Coronavirus: Ontario AG announces funds to support victims of crime during pandemic

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WATCH ABOVE: Ontario is wasting no time in the fight against COVID-19, rallying businesses across the province to re-jig their operations in order to make essential medical supplies. The government confirms there will be a surge in the number of cases and deaths, but won’t provide a clear picture of what to expect. Miranda Anthistle reports from Queen’s Park – Apr 1, 2020

Ontario’s Attorney General announced $4 million to support victims of crime and frontline staff who “uphold the administration of justice” during the coronavirus pandemic.

Doug Downey said $2.7 million will go to support services that help victims of domestic violence and other crimes that happen during the COVID-19 outbreak.

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“Staying home is unfortunately not always the safest option in certain households and sadly a recent increase in domestic violence has been reported to front-line victim service organizations,” said Downey.

“This emergency payment will ensure victims of crime, particularly those who are experiencing domestic violence, get the help they need to stay safe and healthy during this crisis.”

The province is under a state of emergency as declared by Premier Doug Ford and residents are encouraged to stay home as much as possible. All businesses deemed non-essential have been forced to close.

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Ontarians are asked to only go out for essential needs, such as grocery shopping.

The $4-million announced will be a “one-time emergency payment” that Downey said will help more than 50 agencies across Ontario, including victim crisis assistance organizations, Indigenous organizations and “those based in rural areas stay operational and accessible.”

READ MORE: Domestic violence rates expected to spike amid social distancing, advocacy group warns

Frontline staff will be able to use the funds to help victims with potential hotel stays, meal vouchers and any transportation needs.

Sheri MacDonald, president of the Ontario Network of Victim Service Provider, said Ontario has seen an increase in domestic violence cases during the pandemic, as “victims are left with fewer and fewer places to turn.

“The Attorney General and his staff understand what we’re facing on the front lines and his cooperation and decisive action make a true difference for our clients.”

Barb General, justice director of Six Nations Indigenous Victim Services, echoed MacDonald’s sentiments.

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“I am excited about this good news for Six Nations and other First Nations who support victim services in their communities. We welcome these additional resources that will benefit Indigenous people as we work together to face this outbreak.”

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As of Thursday morning, Ontario reported 2,793 coronavirus cases and 53 deaths.

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