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Ontario earmarks $1.8M to improve police response to sexual violence

Last Updated Feb 16, 2017 at 4:43 am EDT

The Ontario Legislative Building is seen on June 29, 2010. BENSON KUA

TORONTO – Ontario is launching programs to combat sexual violence.

It’s putting $1.8-million toward 15 pilot projects aimed at improving police response to sexual assault, including two case review models similar to a so-called “gold standard” approach pioneered in Philadelphia.

But advocates say while the case reviews in Brantford and the northwest region of the Ontario Provincial Police are a good first step, they fall short of the Philadelphia model.

That approach enables front line workers and legal advocates to conduct annual reviews of cases declared unfounded, or cleared because an officer believes no crime occurred.

Since the model was adopted about 17 years ago, the city’s unfounded rates have dropped from 18 per cent to less than 10 per cent.

Carol Tracy, the executive director of the Women’s Law Project in Philadelphia, has been part of the panel that reviews cases since 2001.

She says audits have revealed officers who were interrogating victims rather than interviewing them, or cases where key witnesses were not contacted.

The Ontario government says the projects will provide “a more compassionate, sensitive response when survivors of sexual violence come forward.”