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SAC Kingston says new Ontario response program will exclude victims of sexual assault

WATCH: The executive director of Sexual Assault Centre Kingston says the provincial government has changed its victim response program as a cost-saving measure.

On Friday morning, Ontario’s Attorney announced changes to the program to support victims of violent crimes.

The executive director of Sexual Assault Centre Kingston says these changes will exclude the majority of sexual assault victims in Ontario.

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On Oct. 1, the Ontario government will be implementing the Victim Quick Response Program+ (VQRP+), a system that builds upon the existing program for victims and their families to ensure quicker access to services and supports.

Brea Hutchison, who heads the local sexual assault centre, says it’s the speed of the new system that will actually be harmful to sexual assault victims.

“This new program requires applicants to have reported to the police and to be within 90 days of a recent assault,” Hutchison wrote in a news release.

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“Approximately 90 per cent of survivors of sexual assault do not report to the police. And of those who do, few report within 90 days.”

Previously, Hutchison says, victim compensation was dealt through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (CICB), which she called “a slow, and complicated process.”

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But the previous system had no time delay and no requirement to report to police.

“This ‘enhanced’ program appears to be a cost-saving measure to ensure even fewer victims of crime are supported,” Hutchison wrote.

Global News reached out to Doug Downey, Ontario’s attorney general, to ask how he felt about Hutchison’s take on the new victim response program, but received no response until Saturday.

A spokesperson for the attorney general said this year, the ministry gave one-time additional funding of $1 million to sexual assault centres across the province, and plan to increase funding to $15.8 million in 2019 and 2020, money meant to directly support victims of sexual assault.

“We are also continuing a comprehensive review of victim services across ministries to ensure services and supports are focused around the priority needs of victims when and where they need them the most,” Jenessa Crognali, Downey’s press secretary said in an email.

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— With files from Greg Davis.