to contact police and access support services.
  • Police services from Niagara Region, Halton Region, Windsor and York Region organized events for their community partners to raise awareness and detection of human trafficking. Local events included special presentations and training for schools, community service providers, and business owners and staff in known high-risk locations such as hotels and motels.

Support for Survivors

  • Persons Against the Crime of Trafficking in Humans (PACT-Ottawa) created a website with information and resources on human trafficking to facilitate co-operation among service providers. The website can be found at: www.endhumantrafficking.net.
  • The Sexual Assault/Rape Crisis Centre of Peel, the Windsor-Essex Anti-Human Trafficking Action Group, and the London Anti-Trafficking Coalition developed resources and tools to assist local service providers in supporting trafficked persons. Resources developed by the London Anti-Trafficking Coalition focus on how best to serve multicultural groups and youth.
  • Walk With Me piloted a first response model tailored to meet the needs of trafficked persons, including emergency accommodation, practical resources and emotional support.
  • Community organizations in Ottawa, London, Peel Region, Windsor-Essex and Sarnia-Lambton engaged in outreach to local service providers, in efforts to develop more integrated community responses to human trafficking. Police services from Toronto, Windsor, Hamilton, Niagara Region, and Halton Region also took steps to strengthen their partnerships with local service agencies, in order to improve supports.

Enforcement and Prosecution

  • The Ontario Provincial Police and police services from Toronto, Windsor, Hamilton, York Region and Peel Region launched special operations in their jurisdictions to gather intelligence to help identify individuals and groups involved in human trafficking, as well as patterns in trafficking activities.
  • The Ontario Provincial Police and police services from Windsor, Niagara Region, York Region, and Halton Region delivered education and training for their front-line officers on identifying signs of trafficking. In March 2012, the Ontario Provincial Police convened four training sessions across the province focused on human trafficking. More than 850 of its officers attended these sessions. The Ontario Provincial Police has also incorporated modules on human trafficking into ongoing training programs for front-line officers.
  • Police services from Peel Region, York Region and Hamilton each added shifts to their human trafficking investigations to help rescue trafficked persons and charge alleged offenders. As a result of these special investigations, police have identified more than 119 trafficked persons, made more than 35 arrests and laid more than 227 charges.
  • In 2011, the Ministry of the Attorney General provided two training sessions on human trafficking to justice personnel. One of the sessions was available to all Ontario prosecutors, and the other was aimed at select Crown attorneys and Victim/Witness Assistance Program staff who specialize in cases involving violence against women.
  • Two Crown attorneys were identified to act as human trafficking specialists to provide expertise and advice on human trafficking prosecutions and policy to police, support service agencies and other Crown attorneys. This collaborative approach helps police officers focus their investigation and build stronger cases. The expertise of both specialists is available to Crown attorneys throughout Ontario.

The government has also funded a number of initiatives to respond to the trafficking of Aboriginal women and girls. More information on these initiatives can be found on pages 19 to 20.

Strengthening the criminal justice response

Sexual assault crimes present challenges to the criminal justice system. They often occur in private settings, with no witnesses and little definitive physical evidence. In many cases, sexual assaults are committed by someone the woman knows. At the consultations, we heard that women are often reluctant to report sexual assault to police. Some may fear that they will not be believed. Others may fear that their personal lives will be publicly judged and scrutinized in court.

The Ontario government is taking action to improve the criminal justice system response to sexual violence. A number of initiatives have already been completed or are currently underway:

  • In March 2012, the Ministry of the Attorney General held a two-day training program for approximately 100 Crown attorneys, Victim/Witness Assistance Program staff, police officers, and Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment Centre coordinators. The training sessions helped participants to understand the impact of sexual assault and how to assist survivors. They also provided participants with information on best practices for collecting and presenting evidence, and for conducting investigations and prosecutions of sexual assault.
  • The Ministry of the Attorney General annually provides a week-long intensive course on sexual and domestic violence to Crown attorneys. The course covers the legal, practice and ethical aspects of conducting cases of sexual violence.
  • The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services is currently leading a broad review of police services. The purpose of the review is to determine core and non-core police services, in order to provide for effective, efficient and sustainable police service delivery in Ontario. As part of this initiative, the Ministry is reviewing how police conduct sexual assault investigations. This initiative is ongoing, and the Ministry will be conducting consultations with other ministries and stakeholders at a later time.
  • The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services recently conducted a review of its guideline for victim assistance, in consultation with police and other partners. Amendments were made to better facilitate information-sharing and referrals between police services and community organizations. The amended guideline was shared with the policing community in April 2012.
  • The Ontario Women’s Directorate funded the National Judicial Institute to develop an education program for the Ontario judiciary on the topic of sexual assault. The modules and resources include statistics on sexual assault, and key findings from social science research on sex offenders and survivors of sexual assault. They also highlight emerging trends and issues related to sexual assault trials and sentencing.
  • The Ministry of the Attorney General is revising the Partner Assault Response program standards to include a mandatory component that addresses sexual violence in intimate relationships. The new requirement, which was implemented in 2013/14, will make offenders aware that sexual violence in intimate relationships is abuse and is illegal. The Partner Assault Response Program provides specialized educational services to court-ordered offenders who have assaulted their partners, and support services for survivors.
  • Ontario’s Attorney General and the Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues wrote to the federal Minister of Justice, asking for an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada that would make it an offence to distribute intimate visual recordings of a person without that person’s consent. The Attorney General advanced this issue at the 2012 annual meeting of Federal-Provincial-Territorial Ministers of Justice and Public Safety. Senior officials were directed to identify potential gaps in the Criminal Code on this issue.

Responding to the unique needs of Aboriginal peoples

Aboriginal women experience higher rates of sexual violence than non-Aboriginal women. A number of complex factors contribute to this increased vulnerability, including racism and discrimination, the impact of residential schools and the cycle of intergenerational trauma, and high rates of poverty and unemployment.

An effective response to violence against Aboriginal women requires collaboration between government and Aboriginal organizations. In 2010, a Joint Working Group on Violence Against Aboriginal Women consisting of representatives from ten ministries and five Aboriginal organizations (the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres, the Ontario Native Women’s Association, Independent First Nations, Métis Nation of Ontario, and Chiefs of Ontario) was convened to identify priorities for responding to all forms of violence against Aboriginal women, including sexual violence.

The Joint Working Group is guided by the principles and directions of A Strategic Framework to End Violence Against Aboriginal Women. The Strategic Framework was developed by the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres and the Ontario Native Women’s Association, and presented to provincial ministers in 2007.

Through the Joint Working Group, government ministries have provided funding to Aboriginal communities and organizations to develop and deliver culturally appropriate programs to respond to the needs of Aboriginal women who have experienced or are at risk for violence.

With funding from the Ontario Women’s Directorate, the Aboriginal partners of the Joint Working Group engaged in consultations and developed an Aboriginal Sexual Violence Action Plan based on the Strategic Framework. The action plan outlines priorities for responding to sexual violence in Aboriginal communities. It can be found at: http://www.ofifc.org/pdf/20120202_Aboriginal_sexual_violence_action_plan_final_report.pdf.

The government has supported Aboriginal communities and organizations in undertaking a number of initiatives that respond to the unique needs of Aboriginal women and girls who have experienced or are at risk for sexual violence.

Preventing Sexual Violence

  • With funding from the Ontario Women’s Directorate, Nishnawbe Aski Nation is adapting the provincial Draw the Line / Traçons-les-limites sexual violence public education campaign to reach 133 rural and remote First Nations communities across Ontario. The campaign encourages all members of the community to question common myths about sexual violence, and to play an active role in preventing it from happening. Nishnawbe Aski Nation will translate campaign resources into Indigenous languages, and develop new content to reflect First Nations issues and cultures. The campaign will reach out to men, women and bystanders.

Improving Support Services

  • Métis Nation of Ontario received funding from the Ontario Women’s Directorate to provide training in trauma counselling to front-line service providers who work with First Nations, Métis and Inuit women who have experienced sexual violence. This training will help them in supporting women who have experienced intergenerational and/or personal trauma. In-person training is being provided to staff from Métis Nation of Ontario, the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres, the Ontario Native Women’s Association, Independent First Nations, and Aboriginal Shelters of Ontario. A webinar is also being developed to reach additional front-line staff.
  • The Ontario Women’s Directorate is supporting Aboriginal leaders in their efforts to improve the delivery of community services and supports for Aboriginal women and girls who have experienced sexual violence. The Aboriginal Sexual Violence Community Response Initiative will work with local partners in Sudbury, Hamilton, Thunder Bay and Six Nations of the Grand River (Ohsweken) to evaluate and improve services, including justice-related services and those provided by sexual violence support services agencies. The initiative is being led by the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres, in partnership with Independent First Nations, Métis Nation of Ontario and the Ontario Native Women’s Association, and with support from local service providers.
  • The Ministry of the Attorney General is extending funding (initially provided in 2011) to support the design and delivery of culturally relevant services for survivors of violence. Through the Ending Violence Against Aboriginal Women Fund, Métis Nation of Ontario, the Ontario Native Women’s Association, the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres and Independent First Nations have received funding for projects that will benefit Aboriginal women, children and youth who have experienced violence. A number of Aboriginal-run shelters serving on-reserve populations have also received support through this fund.
  • The Ministry of the Attorney General is also providing funding to establish new, integrated support services in remote Aboriginal communities on the James/Hudson Bay coast and in the “Ring of Fire” area of northwestern Ontario. Aboriginal women and children who have experienced sexual violence are a focus of service delivery. The Ministry partnered with the Mushkegowuk Council on the development of culturally relevant services for coastal communities, and is now working with the Council on service implementation. The Ministry is also engaging with the Matawa First Nations on service development in the northwest.
  • With funding that the Ministry of the Attorney General secured from Department of Justice Canada, the Ontario Native Women’s Association has established culturally relevant support services in northwestern Ontario for the families of missing and murdered Aboriginal women, and for Aboriginal women who have experienced violence. Survivors of sexual violence are a focus of service delivery. Two service locations have been established, in Thunder Bay and Kenora.
  • With support from the Ministry of Community and Social Services, Beendigen Inc., an Aboriginal shelter in Thunder Bay, has partnered with the Ontario Native Women’s Association to pilot a helpline for Aboriginal women in Northern Ontario. The Talk 4 Healing helpline, launched in late 2012, provides culturally appropriate crisis support and referral services to Aboriginal women and other members of Aboriginal communities affected by violence. It also provides telephone counselling to Aboriginal women in remote and isolated communities who have limited access to local services. The helpline is available toll-free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All services are available in English and the three predominant Aboriginal languages spoken in Northern Ontario. The three-year pilot project will be evaluated, and consideration will be given to expand the helpline provincewide. More information about the Talk 4 Healing helpline is available at: http://www.talk4healing.com/.

Human Trafficking

  • With funding from the Ontario Women’s Directorate, the Ontario Native Women’s Association has undertaken research on the sexual exploitation of Aboriginal women through human trafficking. The report, Sex Trafficking of Aboriginal Women and Girls, recounts the experiences of women in Thunder Bay who are survivors of the sex trade, and presents recommendations to guide policy and program development. The Joint Working Group on Violence Against Aboriginal Women has established a committee to review the report and identify steps that can be taken in response.
  • With funding from the Ministry of the Attorney General, the Ontario Native Women’s Association piloted a one-year project in Thunder Bay to provide drop-in services that consisted of culturally relevant outreach, support and health care services for Aboriginal women and girls who have been trafficked into the sex trade.
  • With funding from the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, the Ontario Provincial Police engaged in a joint anti-human trafficking project with Anishinabek, Nishnawbe-Aski and Treaty Three police services to determine the extent of human trafficking in their jurisdictions, and to identify opportunities for intervention and law enforcement.
  • The Ontario Provincial Police has incorporated training on human trafficking into its Native Awareness Course for front-line officers. This provides officers with training that specifically addresses human trafficking as it relates to Aboriginal women and girls.

Conclusion

Through the Sexual Violence Action Plan and the collaborative efforts of ministries, community organizations, service providers, professionals, and provincial organizations working to end violence against women, Ontario has made significant progress in preventing sexual violence and improving supports for survivors.

We have launched innovative and targeted public education campaigns to raise awareness of sexual violence, and encourage bystanders to play an active role in ending it. We have enhanced services for survivors of sexual violence, and we are providing training for professionals in the health, education, justice and social services sectors to ensure that women who have experienced sexual violence receive interventions and supports that are effective and sensitive to their needs.

We have also taken steps to improve the justice system response to sexual violence. As well, we have continued our partnership with Aboriginal organizations and communities to develop culturally appropriate supports that respond to the unique needs of Aboriginal women and girls who have experienced sexual violence.

We are committed to building on the progress we have made. Together with our partners across Ontario, we will continue to work towards the shared vision of a province free from sexual violence.