Improvements Made Since The Launch Of The Cornwall Public Inquiry
Over the past two decades, and since the launch of the inquiry in 2005, the government has moved forward with improvements in a number of areas covered by the report. Police and probation and parole staff are better prepared to respond to such incidents, there have been increased resources to better deal with complex criminal cases, victims services have increased, and Ontario's child protection and youth justice systems have undergone transformations that better support the safety of young people. The province continues to work to strengthen the justice system and support victims. The government will review its policies and practices in light of the report's recommendations to determine what further actions can be taken to help the community move forward and to prevent future tragedies.
Policing And Correctional Services
Some of the measures that have been taken include:
- Training improvements for police and correctional staff to help victims of abuse. Ongoing training enhancements will incorporate issues specific to male victims and allegations of historical sexual abuse.
- Improved information management, to help correctional services better track significant incidents involving staff or offenders. Work is ongoing to further improve access to information.
- The development of child abuse and neglect protocols to ensure effective coordination during investigations and to ensure victims receive appropriate support services.
- The introduction of abuse officers in the Ontario Provincial Police service, who have specialized training and experience in dealing with cases of abuse, including sexual abuse. These officers are able to provide expert advice and support to officers who investigate these complex and sensitive cases.
- The development of a Major Case Management system to ensure a single standard system for use by all Ontario police services to help link major cases and promote cooperation among police services.
- A recently updated Statement of Ethical Principles, giving probation and parole officers clear direction regarding conflict of interest and impropriety with respect to their dealings with current and former offenders, will soon be delivered to all correctional services staff.
- A mandatory investigation of correctional services staff, including probation and parole officers, in the event of suspicions or allegations relating to:
- sexual misconduct involving offenders
- fraternization involving offenders
- serious violations of the Statement of Ethical Principles
- A mandatory case review of probation and parole officers' cases if the officer leaves the service or dies under suspicious circumstances. If the review uncovers activity that might indicate abuse or impropriety, more detailed investigations would be initiated.
- Establishing a sex offender registry to help keep individuals safe from sex offenders. Ontario was the first Canadian jurisdiction to establish such a registry and in 2008, made amendments to require more offenders to register and to provide more tools for police to monitor offenders.
Prosecutions and Victim Services
There have been several steps taken, including:
- Requiring that Crown attorneys in each jurisdiction designate a dedicated, experienced, trained, full-time Crown counsel as a local child abuse coordinator.
- Providing on-going, multidisciplinary professional training on topics such as sexual assault, child exploitation and male victimization.
- Developing protocols and strategies for optimal working relationships between Crown attorneys, police, probation officers and children's aid society staff to ensure timely exchange of investigative information and that child victims receive the services they need, when they need them.
- Clarifying the Crown's 'duty to report' in cases of suspected child abuse by specifying that it is the personal obligation of each Crown attorney to report cases where a child is in need of protection.
- Implementing a Major Case Management System that includes broad and flexible criteria for designating a case as a major case.
- Implementing a plan to move major criminal cases through the justice system more effectively. The plan includes:
- appointing "major case advisory crowns" in five regions across Ontario to provide pre-charge advice to police.
- mandatory peer review to ensure that Crown attorneys prosecuting major cases receive full support and advice.
- Creating a clear and efficient recording process for disclosure and disclosure requests, including the development of an electronic tracking system that tracks disclosure from the police to the Crown and then the defence.
- Collaborating with the Ontario Provincial Police, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, and Toronto Police Service on the development of best practices in the use of:
- a standardized electronic Crown brief that will help Crown attorneys get up to speed more quickly on cases
- a new cross-reference brief that will help with clarity and tracking of disclosure in cases involving multiple accused.
- Developing and implementing a new Victim/Witness Assistance Program Major Case Policy that will provide updated guidance to staff serving victims in complex cases.
- Continuing support for Ontario Victim Services Secretariat programs that specifically promote healing of sexual abuse survivors.
- Reducing criminal court delay through the launch of Justice on Target, a provincewide initiative, involving all criminal justice participants that sets a goal of a 30 per cent reduction by 2012 in the average number of appearances and days needed to complete a criminal case in provincial courts.
- Passing the Apology Act that allows people and organizations to apologize without fear of the apology being used against them. Being able to offer a sincere apology without legal consequences can help healing, help resolve disputes, and reduce the number of lengthy, costly lawsuits.
- Creating the Office of the Independent Police Review Director which provides Ontarians with an effective, efficient, fair and transparent police complaints system.
Children and Youth Services
Ontario's child protection and youth justice systems have undergone a number of transformations, including:
- Moved forward with a comprehensive transformation agenda which includes a dedicated youth justice system to help meet the unique needs of youth aged 12-17 in conflict with the law.
- Undertaken a program evaluation of child welfare in Ontario that has resulted in system improvements including:
- new mandatory child protection standards for children's aid societies
- a more flexible intake model
- a court process strategy to reduce court delays and encourage alternatives to court proceedings
- a broader range of placement options to support more effective permanency planning.
- Amended the Child and Family Services Act, 1990, and supporting regulations to support increased permanency provisions for children in care, to establish a new client complaint process for all 53 children's aid societies, and to create a single legislative framework for youth in conflict with the law.
- Signed an information sharing protocol with the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth in January 2009 that ensures information is provided in a timely manner, while protecting the privacy of our most vulnerable kids.
- Passed mandatory reporting legislation, the Keeping Our Kids Safe At School Act, 2009, which addresses reporting gaps and ensures parents are kept informed by requiring school staff to report serious student incidents to the principal and requiring principals to contact the parents of victims.