Ontario Celebrates 20th Anniversary Of Victim/Witness Assistance Program

Archived Release

Ontario Celebrates 20th Anniversary Of Victim/Witness Assistance Program

Ministry of the Attorney General

Top-Rated Program Supporting Ontarians For Two Decades TORONTO, Feb. 25 - This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Victim/Witness Assistance Program, which last year alone helped more than 66,000 Ontarians, Attorney General Michael Bryant today announced. "The Victim/Witness Assistance Program is a cornerstone of services provided to victims of violent crime in Ontario," said Bryant. "Celebrating the success of the program on its 20th anniversary gives us an opportunity to raise awareness of how we can develop and deliver supports that help victims the most." The program helps the most vulnerable victims and witnesses of violent crime, including victims of domestic assault, sexual assault, child abuse, and hate crimes. Elderly victims and families of homicide victims also benefit. It is provided free of charge throughout the criminal court process. "I have met many others who share my very high opinion of the services provided by this program, but can speak best from my own experiences," said Wanda Whitebird. "The assistance and encouragement that were offered to me at a very difficult time helped me move forward onto a productive path." In 2006, the program was expanded to all 54 court districts across the province. Program staff work closely with police and Crown attorneys, so that all appropriate information is shared with victims and witnesses. They continually liaise with community agencies to help victims access the additional supports they need. The program's services include: - crisis intervention and addressing safety issues - needs assessment - referrals to community agencies - emotional support - case-specific information such as court dates and bail conditions - court preparation and orientation. Contact Info "I am proud to have had the opportunity to start up this program, which has helped thousands of vulnerable victims and witnesses of crime over the past 20 years," said Susan Lee, the first program director. "It is a great pleasure to see it expanded both in geographic scope and in the supports and services provided to people across Ontario." "This program supports Ontario's reputation as a leader in providing innovative, effective supports and services to victims of crime," said Bryant. "The program has evolved throughout its 20-year history to keep up with the changing needs of victims. We will ensure the evolution continues." The McGuinty government has developed many initiatives supported by the Victim/Witness Assistance Program to help Ontario victims of crime. Other initiatives include: - Hiring 12 new staff to work with the Guns and Gangs Task Force, assisting victims of gun violence - Supporting an Internet child victimization strategy, a provincewide program involving police, Crown attorneys and victim services staff to help keep our kids safe from on-line child pornography and luring - Helping victims as part of the province's Domestic Violence Court program. More than two-thirds of victim/witness program clients are involved in domestic violence cases. By the end of its mandate, the McGuinty government will have invested more in victim services in four years than the previous government did over eight years. Since 2003, the government has invested $252 million in victim services across the province. For a new free brochure about the Victim/Witness Assistance Program and ongoing information about the 20th anniversary celebration, visit the ministry website at www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca. Disponible en français www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca This document is being translated into 14 languages. These translations will be available at www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca shortly. 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 HELP | CONTACT US | PRIVACY | IMPORTANT NOTICES © Queen's Printer for Ontario, 2008-2009 — Last Modified: February 15, 2009 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