02/27/2019 17:18 EST | Updated 02/27/2019 17:18 EST

Ontario PCs Slash Funding Boost For Rape Crisis Centres

Minister Caroline Mulroney has faced questions about the funding increase for months.

Attorney General of Ontario Caroline Mulroney sits in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario on Sept. 17 2018.

TORONTO — The Ontario government will give rape crisis centres a one-time funding bump of 6.7 per cent instead of the permanent 33-per-cent increase promised by the previous government.

"Obviously, that's disappointing," Nicole Pietsch, the coordinator of the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres told HuffPost Canada Wednesday.

The Ministry of the Attorney General announced Tuesday that centres would get a one-time injection of $1 million on top of their annual funding of $14.8 million.

"The $1 million is an appreciated gesture, but at the same time, it's significantly less than what had been committed," Pietsch said.

Demand for services swells

She said centres are in a "critical situation" as they try to respond to skyrocketing demand with limited resources.

As the ground shifts on sexual assault through social media movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp, more and more survivors are coming forward for help, Pietsch said. Ontario's centres respond to more than 50,000 crisis calls a year now, compared with 30,000 in 2009.

The 33-per-cent hike promised by the Liberals would have been the first significant funding change in years, Pietsch previously told HuffPost. These centres answer crisis calls, provide counselling and accompany clients who need to make police statements or go to court.

Some centres are so understaffed they have to ask clients to wait as long as 18 months for these services.

The extra $1 million "doesn't have the power to fundamentally shift the issue of increasing wait times," Pietsch said.

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Minister Caroline Mulroney has faced questions for months about whether or not her government would honour the commitment made under former Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne.

The decision took months because the ministry had to understand what rape crisis centres do, Mulroney told HuffPost Wednesday.

"I know the demand is increasing and we want to work with them to be sure the government is supporting them in the best ways," Mulroney said.

NDP MPP Suze Morrison is seen in a Facebook photo. (Photo: Suze Morrison/Facebook)

The Opposition's critic for women's issues said rape crisis centres had "a carrot dangled" in front of them for months only to be offered "a crumb."

"It's outrageous," NDP MPP Suze Morrison told HuffPost.

"They've been stretched thinner and thinner as their wait lists continue to grow for years. They simply cannot keep up with demand anymore."

No funding promised after 2020

Mulroney's Ministry also said it is launching a review of its services with the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services and the Ministry of Health, which funds sexual assault centres in hospitals.

The review will "make sure that our government is supporting these very important needs in the best way possible," Mulroney said.

It's too early to say how long that will take, she said.

The announcement Tuesday promised funding for centres until March 2020, but nothing beyond that.

A senior staff member from Mulroney's ministry told Pietsch the government wants to "reduce duplication of services."

All social service providers get worried when a government starts talking about "finding efficiencies," the way Mulroney's government under Premier Doug Ford has, Pietsch said.

"With a review, there's always going to be winners and losers," she said.

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