ON SEXUAL VIOLENCE
COMITÉ SPÉCIAL DE LA VIOLENCE
ET DU HARCÈLEMENT
À CARACTÈRE SEXUEL
Thursday 21 May 2015 Jeudi 21 mai 2015
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Good morning, everyone. The Select Committee on Sexual Violence and Harassment will now come to order. I’d like to welcome all of the presenters and guests who are here with us today.
Let me very quickly share with you the mandate of this committee. We’re here to listen to the experiences of survivors, front-line workers, advocates and experts on the issue of sexual violence and harassment. You will inform us on how to shift social norms and barriers that are preventing people from coming forward to report abuses. However, I do want to stress that we do not have the power or the authority to investigate individual cases. That is better left to the legal authorities.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): I’d like to call on our first presenters to come forward: Kingston Youth Sexual Violence Prevention Assessment. Please have a seat. Pour yourselves a glass of water, if you’d like. Make yourselves comfortable. You will have up to 20 minutes to address our committee, and after that, it will be followed by questions. So please begin by stating your names and repeating the name of your organization for the record.
Ms. Rebecca Rappeport: Thank you. We want to thank the select committee for coming here today. We’re here to present the findings and recommendations of the Kingston Youth Sexual Violence Prevention Assessment. We’ve brought one draft copy of our report, which is about 50 pages. It will be made available on the Kingston Frontenac Anti-Violence Coordinating Committee’s web page in about a week’s time. As well, we have some handouts that we have passed out—I believe they’ve been passed out—which is just a more direct handout of our recommendations and our presentation of today.
We’re really excited that the government has decided to start to meaningfully address sexual violence in Ontario. The Kingston Frontenac Anti-Violence Coordinating Committee commissioned this project. Bailey and I researched the topic. The report does not necessarily represent the views of KFACC, and all stakeholders volunteered and participated voluntarily.
Ms. Bailey Gerrits: And I’m a Kingston-based doctoral student and Trudeau Scholar studying domestic violence in the news. I volunteer locally—I should say that’s my passion—and I work with the domestic violence shelter, as well as the sexual assault centre. Together, we’ve actually been working, in the past two years, to reignite the White Ribbon Campaign in Kingston and, really, to prevent gender-based violence. This is our passion, and this report is kind of an extension of our passion.
We’re going to tell you a little bit of what we found. We used a community-based research method. This project represents a first phase of researching and implementing effective prevention of youth sexual assault in the greater Kingston area. This project identifies community strengths and service gaps, as well as next steps.
We completed an extensive academic and community-based literature review and three focus groups with 30 individuals, representing 20 youth-serving and gender-based violence agencies in Kingston and area. We did follow-up interviews with 12 additional people, and we also completed an online survey that brought us an additional 30 responses.
We want to be a little direct, and we want you to come away with three key things that we need the government of Ontario to do to better support prevention efforts, both in Kingston and in other communities as well.
First, coordination is largely lacking in Kingston with respect to prevention of sexual violence. We need consistent and substantial funding to a coordinating body to develop the coordinating infrastructure to sustain prevention efforts. The community—that is, Kingston—is well-positioned to begin to sustain and coordinate, and we have identified KFACC as a potential organizing body, as they have already sort of taken a leadership role in this conversation.
Ms. Rebecca Rappeport: The second thing we really want you to take away from this is that we need more sustainable funding for primary and secondary prevention. By “primary” we mean strategies or universal interventions directed at youth or the larger population with the aim of preventing violence from occurring in the first place.
There are primary prevention strategies in place in Kingston, including the implementation of the new curriculum in the fall of 2015. However, our community assessment revealed the need for much broader primary strategies, as this form of prevention is key in shifting the conversation from reactive to proactive or from managing violence to actually ending violence.
By “secondary” we mean strategies or select interventions that target individuals who are at higher risk of being perpetrators or victims of violence, in order to reduce the frequency and severity of violent acts. We noted that key organizations in Kingston have developed potential secondary strategies, such as the St. Lawrence Youth Association, but they need funding for these individualized responses.
Ms. Bailey Gerrits: Third, we favour an ecological model. We explain this model more in-depth in our report, and we really encourage you to go to this report. It’s 50 pages of a lot of research, both community-based as well as academic literature. The key lesson we want to point out here from the ecological model is that prevention needs to be community-based, and it also needs to be well-researched.
Our final recommendation is that the government support community research projects like this one in other communities and continue to support research in the Kingston area. In Kingston, we specifically want to engage in another stage of research that centres the voices of youth and works to foster youth leadership on this topic. As well, we need to research which specific programs can be used by well-positioned organizations to prevent youth sexual violence. Finally—and I really don’t want to lose this point, because this was just a youth sexual violence prevention assessment—prevention also needs to prioritize sexual violence with adults. That’s not just on campuses; that is once you leave institutions. We need further community-based research to begin to tackle this large project.
Ms. Rebecca Rappeport: With the remainder of our time, we want to quickly chat about how we came to these conclusions and recommendations, and afterwards we welcome any questions on any aspect of the project.
Successful prevention efforts should seek to improve knowledge—such as conversations about what sexual violence is, as well as debunking rape myths etc.—and develop positive skills. We recommend doing this through harm- reduction and bystander-education programs. These need to be about two key components which are involved in any successful prevention program: dealing directly with sexual violence and also dealing with healthy relationships.
Ms. Bailey Gerrits: We also want to emphasize that prevention needs to be community-based and cannot rely on a single event or program, but requires combining multiple prevention efforts and interventions at all stages, with as many people as possible.
Stakeholders identified areas and particular youth that need more focused attention. These youth are often left out of the conversation or not adequately considered when we think about prevention. These include youth under the age of 12—many stakeholders identified that sexual violence is happening younger and younger; youth with various types of disabilities—stakeholders were very clear about highlighting intellectual disabilities specifically; boys; gender non-conforming youth; youth who are home-insecure, and by that I mean two things: youth who are either homeless or facing other invisible forms of homelessness like couch-surfing, as well as youth who feel like they can’t go back to their home, even though perhaps it’s still the ideal white picket fence, but they feel, for whatever reason, that it’s an unsafe environment; rural youth; LGBTQ youth; and youth outside the school system. This is quite important, given the implementation of the new curriculum; they’re not going to address youth outside the school system.
(1) Alcohol- and drug-facilitated sexual assault. The Kingston police highlighted that this is a pressing issue in Kingston, and we also noticed that stakeholders really need to know more about what constitutes alcohol- and drug-facilitated sexual assault. This is a really important point that we want to triple underline. If you guys are following along, I would encourage you to triple underline or highlight it, whatever you want to do.
We do not have enough primary prevention, secondary prevention or direct engagement with topics of sexual violence. That means that when we’re talking about prevention, it can be very holistic and looking at healthy relationships or mental health or communication skills, but there’s a lack of directly talking about what constitutes sexual violence.
There’s not enough training for parents and caregivers about what prevention is and how to engage with their youths, how to be involved. That was really noted by stakeholders as one of the things that’s missing.
And we have insufficient engagement from men in the prevention effort, which can be a problem when we’re trying to engage boys specifically in taking responsibility in terms of prevention of sexual violence specifically towards girls or female-identified people.
We also identified several other barriers that we talk about more in the report. Organizations identified that some are working in silos so there’s not a lot of coordination or community oversight, which leads to these gaps in a lot of ways.
There’s difficulties accessing those youth, and once you access those youth, organizations identified the difficulty of ensuring that youth buy into the prevention efforts. Youth workers are not understanding what is sexual violence: There was a lot of confusion about the legal definition, about drug- and alcohol-facilitated sexual assault, which ultimately impacts the way youth buy in as well. You can imagine, if you’re a youth getting a prevention thing, and your facilitator doesn’t understand sexual assault or what your daily reality is, you’re not going to engage the way that you need to.
Prevention is also not in most organizational mandates or in individual worker job descriptions, so it’s going to happen off the side of their desk, even though people are passionate about ending sexual violence.
There’s not enough adequate training for prevention facilitators and youth workers, especially around structural inequality. By that I mean looking at poverty, sexism, racism, colonialism and other sort of big-factor issues that impact people’s experiences of sexual assault—and as well, cultural understandings of sexuality and relationships. By that we don’t mean that sexual violence is cultural or that it is culturally defined, in the sense that certain cultures have sexual violence defined differently. Rather, facilitators require cultural awareness to get the message across, and when they don’t have that cultural awareness, it undermines prevention efforts.
Ms. Rebecca Rappeport: We kept the presentation short and left it open for questions. We really appreciate everyone taking the time to hear us, and we look forward to seeing what the government is going to do to really address this issue. Thank you again for having us, and we’re open for questions.
Mr. Randy Hillier: Thank you very much for being here today and for making the presentation. Just for clarification on a couple of things first: KFACC—you mentioned that acronym. What does KFACC stand for?
Ms. Rebecca Rappeport: The Kingston Frontenac Anti-Violence Coordinating Committee. Someone will be here talking about them later on. All they did was, they put out a call for proposals in terms of a project, and we did a project proposal and were hired on the basis of that project proposal.
Mr. Randy Hillier: Okay. So your report will be online in a week or so. You mentioned a number of focus groups and community-based organizations—if you could give us a little sketch of what groups they might have been. Would the Kingston police be in there, the children’s aid society?
Ms. Bailey Gerrits: The back of the report, actually, lists absolutely every single organization we engaged, which is a lot. It included people from justice, so the Kingston police. It also included anti-violence organizations like the sexual assault centre and Kingston Interval House, which is a domestic violence shelter. It included youth-serving agencies that may not necessarily fall under the branch of prevention, so those who deal with youth with disabilities, those who deal with youth outside the school system, youth diversion as well as those who deal with homeless youth. It was, I would say, quite comprehensive.
Ms. Rebecca Rappeport: Yes, there were a lot of health centres. People were engaging schools. We had vice-principals, people who work within the Limestone school board who deal with human rights, school counsellors.
Mr. Randy Hillier: I don’t have a lot of time, but I’ll get one more question in here if I can. We’ve heard this—and you mentioned it—from a number of people making presentations to this committee, about what constitutes sexual assault and sexual violence and the confusion over the definitions of the various terms. Have you looked at that in any more depth and seen any more appropriate definitions or language or legal language in that regard?
Ms. Bailey Gerrits: We didn’t really engage in that discussion because it was sort of outside the scope of this report, but we do have a definition in the report that I think is a good definition that both allows for the legal definition to fall under that but also really goes beyond it. I’ll be frank: The legal definition doesn’t actually capture everything. It’s probably not perfect, as I imagine most of the report is.
Ms. Rebecca Rappeport: I think a main point there too is when people misunderstand sexual violence, especially with drug- or alcohol-facilitated sexual violence: If someone’s passed out, does that mean you can engage in sexual activity with them? No. So there are misunderstandings with how we understand it, both how a lot of youth misunderstand it—we were hearing time and time again from stakeholders that youth weren’t understanding what consent even meant. Also, people facilitating are also not understanding what sexual violence is, so there’s a hesitancy for them to engage with youth. That’s really what we were stressing, that there needs to be much more training of the trainers. Because there are people willing to engage in this issue; they just don’t have the knowledge or skills to be able to do it.
Following up on your final comment: You flagged the issue of alcohol- and drug-facilitated sexual assault. That actually is not a term that has been used frequently in presentations to this committee. You clarified somewhat in your response to MPP Hillier, about a woman who’s passed out, but can you give us a little bit more detail about this issue of drug- and alcohol-facilitated sexual assault?
Ms. Rebecca Rappeport: If someone can’t give their free and informed consent, meaning, if they’re inebriated—and what really needs to be clear is that when we talk about alcohol- and drug-facilitated assault, we think of someone dropping in a pill. That happens, but what mostly happens is that it’s through alcohol that you readily consume yourself. It’s not someone forcing you to drink; it’s that victims will be consuming alcohol and then they are past the point where they can give their free and enthusiastic consent. That’s what constitutes sexual violence in that area. So there’s a misunderstanding with that aspect. We still think of drug-facilitated sexual assault as the dropping of a pill, which is much, much less likely than the other forms. We really need to talk about how those two are connected.
At the same point, it’s not a victim’s fault by consuming alcohol, and we need to really change that conversation as well. There’s a lot of victim blaming that we do: “If you drank too much, then it’s your fault.” That’s not what we’re saying at all. We need to be able to talk about how people actually give consent and what it means to give consent within drugs and alcohol.
Ms. Sophie Kiwala: Thank you so much to the two of you for being here and for your really comprehensive report and your work in our community. I know that this work is going to extend well beyond what we’re doing here today in this committee and have lasting effects, so please accept my acknowledgment for that. I’m truly appreciative. I’m very much looking forward to reading the report and some of the details that you have uncovered.
One of the things that I would like to talk to you about is how you think we can, as a community, seed generational change. As you’ve noted, many of the organizations that we have here in Kingston do a good job, but we are working in a silo, and the possibility of integrating and collaborating is really important to me and important to our community. So I’m just wondering if there are other ways that you think that we can seed that generational change and prevent behaviour before it happens, whether it’s social media or working with really young kids. If you could elaborate on that just a little bit.
A few that I would highlight—and in some ways we’re remiss for not doing this: engaging youth, to sort of foster that youth leadership at the beginning. Y2K is a great organization that doesn’t actually deal with sexual violence in Kingston, but they’ve identified that they would like to. But facilitators need the training to start having those conversations. I think that would be one way to start fostering youth leadership, and I think that would be quite important, because youth know what they need, they know what’s going to impact them. If we do a social media campaign, we—I’m still young, but I don’t understand their language at this particular point in my life. They know what’s going to impact them, so engaging that youth leadership is quite important.
I also would say focusing on primary prevention is quite key. We don’t need to live with violence. That’s what I’m operating under. If we start living with that we just need to manage violence—i.e., focusing on justice or even secondary prevention—I think we’re doing ourselves a disservice and undervaluing and not giving ourselves the full potential. I think we need to start shifting the conversation of ending sexual violence, not managing it or ensuring that it has less impact. So that means primary prevention strategies are really quite key. They’re not going to change the world overnight, but if we don’t start doing it now, when are we going to start doing it?
Ms. Rebecca Rappeport: Just to speak on that, I think every community has certain strengths and there are certain coalitions that build, so it really needs to be community-based. But if there isn’t funding for someone to actually be coordinating and to provide training for people within organizations so that they can actually incorporate it, it’s not going to happen. So there needs to be funding for either an organization or oversight committee to hire someone to do further research in community, engaging that youth voice, figuring out which programs are good for which youth—because it’s not just one program, right? There’s no golden ticket.
There needs to be funding for that role, I would hope, in every community, who can then provide that coordination, provide that training and start working with people who do engage with youth to be able to incorporate prevention in a lot of different ways. There’s not just one person. The sexual assault centre cannot be the only centre that engages in this. Organizations need to take responsibility, but we need funding to be able to help them do that.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): I will call on our next presenter this morning: the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, Kingston chapter. Good morning. Please have a seat and make yourself comfortable. Pour yourself a glass of water, if you like. You will have up to 20 minutes to address our committee and then they will ask you some questions. Please begin, for the record, by stating your name and your organization. Start any time.
Ms. Denise Wood: Thank you very much, Madam Chair. My name is Denise Wood. I’m a registered nurse in Ontario, having practised for 45 years in many capacities: as an educator, administrator and in acute and emergency care. I have witnessed first-hand the outcomes of patients who have experienced different levels of sexual assault. I have also witnessed sexual harassment in the workplace. Currently, I am the region 9 representative on the board of directors for RNAO and also the treasurer of the Kingston chapter of RNAO. Region 9 includes Kingston and area, Lanark Leeds and Grenville, Champlain and Seaway chapters.
The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario is a professional association representing registered nurses, nurse practitioners and nursing students who practise in all roles and sectors in Ontario. Our mandate is to advocate for healthy public policy and the nursing role in enhancing the health of Ontarians. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve.
I appreciate this opportunity to appear before the Select Committee on Sexual Violence and Harassment as you look for ways to both prevent and improve our response to Ontarians who have experienced sexual violence and harassment. I also look forward to listening to the presentations of the many dedicated professionals from organizations across the region who work so diligently to support victims of sexual violence on a daily basis.
The chapter executive of Kingston has reviewed the April 29 submission from RNAO to this committee and agrees wholeheartedly with the recommendations contained within the document, which include, but are not limited, to the following:
—to provide protected, sustained funding so that hospital-based sexual and domestic violence treatment centres have the staffing and other resources to provide 24/7 care that is excellent, appropriate and timely and consistent with best international practices and standards of care.
RNAO supports investment in a creative engagement fund to provoke discussion of challenging issues, such as rape culture, consent, gender inequality and social norms through funding projects by Ontario artists.
As part of a larger initiative to transform rape culture, particular attention should be given to improve how the media report on sexual assault through such resources as Reporting on Sexual Assault: A Toolkit for Canadian Media.
Although the Occupational Health and Safety Act does include wording prohibiting reprisal by an employer, explicit and strong language to protect whistleblowers concerning incidents or potential incidents of violence and harassment and other threats to the health of the public would strengthen our health care system.
The Ministry of Labour should review the Occupational Health and Safety Act to include safety from emotional or psychological harm rather than merely physical harm, as part of the mandate of the ministry.
As part of strengthening health outcomes, quality of health care services, inter-professional care and addressing power imbalances, RNAO advocates amending the public health act to replace medical advisory committees with inter-professional advisory committees.
As the Kingston chapter of RNAO, our mandate is to offer registered nurses, nurse practitioners and nursing students a variety of educational, in-service workshops. These initiatives are geared to enhancing and improving care to patients and clients.
The Kingston chapter has been recently active. since July 2014. One of our main objectives is to be open and transparent with nurses and other professionals. The chapter would be very interested in collaborating with agencies such as the sexual assault centre, Kingston police and others to develop and deliver education on sexual violence and sexual harassment to our members.
Sexual violence can and does happen to anyone: people of all ages, genders, ethnicity, socio-economic status, sexual orientation and nationality. Some of the most vulnerable in our communities are girls between the ages of six and 18. According to statistics available from Girls Inc. of Limestone, Algonquin and Lakeshore, 6,250 girls in their service area are likely to experience sexual abuse in their lifetime. And 80% of sexual abuse occurs in the home, 69% of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim, and only 10% of sexual assaults are reported to police.
In addition, 43% of teens 15 to 17 years of age say they were asked by someone on the Internet to meet in person, and one in five accepted. Eighty per cent of youth are connected to the Internet; 72% visit chat rooms, and many visit adult chat rooms or private rooms.
Ms. Peggy Sattler: Thank you for coming to present to the committee today. The previous presenter talked about the KFACC body. You mentioned your chapter’s interest in participating in the implementation of public education efforts. Are you already involved with the KFACC—
Ms. Denise Wood: No, actually. I’m sorry to say that I really had not heard of the study. I’m really pleased to have met the girls before and would really like to read their report. She mentioned silos—
Ms. Denise Wood: It’s an organization—actually, it came from the States. They focus on empowering girls and giving them education on all sorts of things, including how to invest their money, physical activity and self-defence. One of the programs is When a Girl Says No—and a program called Be Bold to talk to girls from six to eight about what’s sexually appropriate and what isn’t. They are only funded by donations—and I think in Kingston and Leeds-Grenville, by the United Way. To me, it is such a grassroots place to start to educate girls. I was really impressed, but I didn’t know all they did.
One thing for me that comes through from your presentation is the absolute, imperative need to collaborate. You’ve identified a number of very interesting topics such as the tool kit for sexual assault for media, and certainly the way that media presents cases of sexual assault is extremely important. You also mentioned some of the labour aspects of sexual assault and the Girls Inc. study and statistics that they have uncovered, which are, quite frankly, horrifying.
One of the things that I’m wondering about—if you could elaborate a little bit on it—is some of the physical and mental health impacts of sexual assault and harassment on survivors. As an organization, what is the RNAO doing in an academic setting to deal with that? And what can you suggest for the province that we should be looking at and focusing on with respect to that?
I believe, having worked, as I said, for 45 years—as they say, I’ve been around the block. I worked in emergency for almost 15 years. It sticks in your mind, because we get repeat visitors. There are frequent flyers to emergency rooms. Sometimes we’ve seen families who bring children at the age of five or six in, and we see them over and over again as they become adults. And at this point in time, they’re addicted to drugs because of what has happened to them as children. So I think prevention, as the previous speakers—and arming young people, boys and girls, and young men and young women, with the tools to know when they’re in trouble and when to get help, and where to go for it. Sometimes it takes an organization such as Girls Inc., because they can’t get that support at home.
So we need to make it easier for young people, as far as I’m concerned, to reach out and get the help they need. Sometimes you have to get parental support to get help—and that really defeats the purpose. If you can’t tell your own family what’s going on and you can’t get help from someone else because you need their permission, then we’re in trouble.
I think in terms of the academic—the Legislature, every year, sees RNAO at RNAO day. Most people come for breakfast. We try to influence policy and we try to influence the curriculum in our schools, not only for nurses, but also how our doctors are trained. So I think that we have to continue to do that, and to use our best-practice guidelines, which are several and are listed in the complete written report of RNAO. I would look them up, but we do have guidelines. We have evidence-based, research-based guidelines that can be used in our educational and academic institutions.
Ms. Denise Wood: I would say that it is. I would also say that we had hoped through the years that things would get better. Some stereotypical depiction of nurses still continues. The RNAO in 2009 lobbied several ad agencies about how nurses were depicted as the “naughty nurse,” and there were several commercials that were pulled because of that. I do believe that it’s better, but I still think that nurses—and not just female nurses, but male nurses are also subject to harassment in the workplace and bullying.
I think the key is education and us continuing to lobby. The work that has been done in terms of Bill 108 has helped in terms of people being able to report sexual harassment, so I applaud that initiative.
Ms. Denise Wood: I don’t have the statistics on how many people have come forward, but I would hope that the anonymity of it remains and people aren’t singled out for doing that. But I think we can always look at improving systems such as that.
Mr. Jim McDonell: I have one other question. You talked about seeing frequent flyers. In the current system, is it appropriate that, as you witness some of these things, you’re able to report them or take action to deflect it or stop it at that point? Or is it something where there’s a reservation in getting involved?
Ms. Denise Wood: We have to; under the legislation, any child abuse or potential abuse has to be reported. But once a child becomes an adolescent, it makes it more difficult, because they have their own consent. So it’s more difficult as they become older.
Having worked in emergency, I’ve seen some awful things in terms of sexual abuse. We have to stop victimizing the victims. I don’t want to be graphic, but one of the most horrific scenes is to see a woman having to go through a rape assessment. With staffing issues, it doesn’t always make it possible, but we always have someone there just to hold that person’s hand and support them, because it’s the most horrific thing you could ever imagine.
Ms. Laurie Scott: Thank you. I actually just wanted to enlighten you. Yesterday, when we were in the Kitchener-Waterloo region—there are two hospitals there, and they have a social worker on call who comes in, then they have a separate unit of the two hospitals, St. Mary’s and—
Mr. Matthew Gventer: I just want to say that my credentials on this document—it was given to me by the women at the Prison for Women when I retired, telling me that they appreciated the work we did together.
Much of what I’m about to relate to you is impressionistic based on personal experiences. I’m sure there will be much more valuable information and ideas presented by other people who have facts and figures to back up what they’re saying.
This account is based on 15 years of working at the Prison for Women, plus 10 years before that in male institutions, and also on my years of municipal activism, advocating for affordable housing and for people’s access to services.
Fundamentally, I want to say that the committee should accept that women should not be treated the same as men, with the understanding that the difference should be in favour of women. I want to demonstrate what I mean. There were many incidents at the Prison for Women that have burned in my mind, but this is one of them. There was a woman who was appearing before the parole board appealing for humanitarian release—early release. In the situation I am relating, the woman was from a Latin American country. The care system for her children had broken down, and they were on the street or at risk to end up there. When she left the parole hearing—I can hear and see this now—she screamed and she fell to the ground in a faint. Her friends from the Hispanic cultural group rushed to her assistance, and one said to me that she had been turned down. I’ve been in a number of situations where people received results from parole hearings, but I had never seen anybody have such an extreme outcome. For her, the children were so central to her life that it was beyond her capacity to deal with the consequences.
It is valid to say that most women serving federal penal sentences are guilty of significant crimes. Often substance abuse is linked to the offences. Violence is also often part of the crime; however, it is also observable that women who were committed to the Prison for Women were commonly victims of violence themselves. Many suffered sexual assault and often sexual abuse as children. As with men, poverty was also often part of their life experiences. For many women who committed violent acts against their spouses, it was a last resort after years of abuse.
Some had turned to prostitution, and that should not be surprising for women who were dealing with lack of opportunity, self-doubt or even self-hate, low educational achievement and a history of abuse. This is not meant to speak ill of women who turn to selling sexual favours. It’s not to say that all women who do so suffer these conditions, but that is a reality for many women who are in sexual trades. For many, choices are few.
I’m going to talk about the need for recognition of the differences between men and women. There are much fewer women sentenced to federal sentences than men. There is a much lower level of violence amongst women than men in the community. What is the consequence of that? There are much fewer women in jail, so the sizes of the prisons are smaller, the availability of services and training opportunities are fewer. Could we do anything to ameliorate that? Yes, we could make it easier for women to have temporary absences into the community or work programs in the community where they could receive training. I’ll try and read this because I have to phrase this carefully: Our federal laws are equivalent for men and for women. As the federal regulations become more restrictive, the result is more damaging for women than men.
It’s also my experience that informal interaction during escorted temporary absences provides one of the best opportunities to help people envision a place for themselves in the community. On one such pass, the destination event was delayed. I walked with a woman in a nearby park. We got into a useful discussion about her situation, her children, what she wanted, and her fears about getting back into the community and being able to function. Afterwards, she told me that was a very valuable opportunity. It helped to develop focus; it helped her prepare for release. Those informal opportunities are important and yet that kind of a practice, as the rules stiffened, would have brought severe sanctions against me. That’s an example of how the reduction of discretion can reduce effectiveness.
I should mention that much was done at the Prison for Women that was creative and that should be kept in mind for future services for women. For example, a very common problem amongst women in prison is borderline personality disorder, and the Prison for Women had integrated an effective program for dealing with people with borderline personality disorders. As you know, the problem in prisons for women is the amount of self-injury and self-hate that is expressed. This is very common amongst women suffering from borderline personality disorders. So this is an effective program to reduce the amount of self-injury that occurs. Also, the strong programs that were being developed in recognition of the special needs of aboriginal women were an important adjunct improvement to the lives of women and dealing with the challenges. So I think the healing lodge programs merit attention for application at the provincial level.
I want to talk about harassment for a minute. I think it’s important that harassment programs provide an opportunity for people not only to deal with harassment but to make sure that they don’t suffer retaliation. I want to describe one incident. I was in charge of a work assignment, and a woman arrived in my office, quite upset, because she had leaned over to pick up something and a male staff member had made an inappropriate comment. She asked to be moved. I made sure that she found new employment, and I had her fill out a complaint form. This woman had been involved in an anger-management program. She was walking down a corridor and I was walking behind her—she didn’t know I was behind her—and I heard her say, “Matthew had me fill out a complaint form, and it helped me put in practice the things we were learning in anger management.” I was not totally happy with the outcome in terms of what management did about that situation—I would have liked to have seen stronger action taken—but I do want to report that as far as I know, she received no negative consequence from making that complaint. It was effective for her to become empowered and to apply her skills and to be affirmed.
Another incident that is burned in my mind has to do with sexual violence and our response to it. I want to describe an incident that is relevant. Quite a bit of time has passed since this event. It’s my impression that much progress has been made in providing resources for recognizing the legitimacy of women’s accusations of sexual violence. There are trained staff and facilities at hospitals for victims of sexual assault. There’s pressure on the police to be proactive. Despite the progress, the multitude of aboriginal women who have disappeared suggests much more needs to be done. I have a sense that an underlying issue is the stereotyping that occurs. Seeing some women as members of the underclass leads to the faulty rationalization that they are responsible for their own victimization. At the Prison for Women, an aboriginal woman was released on temporary absence. She violated the conditions by drinking and by going to a drinking establishment. In that circumstance, she was sexually attacked and was brought back to the Prison for Women in a terribly traumatized state. We called the police, and they treated the situation in a very offhanded manner. How many of us can say we never showed error of judgment? She deserved as thorough protection of the law as anyone.
Discussing the Prison for Women without talking about the rash of suicides shortly before it closed would be a flaw. If ever there was a case for women’s special needs to be recognized, it is the suicides at the Prison for Women. Most people would contend that the strip searching investigated by Madam Justice Arbour was more important.
Certainly, the treatment of women by peace officers should be considered by this committee. The existence of women’s emergency response teams would be a step forward. In general, police restraint is a social issue before the public now.
My wife and I were appalled when we saw a very disturbed woman, probably under the influence, arrested in Kingston several years ago. The woman had wrecked some outdoor sales facilities and threatened people. While being arrested, she spit on the arresting officer. As he shoved her into the cruiser, he went out of his way to bang her head on the cruiser door and kick her legs to make her move over.
The series of suicides at the Prison for Women were indicative of the underlying issues of violence women face in society. The women were mainly aboriginal women. They were linked to a combination of substance dependencies, past experiences of violence and the reliving of them, the loss of community supports through the relocation of women far from their homes and maladaptive social relations inside the prison.
This leads me to the latter part of my presentation. It is my opinion that society has much to do to prevent women from ending up in prison. First and foremost is for the preconditions to be reduced: poverty, disorganized family situations, childhood sexual abuse etc.
It is important for women to be able to leave abusive situations. VAW shelters are only a first step. Women often have an ambivalent reality of wanting to leave and desiring to stay. An image is burned in my mind of a woman at the Prison for Women pacing in front of a barrier waiting for her father to arrive from a distant province. I knew that over the years she had faced abandonment. Her father never arrived, and one could almost touch the sense of rejection and betrayal she felt. Relationships are paramount for many women.
However, weighing on the decision to break off from a relationship or not is a socio-economic reality, not the least of these is the availability of accommodation. In Kingston, we have experienced a growing dearth of adequate affordable low-income accommodation. Of course, the failure of the federal government to maintain a meaningful housing program is a major factor in the worsening situation. On the other hand, the province has some responsibility for the deteriorating situation.
For example, the definition of affordability in the provincial policy statement on municipal planning is out of step with the trends of North America. Bottom line: Without getting into the various formulations of the definition, affordability is at the 60th percentile level of household incomes, and 25% of accommodations in new developments must be affordable to households at that income level. In Kingston, that would be over $80,000. The city claims it wants to spread out low-income units so there is no ghettoization. This is not happening in new divisions because of the definition in the official plan.
The new North American model is inclusionary zoning: working with developers to incentivize a range of housing options serving the whole population. It is also important to finance non-profit and co-operative housing organizations to build long-term affordable units. We need to increase the vacancy rate in Kingston above the 1.3 vacancy rate for the market forces to kick in. The availability of affordable housing options is a major component in helping women see a way out of hostile family situations or situations at risk.
The basic income proposal also would provide a needed brick in the steps to independence for women and children living at risk. Women need financial security to make the break. I don’t think much more needs to be said about that. It is self-evident. There are many people who have studied this option and are advocating for it who would be better able to demonstrate its advantages.
Good universal daycare would contribute to enabling women to leave unsatisfactory living situations. In my opinion, full-time kindergarten was an important step in that direction. There are many other such programmatic changes that could be mentioned, but the point is clear: Women need breathing space to make the break. Making the break would break the cycle of violence for many people.
There are other factors than economic that contribute to the cycle of violence. Sexualized images of women in advertising and video games is an example. Certainly, women often take pleasure in their femininity, which is not something to criticize. However, we have images in advertising and video games showing the juxtaposition of sexualized women and beer consumption and partying and speeding automobiles, creating the connection between power and sexuality. Where this gets most detrimental is in the implication of male dominance.
It is not that progress has been totally stifled. I fear that the bifurcated direction of the culture is addressing two divergent cohorts. The men who savour their historical advantaged position may be drawn to the more traditional stereotypical portrayal of the ideal woman as housebound, subservient and catering to men, and overly sexualized.
Finally, I wish to emphasize the other bidirectional changes in women’s experiences. Certainly, many women are increasingly empowered. More women than men are achieving academically. Some women are beginning to move into managerial and boardroom positions. On the other hand, many women continue to be exploited. They often predominate in low-paying service jobs. A woman trying to manage on a lower income has the challenge of both caring for family and working worsened by her poverty. The difficulty in organizing for collective bargaining in these lower-end jobs disadvantages women especially. And we still have the lower-income households over-represented by single-income families. These are issues this committee should address because they create a condition for women breaking out of the cycle and not being exposed to the risk of violence.
In the long run, economic equality and political empowerment and a fair opportunity structure will give women the means to protect themselves from violence and harassment. My experience, having been led by women managers, is that they are able to change the world.
Ms. Sophie Kiwala: Thank you very much for being here today. You started your testimony by saying that you are an ordinary citizen, and I would have to disagree with you there; you’re anything but. You’ve been a marvelous advocate for women’s rights for many, many years, so I thank you for that.
I’m wondering if you could give between one and three suggestions to the province on where you feel money would be best allocated to help women in terms of self-injury and self-harm and hatred towards themselves. What should we be doing there? As you know, funds are limited, and I know you know that because of the programs that you developed at Prison for Women. In one case in particular that I know of, you developed a program without any funding at all. So I know that you’re good at out-of-the-box thinking, and I’d really appreciate any suggestions that you have in that regard.
Mr. Matthew Gventer: Yes. I think it is important to prioritize, and I think there are key steps that can be taken. For me, right now, in my current life activities, trying to break the cycle of poverty is the most important step, but it’s a large-budget item.
I mentioned inclusionary housing, and I went off the topic a bit. Inclusionary zoning does not take much money; it takes an expectation of working together, of involving the private sector and the public sector working together to address problems. Instead of money, I think we have to think about common effort.
Mr. Randy Hillier: Thank you, Matthew, for your presentation. I’d like to focus in on your time at Prison for Women. You said that you were head of the social department and involved in work and school assignments and training.
Mr. Randy Hillier: You mentioned in your presentation about helping women gain vision and improve a positive identity. We know, from what we’ve heard—a big component here is the power imbalance and how a lack of positive identity plays into that.
We’ve also heard from many groups about the lack of coordination between various groups. I’m just wondering, in your experience and in your time with the federal institution, was there a sharing of your insights and your programs with other provincial institutions or with other local community groups, like KFACC or any of the multitude of groups that we have—in your own objective evaluation—on how effective your training in social programs was with others?
Mr. Matthew Gventer: I was working within the prison. I was a middle-level manager within the prison. My focus was within the prison. I worked quite extensively with the volunteer sector in the city to bring resources into the prison. I had a sense of a lack of continuity once people were released. That was a major problem: that people left prison, generally, with inadequate resources. There were other people working more extensively—
Mr. Matthew Gventer: They had begun to develop a measuring methodology, and, as I was going to say—and I accept your intervention—there were other people more involved with coordinating with the community. And of course, people who were released from prison were followed by parole officers who worked in the community to create the continuity. So I wouldn’t want to say there wasn’t—but certainly there was the problem of lack of resources for people being released.
Mr. Randy Hillier: Would you say that there would be a greater benefit if there was a greater sharing of the experiences in those programs with other—we often hear from groups involved about programs, but we don’t actually understand what the program entails, the nuts and bolts of it.
Mr. Matthew Gventer: Not only was that a problem outside, but it was a problem inside, in that we taught people effective communication skills, problem-solving skills and various anger-management skills, and we tried to get them to use certain methods to deal with situations—but to the extent that the prison situation was stratified and a caste system, to the extent that people were not necessarily encouraged by the correctional staff to use those skills, there was lack of continuity inside. That, obviously, might be more of a problem outside—that the reinforcement of the skills would be difficult. On the other hand, it’s a much more natural environment outside. They could practise the skills outside.
One of the things that we’ve heard about at this committee over and over again is the long-term impact of violence on a woman and her ability to heal. You mentioned that a lot of the women who were in Prison for Women were survivors of sexual assault or had experienced childhood sexual abuse. In your opinion, were there specialized services in place to help women heal from these very profound traumas that they had experienced with sexual violence?
Mr. Matthew Gventer: That is a difficult question to answer, because Prison for Women went through two or three cycles of trying to address that. At one point, there was a large number of psychological staff—three or four, plus case managers—working on that issue.
It gets into the question of whether there was reinforcement of self-indulgence or—I have to be careful how I put this; I’m talking off the top of my head here—pressure. It led to a move to more of a social skills development model, helping people overcome the consequences by having more capacity to think positively, to problem-solve, to plan for employment, to do life planning and so on.
There were different points of view, so for me to say to what extent there were available services is difficult. The need was great, the suffering was great and it was not always effective in either case.
Mr. Han Dong: Thank you, Chair. Matthew, I have a quick question. Something caught my attention when you mentioned the effects of media and advertising. As you know, this committee is looking for some root causes of sexual violence. In your mind, what would you like to see changed? Whether it’s government regulation, whether it’s an educational campaign on the media and advertising—that aspect of it.
Mr. Matthew Gventer: I am not doing very well here. I laboured over that question in my preparation, trying to think of what the answer is. It is difficult, because we want freedom of the press, freedom of media and communication. Governments have limited power to intervene.
I think that the advertising is very destructive. How do you create a normative condition in the advertising community with the recognition that profit-making for the sake of profit is destructive? That is a difficult question.
I talked about sanctions. Sanctions can be positive or negative. One can use rewards, one can use encouragement, one can use education. One can encourage public campaigns to not purchase from companies that engage in such actions, but I don’t know how effective that would be.
Mr. Han Dong: With the introduction of the digital world and the new media, do you think the government should expand its scope in reviewing—I won’t go as far as rating, but reviewing—the essence of these, or expanding its regulation to cover those areas as well?
Mr. Matthew Gventer: That’s an interesting idea. I think publicizing and recognizing the content and making people aware would be helpful. I don’t know whether those people who would be most attracted to that kind of advertising, to the violence, would take umbrage with it, but certainly one has to try. I didn’t have an answer.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you very much. We thank you so much for coming here, presenting to this committee this morning and sharing your information. We invite you to join the audience now if you wish to.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): I would like to now call on our next presenters, from the Kingston Police. Please come forward. Make yourselves comfortable. If you’d like, pour yourselves a glass of water.
You’re going to have up to 20 minutes to address our committee this morning, and that will be followed by questions from our committee members. For the record, please start by stating your names, and begin any time.
Just a brief overview of what we are part of: I’m proud of our collaborative effort that we have within our community in these areas. The Kingston Police has representation on KFACC, as you’ve heard, which is a group of about 25 organizations committed to eliminating violence by raising awareness of issues relating to domestic and sexual violence. Again, these agencies provide services for victims of partner abuse or sexual violence, their children, their family members, and agencies that work with perpetrators
Through KFACC we have developed the partner abuse protocol for the city of Kingston and Frontenac county and the sexual assault protocol for the city of Kingston and Frontenac county. We also have a child abuse protocol for Kingston and Frontenac which details a response to investigations, justice and community services for the city of Kingston and Frontenac county. It involves about 17 community partners.
In addition, the Kingston Police are partners in the threat assessment protocols with our school boards for dealing with high-risk behaviours. It’s hoped that these early intervention measures by school boards and community team members will prevent violence in our schools. The strength of the school board/community partnership lies in the multidisciplinary composition of the response team, that being the boards of education, municipalities, police, EMS, family and children’s services, health care and other agencies.
Kingston Police have a partnership with the Youth Diversion Program as well, which provides timely and effective alternatives to the judicial process for youth. As an alternative to formally charging a youth, the Youth Diversion Program addresses the Kingston Police requirements to consider community options to the formal court process.
We have a LEAD team protocol, which stands for leadership, education, advocacy and diversion. This is a community-based partnership between our mental health and addictions services, Kingston Police, OPP and our hospitals to work with our most vulnerable persons who are in acute mental health distress.
The Kingston Police also receive funding from the government for a bail safety officer, who works with a member of the Victim/Witness Assistance Program and crown attorney’s office to determine risk to victims, to ensure bail brief completeness and to offer early support to victims of domestic violence.
The Kingston Police also dedicate specialized investigators to investigate sexual assaults, an Internet child exploitation unit—which is a provincial strategy—and dedicated resources to proactively investigate human trafficking.
—to seek innovative ways to assist vulnerable victims to testify to reduce re-victimization of the court process; for example, a trauma dog, which Detective Jefferies will likely explain, probably in a question later, because she is the one proposing that initiative;
—specific sensitivity training for judges, crowns and defence who deal with victims with an emphasis on professional courtroom decorum; victims’ needs should outweigh those of the judiciary, and there needs to be a top-down authority to the judiciary to monitor this;
—the emphasis must be on minimizing the number of times the victim must tell their story throughout the court process; the discovery hearing is an example of this: Does this have an overall negative impact on the victim having to speak in front of their abuser in a process that will likely shorten court time but force them to retell their story in front of their abuser;
—ensure there are enough funded and trained victim advocates to bolster the strained resources of the Victim/Witness Assistance Program, who are now partnering with sexual assault centre staff to try to maintain their advocacy; and
—ensure there is funding available for victims who require independent legal representation for disclosure of third-party records in the court process; this requires the victim to obtain legal counsel if legal aid is denied.
Ms. Melanie Jefferies: Another area that we had concern: There is a lack of services, a gap, in adolescent sexual offending. This would include offenders between the ages of 12 and 17. We’ve experienced cases with high schools. One case I had in particular was a 15-year-old who had acted inappropriately toward other girls in his class, including touching the inside of one girl’s thigh, grabbing something from inside a girl’s shirt. Once those girls came forward, other girls came forward about his sexual behaviour towards them and inappropriate sexual remarks. The school acted appropriately in a suspension, but the families didn’t feel comfortable going through the criminal process and didn’t want to proceed with criminal charges. So this leaves us in a bit of a position.
As the deputy said, we can refer to Youth Diversion or Pathways, but for a long time they didn’t take sexual assault referrals. They’ve changed that recently, but what we would propose is that there be a specific program for youth who are adolescent sex offenders, a program specific to them, just like in our partner abuse program, that we have a specific program they can be referred to so that during a referral process or during mandatory sentencing, they take part in one of these programs.
The Halton Trauma Centre is proposing a regional protocol for responding to adolescent sex offending. I think we pretty much do that here, short of just this referral that we’re trying to get going with a specific program for sex offenders. In their stats, in the Halton proposal, they say that 50% of adults who have committed sexual offences reported that they experienced deviant sexual interests prior to the age of 18. In Canada, 20% of those charged with sexual offences are between the ages of 12 and 17 years, so if we catch these adolescents younger, hopefully we can prevent them from becoming adult offenders.
Mr. Frank Howard: Educating workplaces on sexual violence and harassment to ensure safe working environments: This is more to target small workplaces where it would be unpopular for a victim to report an incident of workplace harassment or sexual assault, and to follow up with protection for the victim. Big companies have many avenues to report this behaviour, and there is the possibility of being moved for the protection of the victim, where small businesses—there is nowhere for them to go.
Ms. Melanie Jefferies: Another area we discussed in preventing sexual violence is age-appropriate education in schools. I noticed when I was sitting in the audience, the lady representing the nurses was talking about early education as well. We’re talking about early education in regard to what a healthy relationship looks like and what consent looks like. We’ve had a lot of discussions about peer pressure in regard to not taking drugs or not using alcohol. We need that same sort of campaign in regard to consent, what consent is, and not being pressured into sexual activity.
We’ve seen a lot lately in our unit with young adults, even, and adolescents coming forward, where they’ve engaged in some kind of sexual activity and not realized that if they started by kissing, they can say no when it moves on to some other activity; or if they send a text that they will engage in sexual activity, that they can withdraw their consent. I think we need to stress to them that consent is only consent until they remove it and to stand up for themselves. I think more confidence—like the nurse was mentioning, Girls Inc., and just self-esteem for adolescents to say no and to know they can say no.
We also propose that our sexual assault unit, for first-year university—that seems to be an issue, their first time away from home, combined with alcohol. We do presentations in regard to healthy relationships, consent, and the definitions of sexual assault and sexual harassment.
We’ve also discussed, instead of individual protocols for universities, one regional protocol, so that it’s consistent in serving victims, and a checklist of the options that are available so that if that victim decides to proceed criminally, she can, and all those options are still available; or she doesn’t have to, and she still has the services available to her—so just one regional protocol for all universities and colleges.
—establishing and maintaining positive relationships with our diverse community and becoming familiar with our community resources that are already available; for example, language barriers and counselling resources that may make it easier to report;
—ensure that police agencies have community protocols that include access to updated community resource lists for victim referrals; for example, establishing an updated list of essential services that all officers have access to in case a victim has a certain need. In the past, officers would construct their own list of important contacts and other officers would not be able to access them. We are proposing that the Kingston Police maintain a list that all road officers and detectives have access to.
Ms. Melanie Jefferies: The last thing we wanted to touch on is the sexual assault and domestic violence unit at the hospital. It’s been operating here at KGH for 11 years and it was one of the pilot sites. It’s been an amazing service for victims and for sensitivity to those victims when they’re brought into the hospital. When I first started patrol, they didn’t have that unit. You would take a lady into the hospital and it was traumatic for her to sit in emergency. Then they tried to scramble to find a doctor who knew how to do the kit, and they would do the entire kit. So it was just re-traumatization for the victim. Since this program, it’s much better. They’re whisked off up to a private room. It’s a nurse who’s trained. They only do the parts of the kit that are applicable to the assault.
Recently, we’ve had Donna Joyce, who is a manager of that program, retire. There’s been some division of her duties to people who have other responsibilities. There’s a concern that it’s not going to be a focus on that unit.
Also, social services in respect to that unit have been reduced slightly in the hours per week that they provide them. We’re just concerned that the funding continues, and if not, it is increased to that unit, because it’s a very invaluable service to women who have been sexually abused or through domestic violence.
Mr. Randy Hillier: Thank you very much for being here today. We’ve heard this from a number of people about past recommendations or from various police forces about dedicated crowns and crowns with greater training in sensitivity. I’m just wondering how long that recommendation or request has been out there for, and what sort of response are you hearing from the Attorney General’s office at all—or if there’s been any response from the Attorney General to that idea.
Ms. Antje McNeely: I’ll try to answer that question. It’s been around for a while of course. When it becomes provincially mandated, like with domestic violence, that’s when you kind of see things happening. We have that Domestic Violence Court; you have the dedicated crowns and so forth. I know within our own local community we work very well with our crown’s office and our V/WAP to ensure that sexual assault victims are looked after. It would appear that each municipality would be working the best way that they can in these kinds of areas.
Provincially mandated is sometimes helpful for us when we’re working for the justice system, so it has been there for a long time. I guess what I can draw on is the experience we’ve had with domestic violence and the mandating there, and how that made things happen. It made things change.
Mr. Randy Hillier: There are two other things. When we were up in Sudbury, we heard of a number of unique programs that the Sudbury police had implemented. I’m wondering what sort of sharing of knowledge from other police departments there is in this regard, for the different programs, and the effectiveness of these programs.
Also, you mentioned about innovative ways to assist and help people to testify. If you could share maybe with this committee what some of these innovative ways are, and also what sort of mechanism is there to share the effectiveness of those innovations with other police departments as well.
Ms. Melanie Jefferies: Recently, I presented an initiative to senior management in regard to a trauma dog. I don’t know if anybody’s familiar with Hawk the trauma dog at Calgary Police Service. He was the first dog in Canada that was used under the support person provision under the Canada Evidence Act to be used in court, to support a young girl who was sexually abused by her father. He was used to support her in court. There is also another dog, Caber, in Delta, BC, who’s with the victim services unit, and has done the same kind of work. This is becoming quite a trend here in Canada. It’s out west. We’re going to be one of the first in Ontario.
Senior management was very receptive to the idea of enhancing the support we provide to victims already by incorporating a trauma dog. So we should be able to get that dog by, hopefully, September or October. They go through two years of full training right from the time they’re born to ensure their temperament and that they’re very docile and that they don’t take on the stresses. So they’re there strictly for emotional support and comfort. It has been shown that dogs reduce your blood pressure and increase your oxytocin, which is your feel-good hormone. So it makes it better in court or in giving testimony, or even giving their statement. We get a more credible—and a better understanding of the neurobiology of trauma and of what somebody is going through. They go back to that traumatic state; this relaxes them and allows them to give us a better statement of what’s occurred.
Mr. Randy Hillier: And that last one about the sharing of these different programs like with the Sudbury police—are you guys aware of all these different programs? What sorts of mechanisms do you use to share that knowledge and implement it?
Ms. Antje McNeely: I would say that the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police has a number of mechanisms to share. I know the crime prevention committee has initiatives that they share within the organization as best practices, those kinds of things. Of course, there are opportunities with the CACP, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, as well as with the IACP, the International Association of Chiefs of Police. So there are those mechanisms where we can talk to each other and share innovative ideas on how we are doing things. Those are very valuable for us.
Mr. Frank Howard: I would just add that on our level, going to conferences and courses at the Ontario Police College—this is where we hear a lot of these initiatives, while they’re in the planning stages. It’ll just be conversations. That’s why those seminars are so important: Someone will bring the idea up, and the next thing you know, all police forces will be trying to establish the same program.
Ms. Peggy Sattler: Thank you so much for coming and for bringing those very specific recommendations. One of the things that caught my attention was around a specific diversion program for youth as sexual offenders. You mentioned that it could be similar to the PAR program, which is court-ordered. So in cases where there is no interest in pursuing criminal charges but you have reports of a youth sexual offender, how would you get that youth offender into the program if there is no criminal proceeding to validate the offence?
Ms. Melanie Jefferies: In the case that I had, the family didn’t want the court process but they were agreeable to a referral process. So as long as they’re agreeable to enter into the referral, then we could use a specific program for them, the same as a PAR program, or mandatory sentencing.
Ms. Melanie Jefferies: Yes. They have a whole protocol established, from basically the beginning of the process right through to the end of how we’re going to treat young offenders, how to reintegrate them into their homes, if it’s sibling-on-sibling sexual assaults.
I don’t know how far they’ve come with it yet. It’s just something that’s been taught at police colleges, and ideas on, like you said, how we communicate ideas and share them. This is one way, and Halton has proposed this regional protocol. So I’m not sure, at this point, how far they’ve taken it, but they have a whole protocol put together with statistics and everything, supporting their idea.
Ms. Peggy Sattler: Okay, great. The other question I had is, many of your recommendations that you brought today—not many, but some of them were things that you can do yourself and that you’re already doing. But for the purposes of this committee, as we’re looking at moving forward with provincial-level recommendations, are there one or two things that you would highlight as being high priorities for the province to take action on in terms of mandating specific directions or legislative change?
Mr. Frank Howard: I guess I would say the things that we talk about—the justice system and things that we have no control over but that we see maybe negatively affecting a victim. That’s really what our recommendations on the justice system are about, just things where maybe there are some shortcomings. We talked about the specific sex assault court with specific training for the judges, the crowns and everyone working in that courtroom. We’ve done it in other areas where it has been very successful, where these people become the experts in the field, and if you’re not doing it every day, then you’re not—sorry, I’m just kind of losing my thought here. I think it was that and—what else did you have?
Ms. Eleanor McMahon: I’m happy to help facilitate that conversation because I work closely with the Halton police and I’m aware of the program. Actually, our chief is from Kingston, so he spent a good part of his career at the Kingston PD, so it’s a nice sharing.
It’s so good to see you, and thank you, on behalf of all of us, for the life-saving and life-changing work that you do every day. I’m part of a police family, as you know, so I have a special affection and respect for you, as we all do.
To build on some of the earlier questions, in particular part of what MPP Hillier was saying, I know that there’s a sharing of best practices that happens within the OACP and that you have conferences and that you share. But one of the things that really stood out for me in your remarks was the Smart Serve training. One of our earlier presenters, Kingston Youth Sexual Violence Prevention—I believe they’re still here—talked about the issue of alcohol- and drug-facilitated sexual assault. They underscore the fact that you see that as a tremendous and burgeoning area of concern.
Can you talk to us a little bit about that Smart Serve training and how we can perhaps ameliorate it, change it or enhance it to make it more effective and to add that component? That’s the first that I’ve heard of that kind of suggestion in our journey across the province, and it’s interesting.
Mr. Frank Howard: Well, it was our suggestion, because we thought, “How else do we get the message to those people?” And we thought that if it was part of that training—not only to protect themselves, but to recognize it in patrons of a bar as well. Where are these things happening? Where do they start? They often start in bars where there are a lot of young people consuming alcohol. That’s the only reason why we connected it to Smart Serve. We thought there’s something already there. They’re receiving training and maybe they could receive training about this topic as well.
The other piece that I just wanted to touch on with you is that there seems to be an emerging school of thought, as we travel across the province, that the path to healing for a lot of survivors and victims of sexual assault and violence does not necessarily include the formal court process, but yet requires support. But for those people who do decide to report and go through the process, I was really pleased to hear your comments about sensitivity training for officers. Does your block training include that component now? And if it doesn’t, should we be thinking about a province-wide training tool for officers that gets supplied through block training? Any thoughts on that?
Ms. Antje McNeely: I think it’s a good idea. Our block training—not only is it use of force that we do, but we also invite speakers to come in, and there are recommendations throughout our organization that say where we need some additional training. We use our community resources, our community partners to assist us and to do that training as well. I think that’s a really important thing. Even ensuring that when we hire new recruits and even officers who are experienced who want to work for the Kingston police—it’s important that we get them out there to our community agencies and introduce them face to face and say, “This is who they are; this is the face to the name.” We’re certainly doing that with our partners, and we just have to be mindful to continue doing that. Because not only do our partners enjoy meeting our officers, but it gives them a personal way to tell them what they’re doing and what they’re capable of doing, and it builds that trust. It’s good to say you have protocols, but if you aren’t actually out there physically working on that and meeting people—again, as part of block training, having your community partners coming in is very important.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you very much. We’re very grateful for your submission this morning to this committee. Our only regret is that you don’t already have your trauma dog. You could have brought it in for a visit. Next time.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): I will call on our next presenter this morning: Jennifer O’Neil. Hi, Jennifer. Just come forward. Have a seat anywhere you like. If you’d like some water, please help yourself. There you go.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): You’ve got up to 20 minutes to speak to our committee this morning and that will be followed by questions for you, if you’re willing to take some questions. For the record, please start by stating your name and begin anytime.
Ms. Jennifer O’Neil: Hi. I’m Jennifer O’Neil. It’s nice to see all of you here. I’m going to do my best with this. Presenting today is really, really challenging. I live with complex PTSD and I’m talking about some of the most triggering stuff possible, so do bear with me.
I’m here today to share some of my experiences with sexual violence and our criminal justice system. All instances of sexual violence are unique, and I don’t think that my voice is any more or any less valuable than any other survivors. I really wish I saw more of us here.
With that being said, my experience has been unique in a way that could be useful. I’ve survived our criminal justice system as a victim/witness in a sexual assault and the accused was found guilty; I’ve heard that’s a 3-in-1,000 chance.
I don’t wish to make this solely about a heart-wrenching narrative of abuse. I could do that, but I think that we all know how horrible this stuff is. If you’d like to hear my victim impact statement, I’ve posted it publicly to YouTube and I will be forwarding it to MPP Kiwala. However, to give you a sense of familiarity with me as a human being so that my words might matter a teensy bit more, I’m passing around some photos of myself as a child, just to keep in mind that I’m a human being with a history, who had a life before this happened.
Two and a half years ago, I was living in Toronto, working as a fashion model and a cook. I was really starting to make it in modelling. I had landed myself in a high-profile kitchen. I was pumped to see where those took me. I was enrolled in social work at Ryerson University, which I loved more than both of my jobs combined. All I wanted to do was get my degree together and find a job that could help me help others. That’s really what I wanted. I had a gaggle of wonderful friends. I was unafraid. I was joyous.
Everything changed when I attended my staff party, a large staff party in a club atmosphere—not my usual scene, but I thought, “Hey, I usually work, so why not go?” I left my drink unattended for two minutes—stupid me—but nobody deserves what came next. From what I believe, I was drugged and I was then abducted, forcibly confined and violently sexually and physically abused by a complete stranger. To put it briefly, I was the recipient of an unwanted sedative placed in my drink without me knowing. This is what I believe.
I woke up in a stranger’s car with a stranger, taken to an unknown location, manipulated, violently abused, threatened, taunted, humiliated and more. I was eventually released due to an effective coercion by the police in my community. My friends were aware that I was missing. If I didn’t have a caring community I would not be here today.
I recall watching the Toronto skyline from the apartment I was confined in and I recall wondering if my loved ones knew that I loved them. I recall wondering if I had truly lived out anything resembling a destiny. And I recall realizing that I hated fashion modelling. I recall realizing that if I could just get out of there alive, I’d have to do something about rape culture, because this was insane.
As I found myself alive the next day, figuring out what to do next was a challenge. It’s taken years. When your life gets blown up, it lacks a literal bomb going off. There’s no messenger that shows up with an envelope telling you that everything is different now. You’ve just got to figure it out yourself. I knew I felt different. I knew something was different; I just didn’t know what yet.
So why did I report? Why? We often ask why women don’t report. Maybe asking why they do could narrow in on the necessary conditions for when to participate in our justice system, because there are so few of us who do. I know there are a series of reasons why I decided to report, and I’d like to share those with you.
Number one, I reported because it was horrible. We’re all aware that criminal court is the pits, particularly for victim/witnesses, so after being sexually abused, if continuing on with life is an option, most people would opt for it, as the system offers little in terms of tangible protection or comfort. Pursuing criminal court is a theoretical act that lacks efficacy in keeping the victim safe, as restraining orders are potentially less than effective. But what I needed to know was that, at the very least, my country could recognize that what happened to me was a crime and that they were trying to do something. Why would I vote, otherwise? These were my most important interests. I reported because I care about sovereignty and government legitimacy.
I also reported because I’m a survivor of childhood sexual assault. When I was 11 years old I was ongoingly sexually violated by my best friend’s older brother. It continued at school, and when I entered junior high—and that’s something we need to think about, in terms of high schools and middle schools: We have no relationship between high school kids and kids in middle schools, and no protection for kids in middle schools.
I was in grade 7. I recall wetting my pants in class simply to avoid having to walk to the washroom, where he usually lurked, waiting to abuse me and whoever else he did this to. He was eventually sued in a class action lawsuit that I was not included in. I was afraid. I had nowhere to turn. Children do not have the same kind of power that adults do, and they are victim to sexual violence just as much as we are.
I reported because I have family support. My parents know of my history of abuse. They know how devastating sexual abuse is. They supported me in whatever I chose, and always made sure that keeping me alive was their priority. I knew I had that backing. I knew that there were people there to keep me from going off the edge.
I reported because I have a supportive and progressive community who understand the complexity and relevance of sexual violence. Without their support, I would not have had the courage to report. Without their support, I would not have had the courage to follow through with a trial.
I have top-end, privately funded healing resources, due to a community member offering me funds for my healing needs. I could never afford this on my own. I have spent most of my university money on therapists. I otherwise would not be able to afford any of this.
Some of our publicly funded resources are fantastic, but sexual trauma requires rigorous, ongoing, holistic care. It’s gutting. There are no two ways about it. We need more resources, and we need more integration between our resources. I didn’t hear about most of the resources in Kingston that are available from V/WAP when I went there—Kingston and Toronto. I was at both. None of them directed me. I don’t see most of the people who provide support for sexual trauma survivors in Kingston here today, and I don’t know why.
I’m privileged. I’m white. I’m able-bodied. I’m hetero-seeming. I’m attractive. I did nothing to earn any of these things, but these attributes allow me more sympathy from the public at large. I look like a perfect victim. We have made the dire error of associating the reasoning behind sexual abuse with the characteristics of the survivor or victim. I realize we are trying to undo these beliefs through awareness-raising, but they’re well and alive. Were I overweight, a person of colour, non-hetero or physically disabled, reporting this would have been impossible. We ascribe the shame we feel as victims to our other identities. When I was younger, I thought if I was smarter, prettier, if my parents were richer, if there wasn’t something wrong with me that I couldn’t figure out, this would have never happened. So when we favour certain people in society, we inadvertently give them greater access to justice.
I reported because the perpetrator was a stranger. Not knowing this person allowed me to think only of my experience and not of the impact that would reverberate throughout my community had I known him, had I started a “he said versus she said,” or had he started a “he said versus she said.” Naming a stranger as a rapist or a perpetrator is much easier than naming a community member, a family member, a spouse, a parent. We all like to think that evil lives outside the walls of our homes and familiarity. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and our communities or the people we live with everyday are ill-equipped to fairly and safely negotiate sexual violence within our private spaces, with or without state involvement. Our state doesn’t know what to do, but our communities don’t either.
I reported because I’m articulate and educated in the field of oppression. It gave me a tool kit to understand my experience and to defend myself against discrimination within the justice system. It helped me to advocate for myself, which was intrinsic to my success in completing court. For all of these reasons, I reported. While some of them are logical, many of them are entirely tied to my unearned privilege. I don’t want my access to justice to be based on winning a discriminatory gene lottery. We need to make this more available. How do we do this? Because it does matter. I know that the other resources matter, too. Healing and staying alive is of the utmost importance. Women vote. Survivors vote. When this happens to your life, it creates a lens that you see your life through. We need to address this.
So for all these reasons, I reported. Clearly, ending sexual violence is going to require a committed, ongoing cohesive effort on the part of all political parties, leaders, interest groups, agencies, survivors, medias, communities, religious groups—everybody. Until I’m well enough to return to my degree, my job as a survivor is to heal and to be as brave as I can, to speak whenever I can and to speak for myself, but to know that I’m not alone.
There are a thousand and one reasons why women don’t report, and honestly, all of them are really good reasons. There are few reasons why women do report, and some of them aren’t the best. Seeking justice, I believe, is good, but seeking justice on the basis of unearned, arbitrary characteristics that reinforce stereotypes feels horrible.
Moving on: Once you report, everything changes for the worst. The police officers, before my report, were calling my house, saying, “We think you have a good case. We really think you should report this. You matter.” I listened to them and I thought about it, but it all changes once you make your statement. You’re assigned a victim witness worker who you rarely speak to—they have very few. I wish V/WAP was here. I know they’re state-funded. They are the people who deal with all of the survivors in court. They know what’s needed.
The services offered by V/WAP are a pittance of what is necessary to aid a person through this process. They’re understaffed and bound by the rules of criminal court; complainants are always at risk of being cast as not standing alone. You may not deviate from your initial statement before court. Any new information you share with the crown, V/WAP or anyone for that matter who is related to this process must be submitted to the defence.
I was told to stop journaling. I was told to reconsider how I spoke to the V/WAP professionals I was seeing, to avoid notes. I was told to get better, but to also stay so far under the radar that getting better quickly was not an option. Although my health status was eventually put on the books due to requiring ODSP, I am traumatized by the alienation that was forced on me by this process. I started to feel as though I was hiding something, even though I wasn’t.
Any identity that deviates from complete privilege makes accessing a fair SA trial substantially more challenging. Disclosing mental health concerns as a female complainant in a sexual assault case is frightening, as mythology and stereotypes are so frequently used to undermine complainant credibility. My mental health is an important part of the discussion in trial, not a tool to discredit me but as evidence of the impact of my perpetrator’s abuse. This is what they call a 279 application. Thankfully, the rape shield law has made the process of cross-examination slightly less abusive and discriminatory than it once was; however, the “sluts or nuts” mythology—the idea that she’s either a slut or crazy—is so embedded in the beliefs of our justice system that it perpetuates itself within the context of the rape shield law.
To avoid direct questioning regarding mental health or sexual history in cross-examination, the defence instead must file an application for this information to the judge. This extends the trial. It adds another date to determine whether or not the judge believes that your sexual history or mental health is of relevance. In some cases, if they are filing for your medical files—anything on paper—you, as the complainant, have to go and get your own lawyer because if the state supported you in that, that would be considered a conflict of interest. I’m sorry, but that’s pathetic. Nobody wants to be doing this. Throw them a bone.
It felt like a kick in the teeth. You live for over a year knowing that your email, your phone, your medical files and your sexual history may be all opened up in front of a room of people, in front of your perpetrator, and used to undermine you. I’ve done nothing wrong.
During the recess of this court date, the crown attorney reminded me that I had the option for a peace bond—an agreement that leaves the accused with no record and a one-year restraining order. If invading my privacy is so essential to a fair trial, then isn’t suggesting to me to take a peace bond to avoid having my privacy invaded a complete contradiction of justice? We go so deeply into people’s privacy that crown attorneys, just by having a heart, suggest, “You don’t have to do this”—but he was guilty. If I had taken that peace bond, he would have walked; no record. He’s not necessarily a safe person. It all gets so theoretical. It was weird. It was paternalistic. I wasn’t even allowed in the room at that hearing—I wasn’t allowed in the room for any of the hearings of this, except for the trial date itself. For most of that trial date, I was not allowed in the room—only for my testimony, cross-examination and afterwards. It felt like there was a group of parents speaking about what their kid had done. It was really strange, and I don’t think anybody here would want that.
Then there’s cross-examination. I’m going to get a bit graphic here, but I need to lay down for you where we are at in our system. After the requests for medical and sexual history were denied—therefore, it was not okay for the defence to ask me about these things—the first question I was asked was what pharmaceuticals I was on at the time of the crime and what their interaction would be with alcohol. The crown said nothing. I was in a position where I had to start answering, because you’re not allowed to not answer, and eventually the judge stepped in, within a couple of minutes, and said, “This isn’t appropriate,” but it still happened. The power of suggestion is huge. What he did right there was plant the seed of my mental health and whether I’m reliable or not in everybody in the gallery’s mind: “Is she crazy?”
I was then asked where the perpetrator was in my vagina. If I recall correctly, the average depth of a vagina is two to five inches. I’m no different than anybody else. How does a question like that get into our system? It traumatized me—answering a question like that. He asked me about my tights, my leotards, the difference between tights and leotards, socks, crotchless tights and pantyhose. He asked me about it again the next day—this is the defence lawyer. He asked if I was embarrassed and had made it all up. I’m trying to give you a picture of what being able to suggest anything looks like. I had to answer these questions in front of my family, in front of my husband-to-be and my loved ones.
He was found guilty. It has been six months since this happened, and he still hasn’t been sentenced. I’d love some peace of mind, but the worst is over. I’ve said my victim impact statement. I’m still here and I’m not dead.
My main suggestions are to please improve communication with the federal government, to ensure that social transfers get made. As an ODSP recipient, I could have really used that money. I have never seen my ODSP worker because she is so overworked.
We need to improve our communication between agencies. Agencies are scrapping for money. There’s cross-fighting. There is a lack of time and energy for them to integrate and come together and provide better services.
However, there is something that’s working. The Sexual Assault Centre for Quinte and District, which I truly wish was here—and maybe they were in Ottawa; I’m not sure. But they’ve created what is seemingly—across race, class, gender and sexuality—integrative, holistic healing programs funded solely by fundraising. They have a state-of-the-art facility that they bought in Prince Edward county which was a former yoga retreat. They host survivors, male and female. The groups are gendered; there are male groups and female groups who go for a week at a time, for free.
The retreats include rigorous group therapy, physical activity, art, wholesome meals, outdoor activities, and community integration. It’s a week of free healing. This is unheard of. Anyone from Ontario can apply. They’re just Quinte, but they have reached out and made it available to everybody. That’s what I mean when I see people really investing themselves in this effort. They’re not just taking the funding they’re receiving and doing the most with it; they’re going the extra mile.
I participated in this healing program. I went for a week, and for the first time in years I saw myself. I felt myself feel normal in my body again. I was able to smile and have it feel honest. If I had had a month of this, I think I would be as right as rain right now. To not ensure that this group was here today—maybe they’ve spoken to you, but if you haven’t heard from them, please speak to them. They know so much. They have initiative, motivation, information and an effective model of both therapy and, apparently, fundraising that works. It’s incredible.
I think that survivor panels are really important. It’s hard for us to understand what goes on for people, because SA is so bound by shame that nobody wants to talk. I don’t want to be here today. I’m happy to on one hand, but on the other hand my kidneys feel like they’re going to explode, I’m so stressed out.
We need to get survivors talking. I think that this panel is amazing. I’m always skeptical of political interest, especially—even though you guys are the province’s—in the year before a federal election, but I do think that we should run with this. I really think that this should be the new “no coal.” I think we should try to put ourselves on the map as being different than other provinces. I think we should really get moving.
Ms. Peggy Sattler: I think we all want to give you a collective hug, because that was really important. Your courage and bravery are so valuable and significant to us, so thank you for presenting that story.
You mentioned something about how many of the services that you initially went to for support aren’t here today. Were you referring to the Quinte and district sexual assault centre? We will definitely make the commitment to follow up to find out about them. Were there other services that you found particularly helpful in your experience following your decision to report?
Ms. Jennifer O’Neil: They offer types of therapy that help to retrain brains so that you operate less out of your amygdala and more out of your neocortex. A lot of trauma survivors mostly operate in a sort of reptilian brain. So they have some really effective therapies where you do not have to talk, and they’re affordable. It’s an investment in software and technology.
I wish I could have more of a chance to talk about what they are, but they’re effective and survivors should just be going there right after trauma, because you don’t want to talk after something like that happens. Their early childhood sexual assault and trauma centre—the links to these places, because I’m bad with names. But SWAG, the sex work interest group in Kingston, the Queen’s Sexual Health Resource Centre, Queen’s Legal Aid, all of these—there are a lot of little, little groups with next to nothing who do a whole lot.
Ms. Jennifer O’Neil: Yes. They offer referrals to SAC; I believe SAC receives funding from the government, so I think it’s more likely that V/WAPs would be aware of them. But it’s like, they give you a number, and people who have just been traumatized are generally sitting in their basement, holding their head, shaking back and forth and not really picking up the phone. The integration involves facilitating survivors getting to the help they need, but also, yes, every community has a bunch of small resources. If we could integrate more, that might even save money, which is always cool.
Ms. Sophie Kiwala: Jennifer, I want to thank you so much for being here today. One of the things I do want to say is that I’m just not sure if you realize what a very powerful place you are in right now. As MPP Sattler said, we all feel as if we want to just give you a giant hug, and I thank you for what you’ve brought forward to us today so articulately. We’re very fortunate to have you here.
Just to pick up a little bit from what MPP Sattler has said in terms of organizations, I’m wondering if you can tell us, if you had a wish list of a way that, as a province, we could institute a first organization to reach out, what would that organization look like? Would it be—
Ms. Jennifer O’Neil: I guess there are a number of different answers to that, depending on what happens to a person. For myself, I had one of the better receptions. The police were at my house when I arrived home from the assault—that’s a weird way to put it. The Toronto police are the most progressive cops in a lot of ways when it comes to SA in Ontario. My police officer was by no means a bigot or discriminatory, but—it was a dude; I had just been brutalized by a male. I was disoriented. I was confused. I believe I was on drugs, and I was so stressed that I threw up on my floor, and he asked me, “Are you drunk?” I was asked things like, “Do you need a rape kit?”
Coming from a police officer, the word “rape,” if you even use it, feels like you’re making an allegation. You don’t know, if you go for these tests to get the essential evidence for your trial, if you’re going to be forced into a trial, and you’re so scared. So in this instance, if there had been a female officer present, or if we don’t want to see all of our female officers entirely consumed by SA calls, maybe a social worker present working in conjunction with the police—because if you think about it, the cops are an institution that essentially uses authority and it’s not really based on principles of social work or care or intersectionality. It’s a lot to ask a cop to go from overseeing safety in a more aggressive way to being there right with someone in their experience ready to catch every piece of data by being a social worker. He used the word “rape kit” when he asked me if I needed an SA test, and I lost all my evidence because I didn’t want to accuse anyone of rape.
If we can let women know that calling the police after an assault is not going to force them to report it—that you can call the police and talk to them about what has happened and try to make a collective decision about whether something needs to be reported. Women often think that anything they do at first response will push them into the court process, and that’s a terrifying thing to take on. If it’s underlined at first response that anything you do right now will not force you into a trial, the likelihood of getting survivors to the SA test will go up. If you can have a social worker or a female officer—although, again, I don’t want to peg female officers in one way—it would hugely improve the chances of survivors coming forward and making it into the system.
From what I’ve come to understand, cops even know how hard the system is and almost act like a filtration process from the get-go by informing survivors of their likelihood of making it to trial before they’ve even reported—“Well, you were drunk.”
We really need to understand that offering care isn’t just pats on the back. Offering sensitivity at first response isn’t just a hand-hold; it’s actually a critical part of making our justice system work.
Ms. Laurie Scott: We had so many questions among us, we were trying to figure out what we could drill down to. You gave amazing testimony and information. The other members have focused on some of the questions I wanted to ask you.
You made some comments that you were told to stop journaling; you mentioned the application code 279. Some of what you said was—yes, your eyes are crossed, and you can do it better than I can. I was like, “Oh, my God.”
You had to go and hire your own lawyer at a certain point. Could you just drill that down a little bit? If you are okay to do that; I would appreciate that. Take your time. You can even email after if you want to add anything.
But yes, it was pretty trippy. It was about a year before the actual trial date, and I had to sort of fight to get meetings with the crown attorney. Most people don’t even see the same crown throughout the entire process. You don’t really meet the crown. Due to my privilege, I kind of have a sense of entitlement, so I really made sure to meet with my crown attorney. He and the VWAP worker eventually told me they had made a request—“We don’t know for what files, but files, so it will either be your phone, your email, your medical, your therapeutic”—like, they don’t even tell you what area of your life they’re going for.
So I wiped myself off the Internet for a year and a half. I used to be a fashion model who was all over the Internet; it was my job. So when they apply for your paper files, if the crown were to defend you, what I’ve been told is that that would be the crown essentially paying—the state paying a witness.
There is legal aid available, but a lot of the legal aid isn’t that great. I made it my mission to get a really good lawyer, and I did. I got the top lawyer for these applications in the country. Three days before the trial, the defence switched the nature of their application to being a request simply to be able to ask me questions about my sex life and my head. That meant that all of that work, months and months and months of work to retain this lawyer, who I had managed to get pro bono—and it was so much work to do this—mattered not. It was not necessary because the crown then represented me at the last minute. It appears that the defence pretty much has free rein over what happens when. I don’t know; that’s what I seem to gather from it.
The crown was basically trying to talk to the judge about why it was not relevant to ask me about my sexual history or my mental health. During the recess of this hearing that I was not allowed to sit in on, the crown came and reminded me: “This could go either way. After this hearing, you can’t really call the trial off. If they do win, you are going to have to answer these horrible questions. So do you want to just call a peace bond?
I’m just like, “But, but, I’ve been living knowing this is the case for over a year now. I’ve been sitting knowing that my privacy is going to be invaded for a long time. Yes, the defence is scary, but my head is way scarier than him.” So it’s the psychological terrorism that comes before, where you’re just living, being like, “What did I do and why is this relevant, because my sex life doesn’t actually relate to what happened?”
Ms. Laurie Scott: I think my colleague wants to follow up specifically, because that’s what we’re trying to figure out. This is too hard on victims. It’s revictimization over and over again, and we’re trying to use your experience to figure out, because this is way too hard on—
When you were telling us your story, there was a part where it sounded to me like the crown or the system was encouraging you that your therapy and your mental well-being and the things you were doing to help yourself physically and mentally were a detriment to the justice side.
If we can figure that out and find out what it is in our system that we can change—seeking justice should be of great benefit to your mental and physical health, not a detriment; it should not be negative. So if you could just maybe give us a little bit clearer picture. I know you mentioned about no journaling, but there were a few other things there that I couldn’t write down fast enough.
Ms. Jennifer O’Neil: They didn’t say “no journaling,” but what they said was, “Be aware that anything that you write that we find out about will have to be submitted to the defence’s evidence.” That in and of itself kind of encompasses—like, you could draw a picture and they could submit that.
Ms. Jennifer O’Neil: It’s broad, but sexual violence is different than having your house broken into, because it’s your body and there’s so much shame. There’s so much shame. You don’t want to talk about it. It happens, and you’re, like—it’s so confusing.
So, then to do everything you can to come forward with it and then be told, “No, don’t speak; whatever you do, don’t speak,” it sort of reinforces the silence, the shame. So it just seems like there’s a competing interest between healing—
Ms. Jennifer O’Neil: Yes. I felt a little sneaky, but I had to say to my therapists, “Don’t write notes on me. Don’t write notes, because I need to talk to you.” I needed my support teams. I had nothing to share that was nefarious or against the trial. It was just me being, like, “Hey, my life is decimated. What do I do?”
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Jennifer, I want to step in here and say, on behalf of this committee, that we are very grateful that you have shared your personal story with us. We wish you much success in the future on your journey of healing. Thank you so much.
Make yourselves comfortable. You’re going to have up to 20 minutes to make your presentation to this committee, and that will be followed by questions. Please begin by stating your names and the name of your organization, for the record.
I also want to acknowledge Jennifer and say thank you for coming out and speaking today. It’s always very powerful and impactful to hear stories. It’s very grounding for us who are in the field and who do this work. So thank you for that. I’d just like to acknowledge that.
I’d like to start off with a scenario, which Jennifer touched on and said this isn’t like your house was broken into. I’d like all of you just to take a moment and envision yourselves where, over the weekend, you were the victim of a home invasion. You were at home at the time. Two people broke into your home. They were loud. It was unexpected. There was a lot going on. You felt threatened. You went out the back. They took a few things along the way.
What I want you to imagine is, the next week, when you return to work, what that looks like. I’m going to give you a potential example. You might gather around your work colleagues. You might make a big announcement, tell them what happened. People would respond to you. They would be shocked. They would be angry. They would be upset, empathetic. You would have people, later on in the week, calling you and saying, “I just heard. Are you okay? That is terrible.”
Let’s say that months later, you started to have flashbacks and nightmares. You might go back to your work colleagues and actually feel comfortable sharing that with them, because they are so supportive of you. They might offer to take work off your plate. They might offer extra time off—anything to do, if they saw that you were inattentive or forgetful because of your sleep disruptions. They would be very supportive.
Never at any time would anybody say to you, “Well, what did you expect by living in that nice neighbourhood?” They wouldn’t say, “Are you sure you didn’t invite them in?” They wouldn’t ask what you did to prevent such a thing from happening, nor would they question whether the whole thing really happened the way you said it happened.
Obviously, I’m going back to change the scenario now, and you were sexually assaulted over the weekend instead of being a victim of a home invasion. Imagine your reality when you return back to work. I’m going to bet that you’re not going to gather your colleagues around and make a public announcement. You may choose to tell a few select people, and when you do that it will be in private and it will be very difficult. You might be met with awkwardness, silence. People are uncomfortable about this; they don’t know what to say. So when you tell them, they usually don’t have much to say. They don’t check in with you weeks later to say, “How are you doing with that?” Sometimes people will even avoid you. There might be conversations at work about the incident, but you wouldn’t be part of those conversations. There might be speculation and questions about whether it happened the way you said it happened, particularly if you knew the person or if they knew the person.
My point is: You would not get support from your workplace, from your employer, from your workplace colleagues. This would be something where you would go to work every day—I know you all put in long hours—and the people around you would likely have no idea this was what you were going through. But you would deserve that support because, after all, you were a victim of a crime.
If you’re looking for support you might go to a local sexual assault centre, if there is one, and there you would be believed. You would get support. You would get empathy. And never at any given time would anybody ask: “Are you sure that’s what happened?” or “What did you do to prevent such a thing from happening?” Later, when you had flashbacks and trauma, they would normalize that experience for you and say, “You know what? You have been through a very terrible thing, and that’s a very common thing that people experience after a sexual assault.” They would give you hope. They would say, “You will get through this.”
Sadly, this juxtaposition is a reality in our communities. Often people do not get the support that they need and deserve from their normal support systems—from their workplace, from their families or from their natural supports or their friends. This is why sexual assault centres exist and this is why it’s so important, the work that we do, because often survivors are not getting the support that they need and deserve within their own natural support systems. That was one of the points that I wanted to make today.
I also want to make the point that how survivors access support services is very unique. When they choose to come to us for support—for how long and within what time frame—is very individualized. We have people who might come in for individual counselling or they might attend group counselling or they might attend both. Some survivors require long-term support, and you’ve heard here today about complex trauma. This is an interesting point to keep in mind because funders don’t like to fund long-term services. Nobody wants to fund you to support the same five survivors for two years, and so there’s this increasing pressure to shorten our services to go to a short-term counselling model and to always be looking at the intakes and the numbers—that’s how funding models are set up. I understand that; it’s important to be accountable to our funders and to our governments. However, this is something to keep in mind when we’re looking at how to best support survivors. We have to recognize that it’s important not to put timelines on that type of support.
It’s also important to recognize that recovery work is very cyclic in nature, meaning that often people will come into our centre for support at different times in their life and they often will access us in different ways. Life events such as a pregnancy, maybe the beginning of a relationship or the ending of a relationship or an anniversary date can spur on somebody to want to come in and re-access support, and this issue will become a reality for them and they’ll want to talk about it and do a piece of work around it. I think it’s very important that how people access our support is varied, and it’s unique.
We serve both recent and historical cases. I really want to emphasize that, with the exception of young women, most of the requests for support that come in are for historical childhood sexual abuse, or historical childhood sexual abuse combined with a recent event. I would say that’s probably the majority of our caseload. So we’re dealing with people who’ve had repeated trauma, and this is not something that you can unpack in three to six months. We’ve served survivors whether they report or not; in fact, I would say the majority of the people we work with do not report, for a multitude of reasons which I’m sure you’ve heard about.
It’s interesting to note that a lot of response protocols really focus on immediate support for the survivor, so as soon as they’ve been assaulted it’s like, “Okay, call the police, call security, go to the hospital and call your local sexual assault centre.” We really want to make the point that that’s typically not how people are accessing our support, or that’s not what survivors need. Often, like I said, people will parachute in and out. This type of recovery work is very cyclic in nature. That’s just something kind of important, I think, to keep in mind.
I just want to talk a little bit about our local centre. We’ve been in existence for 35 years. We have a population of 190,000 that we serve, and we have a large rural catchment area of 6,660 square kilometres. We are similar to other sexual assault centres that you’ve probably heard from. We have a crisis line; we have individual and group counselling, first-response programs and accompaniments; and we do training and public education. All of our services are free and confidential.
Our budget is slightly over half a million. We get about $320,000 from the Attorney General. We’re forced to find alternative sources of funding through other venues, and also through fundraising. This is very taxing. It takes a lot of time and resources. We don’t have dedicated fundraising staff, so we’re doing these things on the corner of our desk.
I just want to make a point, too, about sexual assault centres and how we’re different from other types of counselling. The first way that we’re different is that we come from a feminist framework—yes, the F-word. There’s a lot of misunderstanding about what that means, and I just want to clarify that. We identify the systemic context within which violence against women occurs: Sexual violence is power-based, it’s gender-based and it is structurally supported.
One of the most exciting things about the Ontario government’s action plan was the recognition that sexual acts, sexual violence—they’re not just isolated incidents and they don’t just occur in a vacuum, but rather they occur within the context of sexism, misogyny, rape culture and victim blaming. That is what feminist counselling is. When we work with individuals, we are addressing those broader context issues as well. Those are things that have to be taken into account.
We also take a trauma-informed approach. Trauma is very popular nowadays; you’re hearing a lot about “trauma-informed.” Interestingly, some of that came out of the feminist work, so we’ve been doing that stuff for a long time. Basically, with trauma, we’re defining sexual violence as traumatic. It’s an abnormal and life-threatening event. I think we always need to keep in mind that when people experience sexual violence, they do feel like their life is in danger, so it is a life-and-death experience.
With trauma, we don’t tend to focus on a medical model; we don’t focus on diagnosing our symptoms or labelling a person with depression or anxiety. We try to normalize a person’s response as a normal response to trauma; anybody that went through what you went through would be experiencing these symptoms. We’re changing the question from “What is wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?”, and that’s a really important distinction.
Finally, in feminist counselling we incorporate survivors’ voices and expertise. At our agency, we place a high value—and we ask for survivors to help us guide our work. From our staff to our board to our volunteers, we have women with lived experience working alongside us. We also consult regularly with former and current service users in a variety of ways. We believe this is really critical to developing effective policy and meaningful services. We’re really glad that we’ve actually had people with lived experience coming out and speaking to you today, and we just want to encourage the Ontario government to continue to incorporate survivors’ voices in the work that’s being done. We do believe that they’re the experts and they have a lot of valuable feedback and can help guide us.
Ms. Kim Graham: I’m just going to touch a little bit on what Elayne had mentioned in regard to the population we serve. I did hand out a map; I don’t know if you guys have it. We serve both the orange and the green outlined areas. Kingston, unfortunately, is not geographically central to those areas. So for us to serve a population, either we have to travel two hours north or clients have to travel two hours south, one way.
We also receive a lot of clients from the Leeds and Grenville area. That’s because they don’t have a specialized sexual assault centre. They often come to us, or we have gone and done public education in that area as well. I just wanted to point that out as well.
There is research that shows that teens in rural school districts are more likely to be victims of dating violence, which includes sexual violence. Then there are suburban and urban counterparts. So we are left with concerns of that population being underserved because of lack of transportation, staffing, funding and just the time that it takes to cover the large rural area that we have.
The female population in the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington area, 15 and up, is about 88,000. If we use the StatsCan statistic of one in three women experiencing sexual violence, we know that that works out to be about 30,000 women that we have the opportunity to serve. If we look at our funding, that’s about $10 a person. This does not count the 30,000 Queen’s University students, the 5,000 St. Lawrence College students or the 1,900 RMC students, who make up a large part of our client base. That age group is specific to what we see mostly at our work, and you’ve heard it here today: alcohol- and drug-facilitated sexual assault. A lot of that population experiences that kind of sexual assault.
We’re also seeing a large increase in victims who have been sexually trafficked. Kingston is located along the 401 corridor, right between Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. Our location and population is an ideal spot for traffickers to traffic women for sex for short periods of time before moving on. Those who have been trafficked require specialized services and often immediate response and safety measures that are already put into place. There’s a short window of opportunity to safely respond to a trafficked victim, and we need to be better prepared to help.
Indigenous women are another population that is under-represented in our community and throughout Canada and specifically through specialized funding of services. Yet we know that, as a marginalized group, aboriginal women are at an increased risk of sexual assault compared to non-aboriginal women.
At SAC Kingston, we don’t have a funded designated aboriginal counsellor. However, we’re lucky enough to have a counsellor who is a visible aboriginal woman and does take on clients who are looking for specialized aboriginal counselling. But, again, she also has to take on the rest of her caseload. So we just don’t have funding, and she often ends up with a wait-list. It would be beneficial to us to have specific funding for aboriginal clients.
For myself, I do public education, so I work in prevention. I have to do the prevention of these two counties here. I’ve worked personally in many social service agencies, but working in the violence-against-women sector, in particular sexual assault, has by far been the hardest, and not because of solely the stories or the work that we do, but rather when I step out into the community, it’s how I am treated; how we have to constantly defend the work I do while worrying about my own safety and if I am offending someone for actually speaking reality. This really reflects just how lonely the work can actually be.
Some of the harassment that female journalists have recently felt and that you’ve seen on TV is something that I experience on a daily basis. When I go out with my sexual assault sign, I get a lot of comments that, “People are liars”; “Women lie”—those kinds of things. I’ve had letters sent to me. I’ve had stuff brushed off my table at information fairs. In society, we still have a lot of work to do just for me as a public educator. I can only imagine what it would be like as a survivor to have to go and say their story.
The harassment that’s felt by these journalists is something that we feel as well. We shouldn’t have to worry about our safety or offending someone. Society as a whole doesn’t get it. There seems to be some disconnect when we work with the public in regard to child sexual abuse victims, and then adult and youth survivors, especially those in regard to alcohol- and drug-facilitated sexual assaults. There somehow seems to be some blame for their assault and abuse.
I just wanted to say that if we can work together, some of the recommendations we have are a funded court response worker—we’d like funded, specialized rural services, transportation satellite offices, funded aboriginal specialized services and an increase in funding for prevention work as well.
Ms. Sophie Kiwala: Thank you so much for being here and thank you for your work in our community. As a very critical front-line worker, we really respect and appreciate the work that you have been doing.
On the public education piece, I’m just wondering if you can elaborate for us if there’s anything—one of the groups that we haven’t touched very much on today is the LBGT group. I’m wondering if you can elaborate on anything that you’re currently doing for this group or something that you feel the province should do better to reach out to this group.
Currently, I have some really good partnerships with HARS Kingston. There’s the FUSE Youth Group, which is the youth group that’s run out of there for LGBTQ youth. I do a lot of work with a lot of LGBTQ sort of groups within Kingston. There’s Rainbow YGK, I think it is, that’s starting now, as well as a trans group.
I think it’s important to remember that group in particular when you’re discussing any kind of violence, and when you’re discussing marginalized groups, they are also included in that marginalized group.
One of the most striking ones was when you made the comparison to a home invasion and how somebody would respond to that as compared to a sexual assault. That was the first time I had heard it put in those terms. It certainly makes you wonder and puts things into a very different light. It’s one of the things that has bothered me or troubled me on why women don’t report, which we really need to address. So that comparison—I’m still not sure how we can use it right at the moment, but it gives us lots to consider and think about because, again, in the home invasion you’re going to tell people and you’re also, in all likelihood, going to go straight through the justice system to seek some justice, where the alternative for sexual assault is not there, or not in the same light. So I’m going to ponder that—and if you’ve got any other suggestions that you can send to the committee on how we can alter that and make not such a significant contrast between those two examples.
But I also wanted to mention about fundraising, because you mention that. I’ve been elected now for eight years. My very first interaction with a shelter was after I got elected, and fundraising came up in that discussion. For myself, a lot of people in the community shelters are unseen; they’re unknown. It’s not like a storefront. You don’t have a big sign out there.
I’ve been involved in a lot of fundraising with Lanark County Interval House. One of the added benefits of raising the funding is also just adding community awareness that the shelter is there, that the service is there, and that the service is actually an integral and necessary part of the healing process. We couldn’t do it without a shelter, without an Interval House or a sexual assault centre.
Ms. Kim Graham: We have a storefront and a sign. We’re quite visible. But the minute you throw in the words “sexual assault,” it’s a barrier for people. It’s much different for people to see domestic violence as an issue, as opposed to sexual assault, because of the stigma that’s attached to it. People who donate to a sexual assault centre don’t want their names out there, because they don’t want people to think that they’ve been sexually assaulted and that’s why they’re donating.
You mentioned that you serve 30,000 students from Queen’s, St. Lawrence College and RMC. We’ve heard from post-secondary institutions about students’ experience of sexual violence, and oftentimes it’s in the first eight weeks of the first year of post-secondary.
To think of a first-year student who is on their own for the very first time—they’re in a strange community, in a brand new setting—how do they know about the services of your centre? How does that relationship work with these post-secondary institutions to let students know that the supports you provide are available?
Ms. Kim Graham: We do do training with resident advisers and the peer support group and the Sexual Health Resource Centre here at Queen’s as well as RMC health promotions and the St. Lawrence College residence. So they do know of us.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Good afternoon, everyone. The Select Committee on Sexual Violence and Harassment will now come to order. We are ready for our afternoon session. I’d like to welcome all of our presenters here today and the guests who are with them.
Let me share the mandate of this committee with you. We are here to listen to the experiences of survivors, front-line workers, advocates and experts on the issue of sexual violence and harassment. You will inform us on how to shift social norms and barriers that are preventing people from coming forward to report abuses. However, I do want to stress that we do not have the power or the authority to investigate individual cases. That is better left to the legal authorities.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): I’d like to call on our first afternoon presenters, from Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre. Please come forward. Good afternoon. Make yourselves comfortable. If you’d like, pour yourself some water. Ladies, you’re going to have 20 minutes to speak to our committee, and after that they will have some questions for you. For the record, begin by stating your names and start anytime.
Ms. Sonya Vellenga: Thank you. Anyway, I am Sonya Vellenga and I am the executive director at the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre. The office is located in Peterborough and we cover four counties: the city of Kawartha Lakes, Haliburton, Northumberland and Peterborough. I’ve been with the centre for three years, and my work history prior to working with the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre was in child welfare. I spent 18 years in child welfare, seven years front-line, and then moving around the child welfare system in supervisory roles.
Of course, in child welfare you investigate allegations of harm to children, whether that be physical harm, emotional harm, neglect or sexual abuse. In my history in child welfare, the cases of sexual abuse that we investigated largely involved family members, and they weren’t frequent occurrences on my team.
I speak to this in the handout that you received; if I look at the Ontario incidence study and the Canadian incidence study, generally the statistics are that fewer than 3% of substantiated cases are assigned under sexual abuse of children, which is very low when we consider that the statistic that we use in the province of Ontario is that one in three will experience sexual abuse, sexual assault, along the continuum of their lifespan. So 3% is very low, and that certainly has been commented on in the literature. Does 3% reflect the reality or does it reflect a different reality?
When I joined the sexual assault centre, I understood that my primary role was to work with individuals who had been sexually assaulted. Because of my child welfare history, I understood sexual assault to be an adult phenomenon, whereas sexual abuse was something that children experienced. Children experienced abuse because it was by somebody in a position of power, below them; adults experienced assault and related it to the Criminal Code and how the Criminal Code is set up. Within a few months of being there, I understood that over 70% of the individuals who accessed our centre were individuals who had experienced sexual abuse as children.
I’ve spent time over the past three years really thinking about that. Did we miss something in child welfare? If in the Canadian statistics, matched by the Ontario incidence studies—and they do these studies every five years; the last one was just 2013—it was less than 3%, then what is it that we’re missing? I’ve learned that there’s a lot that we’re missing. Really, I’ve kind of bulleted it in the handout that I gave you and I’m just going to reflect on this.
What I’ve learned is that the continuum and the definitions of sexual abuse and sexual assault are very broad and very complex. We tend to think about sexual abuse on the far end of the continuum and we don’t always consider the impact on the other end of the continuum. When I say “far end,” I mean the end that, in the past, we would have called incest or rape, and this end—not saying one’s close or far—being harassment, exploitation, bullying of a sexual nature.
Defining it narrowly also then leads us to thinking about the responses in narrow ways. I’m here today really wanting to encourage the task force to think about responses in a diverse, broad way, not just, “Is it a legal response that we need? Is it a medical response that we need?”—but thinking about the continuum of experiences being very broad and complex. Thus, the continuum of responses also needs to be broad and complex.
I’ve learned that most individuals know who has harmed them, and that’s in children and adults. So it means, also, that our response needs to include those who are doing the harming and it needs to include intervention in that area, at that level.
I’ve learned that youth, particularly between the ages of 14 and 25—some research has 16, but 14 to 25—I’m kind of bumping it down because of the experiences youth are experiencing today on the Internet and the bullying and exploitation that’s occurring on the Internet for both males and females. Certainly that’s a phenomenon that I think the task force needs to consider in terms of the whole continuum of sexual violence.
I see that area as increasing. We had a call last week from a mom of a young teenage boy. This mom is with Community Living, so her child has an intellectual challenge. He’s downloaded an app called Ticky, which I haven’t looked up yet—I will. This app allows him to send pictures, and so he’s sending pictures out there.
We had a call on our crisis line last night from a mom whose daughter is in a relationship with two other individuals and they’re exchanging pictures. So exploitation and harassment and violence on the Internet is certainly something that I think we, as a society, as a province, need to pay attention to.
Individuals in small and rural communities—I note that we’re in a four-county area. We’ve got some small communities. I had a call the other day from a woman in Thurstonia who rents from somebody, and the landlord has a key to her place and has sexually assaulted her. She lives in a very rural area and does not have access to a lot of supports—so looking at how we can support somebody. Our office is in Peterborough; Thurstonia’s a bit of a drive. There’s no transportation. Certainly there’s telephone and crisis response, but it’s very difficult to provide a response that’s matched up with what the research says in terms of response that would be valuable and appropriate for this individual.
I’ve learned that medical responses—to look at saying that we need to beef up our medical responses. That certainly is true for those who experience violent sexual assault. It’s less true for those who experience, as I said earlier on, the continuum.
Police responses and legal responses are risky. I’m sure you’ve heard that as a select committee from others. They’re risky for the individual. I’m not convinced that legislative changes there can take away that risk. If you’re robbed in a corner store and the person behind the counter in that corner store is robbed, they are never asked what they did last night in order to be robbed today. In this field, they’re always asked.
It’s very risky for individuals. It’s risky because individuals, if a conviction does not happen, can be sued. There’s a high-profile case in Peterborough where a young woman is being sued through civil courts because a conviction wasn’t landed. She made an allegation; she went through the court process. The individual was found not guilty, and she is now being sued for lots and lots of money.
I’ve learned that modelling of healthy relationships has been absent from many of the individuals who come to our centre—absent in schools, absent in social media, absent in media of all sorts, and absent within their families—so looking at interventions in that area, and I certainly support the work of the physical education curriculum that’s being introduced by the province for September.
I am presenting today with Lisa because she has also done a lot of work. I’m realizing I’m looking this way maybe because it’s Laurie and I’m looking to you, Laurie. I’m going to look this way, too. But I’m here with Lisa, who has been quite involved with a research study in Peterborough, and she’s going to share some of that information with you.
Ms. Lisa Clarke: Thank you. In May 2015, the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre, with the support of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Peterborough, the YWCA Peterborough Haliburton, the Peterborough Domestic Abuse Network—which is our table there—and the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres began a city- and county-wide needs assessment, funded through Status of Women Canada. This is a project that’s happening in three other regions of Ontario and it is happening across the country. We’re connected to them all.
The theme that we’re studying is access to community services in the prevention and response to sexual violence against women and girls. I just want to be clear that when I say “women and girls,” the use of the word “woman” or “girl” is intended to speak to all women, irrespective of socio-economic status, educational level, age, HIV status, ability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and cultural, racial, ethnic or religious backgrounds. We work from an anti-oppressive framework. I think that’s important about our centre.
To date we’ve had 28 one-on-one survivor interviews with survivors of sexual violence; 19 focus groups with a total of 160 front-line staff; SWOT analysis of our consultant group, which includes leaders from 19 different local agencies working within the violence-against-women sector; and we have 131 responses to our online survey to date, which is open until June 5.
This study includes two gender-based analysis consultant evaluators who specialize in the violence-against-women sector. One is Ian DeGeer and another is Tara Williamson. Their accreditation is within this information. We have run this study through a community-based ethics review committee.
We have big intentions with our study. We are publishing a public report card; writing a collaborative service agreement and protocol; building online training; hosting a national conference at Trent University on June 2 and 3, 2016; and we will be publishing an academic paper on our findings.
I have heard the personal stories of over 200 people, and I am a survivor of sexual violence myself. Our stories together speak volumes about the systemic misogyny of gender-based violence in our country, in our province and in our community.
Sexual violence crosses all socio-economic levels, although women living in poverty with mental health or addictions experience higher incidence of sexual violence. In fact, the majority of online survey participants self-identify as pursuing college and university education, with a household income of over $75,000. We were very surprised by that result.
I have had the privilege, through this study, to be the only person to ever have heard several of these women’s stories. Most of the women I have spoken to remained silent for decades about their childhood sexual abuse, sexual assault as young women, intimate partner violence and sexual harassment in the workplace. Their voices, heard through our study at the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre’s doors, became a very empowering experience, and we expect to see these women back.
Some overall highlights I can give you about the survivors we have spoken to: The greatest impacts to female victims of sexual violence are on quality of life, family life and romantic relationships. They have also experienced impact on health and friendships.
Over 40% of women received support from counselling services and 35% from friends, but none of them received significant support from family, police and legal services, medical services, school guidance services, shelter services, or spiritual or congressional leadership after their victimization.
Mothers who have experienced sexual violence and intimate partner violence need professional support in speaking to their children about their victimization in order to break the cycle of violence. Many survivors had adverse childhood experiences, including childhood sexual abuse and witnessing domestic violence or unhealthy adult relationships in the home.
The action plan message by our province is being heard by victims of sexual violence. If they were to experience that violence today, they would access sexual assault centre support, followed by medical services, police services, community counselling, crisis lines, shelter services, victim services and then online support.
Ms. Lisa Clarke: Okay. Our final point is, survivors also prioritize prevention education messages to be delivered primarily through social media, followed by conversations in the home led by parents and guardians, conversations in the classroom led by teachers and one-on-one conversations by trusted adults.
What I would wrap up with is that the action plan is an excellent action plan, and we fully support it, as well as the recommendations by the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres. What we feel you may have missed within that action plan is the voice of children and the voice of older women who have also experienced the continuum of violence.
Thank you very much for coming. It is a distance to travel, and you have very important work. I know that you never have enough people to help support the victims that you deal with. So I want to thank you for all that you do. You represent the majority of my area. I’ve met with them often, as you’ve heard.
I kind of wanted to go back to the person from Thurstonia who phoned you. We’re trying to figure out coordination, which is sometimes lacking. Some communities are better at coordinating services than others.
In our community—so we’ll say that’s just a rural community in Ontario; you brought it up—how do they know to phone you? Did they phone the police? Did they want to phone the police? Just kind of that psychology of maybe that case—to bring forward.
Ms. Sonya Vellenga: We do ask on every call, “Why did you call us?”, because we want to know as well. This individual was encouraged to call us through victim services. In this particular case, this individual had involvement of the police. When you have involvement of the police and if there’s a charge laid, then victim services gets involved.
In this particular situation, this woman has a brain injury, and the alleged perpetrator is 82 and may also be experiencing some dementia. I haven’t talked to the police, but I would suspect that a charge was not necessarily plausible because the hope of anything down the road, because of the two individuals, wasn’t there. They referred to victim services. Victim services generally gets involved if a charge is laid, but a charge wasn’t laid, so victim services told the individual to call us.
Ms. Laurie Scott: You’re probably going to cut me off, but I just want to say thank you for coming. I look forward to the final completion of your survey. What you’ve found so far is pretty shocking to a lot of us. We’ll talk later.
You had told us that the issues are broad and complex and, as such, our remedy or our recommendations should be broad and complex. I would ask my committee colleagues to open our minds, when we do get to the reporting stage, and that we take that into consideration.
Lisa, in your stating some data here, in 97% of reported cases of sexual violence, the perpetrator is male. In 96%, the perpetrator is someone known by the victim. Then, whether you realize it or not, you said that we have no stranger violence.
My question is, I wonder what the barriers are. Are there more significant barriers when the violence is perpetrated by someone who is known by the victim, and how do we overcome those barriers? How do we get the victim to the point where they feel secure and feel safe to be able to report, to a larger extent than it’s currently going? Because we’ve heard, I think, that under-reporting is an issue.
Ms. Lisa Clarke: Absolutely. Statistically, people will report stranger violence more often than violence committed by someone—the dynamic of our community is that everyone does know everyone, and there is a huge amount of stigma there. I think Sonya can speak more to it, but I would revise my statement to say that a statistically significant amount of violence is committed by people known to the victim.
What is important in our community is, when we’re teaching children about stranger danger, we really want to re-look at that public education strategy, right? That’s what this data—75% of violence is committed by someone known, across Canada. That’s what StatsCan says. Here, it’s 96%. There is something unique to our community that we need to be speaking to our children about.
Ms. Sonya Vellenga: I was just going to say our centre was founded by Trent University because of, at that time, some rapes on campus by strangers. Certainly that is a part, and thank you for identifying that.
Ms. Eleanor McMahon: Thank you for coming. It was a distance to come, and I just want to recognize and salute you, Lisa, as a survivor. It takes courage to be here. I’m going to say something; I’m going to check it out with you: It seems to me that you’re to be commended for taking a very difficult experience for you and channelling that into solutions for other people. I think that’s extremely laudable and you’re to be congratulated.
Ms. Eleanor McMahon: And everyone here salutes you for that. We’re all trying to change the world in our own small way, but it’s very powerful when someone has a lived experience and they do so, so congratulations.
You said something about mean girls, and not being there for each other. It made me think of the word “stigma.” In mental health we’re fighting some powerful stigmas now and we’re changing that conversation. It sounds like we need to do the same thing here, in terms of highlighting the stigmas that are a consequence—you started by talking about a robbery in a convenience store and how the responses wouldn’t be the same. We had a similar story earlier, so it’s really a resonant theme.
Ms. Lisa Clarke: I can’t quite understand this piece. Survivors who spoke to me—from survivors in university to survivors who were in their mid-fifties with book clubs—would not speak to their peer groups about the violence they experienced because there were conversations the groups were having shaming women, shaming how women dressed. I presented at a Soroptimist group and the first question was, “Well, this woman in my community, she was doing shots and she went home with him, and yeah, she passed out, but she deserved it.” That was what I had to respond to, educating on the work that I’m doing. Some people there were like, “Did she even hear you?” But it’s really that that stigma, that perception, is held by women as well as men. I’m not sure why, and something needs to be done for women to be better friends to women.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): We thank you very much for making the journey here from Peterborough today to speak to this committee. We really value what you have said and shared with us. We invite you, if you wish, now to join our audience.
I’m speaking to you today in my capacity as the chair of the Queen’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Working Group, which was established in the summer of 2013 to improve on the work that was being done on campus by taking a more strategic and collaborative campus-wide approach to addressing sexual assault prevention and response at Queen’s.
I first want to express my thanks on behalf of Queen’s for the opportunity to speak to the select committee to share what Queen’s University has been doing as well as our plans to enhance and sustain efforts to prevent and respond to sexual violence on campus.
We’d like to thank Premier Kathleen Wynne for leading the charge and calling the citizens of Ontario to action to end violence and harassment and for reinforcing the importance of focusing on post-secondary students, who are among the most vulnerable to such violence but also among the most potentially malleable with respect to influencing change in consciousness and behaviour at the individual and cultural levels, we believe.
The Premier’s action plan, It’s Never Okay, we view as an endorsement of the work already being done by many institutions in this sector, while encouraging more or, in some cases, new efforts by others. The action plan builds on another provincial resource that was quite instrumental and a key guiding document to the Queen’s working group, and that’s Developing a Response to Sexual Violence: A Resource Guide for Ontario’s Colleges and Universities.
The post-secondary education sector in Ontario, as you know, has long been engaged in campus sexual assault prevention and response efforts across Canada. For many years, institutional administrators, health and wellness practitioners, student affairs professionals and students have been discussing and acting on the identified needs for more effective prevention programming, more survivor-centric support services, more coordinated response mechanisms and more transparent reporting and complaint policies and procedures.
In the last year, the working group conducted an inventory of existing campus policies, protocols, programs, systems and resources, and contrasted these with best practices. The initial inventory identified strengths and gaps at Queen’s and was the departure point from which the working group launched a campus-wide consultation process that has led to a comprehensive report with recommendations to improve campus sexual violence prevention and response.
I’d like to take this time to outline the working group’s consultative and research process to highlight some of the recommendations from our soon-to-be-released report and to share information on Queen’s next steps.
Recognizing the importance of student input and the fact that students on campus have been among the most active leaders on this subject, the working group, from its inception, has included an equal representation of students to faculty and staff.
In the fall of 2014, the working group established a policy subcommittee which drafted and released a well-received interim sexual assault response protocol to guide ongoing work on the development of a permanent, more stand-alone sexual assault policy.
Between February and April 2015, the working group collected campus community feedback across five inter-related domains for intervention. We asked about support services and response mechanisms, prevention initiatives, social and cultural climate policies and procedures, and accountability measures. Student voices figured prominently throughout the campus consultation process. Students represented 80% of the respondents—so we’re at 850 students—to an online feedback survey. Key student groups and individual students participated in the focus groups and interviews, and students were the majority of participants at all four open meetings held on campus.
In addition to student feedback, the working group collected input from departments such as the gender studies department, from our counselling services staff and from key community partners such as the police services, sexual assault centre and the sexual assault and domestic violence unit locally.
During this time, the working group also conducted a comprehensive literature review and environmental scan, which included Canadian and US schools viewed to have exemplary components of prevention and response programs, services and policies.
The working group’s consultative and research efforts have culminated in a comprehensive report, as I mentioned, which identifies 11 objectives and 34 recommendations to enhance sexual violence prevention and response on campus. The recommendations proposed are in step, we’re pleased to say, with all of the campus commitments and expectations outlined in the Premier’s action plan. Among some of the recommendations I can highlight are:
With respect to this last point, the policy subcommittee of the working group has already drafted a stand-alone policy and associated procedures which build on the interim report. This policy and its procedures are currently moving through the appropriate university channels for final approval.
The working group has also already set in motion plans to deliver bystander intervention training, a best practice prevention education strategy to key student leaders, as well as to deliver information about sexual assault and consent to all first-year students this coming fall.
To conclude my remarks, I’d like to express how immensely helpful the Council of Ontario Universities reference group on sexual violence has been in examining sector-wide issues and best practices in the area of policy prevention and response. Queen’s is fortunate to have a representative on this reference group: my dean—our vice-provost and dean of student affairs, Ann Tierney.
We look forward to continuing to receive sector-wide information and advice from the reference group to ensure continued alignment of our efforts with the Premier’s action plan, compliance with forthcoming provincial legislation, and of course we will meet any other government expectations.
Ultimately, our goal is to ensure that any student who experiences sexual assault is easily able to access and navigate campus and community support services and response options while we continue to strive to foster a violence-free campus environment.
Ms. Peggy Sattler: Thank you very much, Chair. I’d love a copy of your presentation if that could be available. Some of the recommendations you highlighted—I was trying to write them down quickly, but I didn’t get them all. I’m looking forward to reading that report which you said is going to be released imminently.
Many of those initiatives that you have talked about that Queen’s is going to be introducing—it sounds like they’re going to require resources. Are you diverting resources from other areas of your budget? Do you have any recommendations about funding from the province to support these kinds of initiatives on campus? Can you talk to us a bit about that?
Ms. Arig al Shaibah: Yes, absolutely. We would welcome, obviously, the opportunity to leverage any funds that can be made available from the government in whatever way that may look. I know that there are different forms of grants with respect to seed monies to help us. It’s always helpful to be able to get monies to launch our pilot programs and then have the time to sort out how to sustain some of these programs. Then, of course, there may be other opportunities for longer-term funding, so obviously that’s welcome.
We are committed to this issue; we have been for quite some time. Some things have been working, and we recognize that other things are not. The demographic is changing; the landscape is changing. So we continue with our process of evaluating the kinds of programs and interventions that we provide on campus. This issue will factor in in the same way.
We do have plans, at our next budget cycle, to think through: Do we need to shift resources? Do we need to look for different revenue-generating opportunities? Our donor base has been really great on some particular issues. This hasn’t been an issue in the past that we’ve looked to donors for, but it’s a possibility.
So yes, all of the above: looking at efficiencies and synergies; how we deliver programs to save costs, for instance; but certainly I think some of the recommendations are going to require a little bit of an infusion of monies. We’re looking at how we can do that internally, but we’ll also be looking externally for any assistance that way.
Mr. Han Dong: Thank you, Chair. I want to commend you on this report. I look forward to reading it. I noticed you said that 80% of the—800-plus students responded. Were there any difficulties or barriers in data collection in your experience of writing this report?
Ms. Arig al Shaibah: No, I think we were pleased. We put out the survey to our 20,000 undergraduates and graduate students. We also put it out to our faculty and staff community complement. We had about 1,100 respondents, so we’re happy with that response. It’s a significant number of individuals who engaged in the process.
The interesting piece is that probably 70% of our respondents identified themselves as female. That’s always an interesting piece. In this whole topic, we talk about engaging men at all different levels, so we’re seeing it even at the level of providing feedback.
Mr. Han Dong: Good. I think it’s very important to involve the community—because you said that you spent about two months in 2015 to get community feedback. That’s very important, because a university needs to be supported by the community.
Mr. Han Dong: The other thing that you mentioned that I thought was interesting was clarifying the roles for first response. Can you elaborate on that? Are you looking for a formal role from the administration side? An unfortunate incident happens, and the question is, “Then what?” We’ve got to have a system to respond to it. Is it the student council side or the student union side or administration?
Ms. Doulton Wiltshire: On the student side of things, because the university is a very large institution and because we know, with sexual violence, who you disclose to first can really be anyone, whether it’s a TA, a don, or things like that: With everyone trying to provide a lot of support on campus, from the student side of things it wasn’t clear where the best avenues for that support were. “Who do you seek out for reporting?” and, “Who do you seek out for accommodations?” was a huge piece that we heard over and over again from students.
There are a lot of patches here and there to get assistance in different areas. One of the major themes we saw was clarity and almost centralization so that on campus, if you’re dealing with a sexual assault, you know immediately where to go for what type of support, or if somebody discloses a sexual assault to you, whether they’re your friend or a student if you’re a TA, no matter what role you’re in, you know the best resources to send them to. That wasn’t immediately clear in the university structure as it currently existed.
That’s where that recommendation came out of, because we really felt it was important that anyone who needed those resources was getting the best side of that resource that they could that we could offer them at the time.
Ms. Arig al Shaibah: This is one of the topics that I think the reference group is looking at in terms of sector-wide and answering that kind of question exactly. As far as I know, we typically don’t look to compare statistics because of all the cautions around understanding some of the barriers to those statistics. I think it’s an area that we’re going to tackle first by looking at internal tracking mechanisms. That’s one of our recommendations: an internal tracking mechanism to see how we can maintain confidentiality and anonymity for students while still gauging incidents on campus. From there, we can think about who else needs to know and how we should share this in a way that’s helpful.
Mr. Jim McDonell: Yes. I was wondering because universities across Canada are unique, and some probably have better practices and better results. I was wondering: Is there co-operation to share those and to look at developing and in some way publishing best practices?
Ms. Arig al Shaibah: Right. I know that the colleges are coming together to do that sort of thing. Again, I think the Council of Ontario Universities, at least in Ontario, is thinking about what we can learn from each other and how we can share best practices.
Mr. Jim McDonell: So your recommendations as you bring them in—will you be providing feedback on success, if it’s measurable, or at least a subjective idea of whether they’re working, or the good recommendations and ones that aren’t?
Ms. Doulton Wiltshire: I think a big thing that we’ve been seeing as we go through is the—I don’t want to say “demands”—call for action from the community and from Queen’s to have those ongoing updates to understand what’s being successful and what’s not being successful.
I think the one great thing about the working group that has been putting together all these recommendations—and the recommendations include a lot of best practices at Queen’s right now—is that this is information that we do want to share. We do think it’s quite important, when we start looking at the Harvard model and other models that are being used, that those best practices have helped the work that we’re doing and that we share whatever information we can as we move forward in implementing some of these recommendations on what they can do.
I know within the sexual health resource centre, our student group shares our best practices with all other student groups across Canada on a regular basis. It’s how we get our phone lines working. It’s how a group of 70 students can do a lot of the things that we do, because we share that. There was just a consent conference where we all came together to share our best practices. I think it’s a common theme for people who are passionate in these areas that if we can share what we know and the best practices, that’s how you learn and go forward.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): I’d like to call on our next presenters to come forward, with the Kingston Frontenac Anti-Violence Coordinating Committee. Hello again. Have a seat. You know the drill: You will have up to 20 minutes to address our committee, and that will be followed by questions. Please begin by stating your names for the record.
Ms. Lisa Fox: Okay. I’m going to start. I’m going to talk about the Kingston Frontenac Anti-Violence Coordinating Committee and give an overview of what that committee is. I am speaking as the past chair. I was the chair of the committee for about the last 10 years. I work at Kingston Interval House and have 14 years working in the violence-against-women sector.
In 1983, a small group of professionals and support service providers established the Coordinating Committee Against Domestic Assault on Women. They formalized their committee commitment to creating a comprehensive network of services for victims of partner abuse and their families. For the next 20 years—more than that now—representatives from the law enforcement and justice, shelter and housing, health, mental health, counselling and support sectors worked together to build effective, co-operative relationships; better understand one another’s responsibilities and challenges; share information, resources and expertise; improve their understanding of the issue of partner abuse; and enhance the network of services available to victims of partner abuse and their families. Their efforts culminated in 2003 with the development of a Partner Abuse Protocol, outlining best practices for providing a collaborative response to victims of partner abuse.
In 2005, the coordinating committee expanded to include members working with victims and survivors of sexual violence. The name was officially changed to the Frontenac Domestic and Sexual Violence Council. This group evolved into the Kingston/Frontenac Anti-Violence Coordinating Team and is now known as the Kingston Frontenac Anti-Violence Coordinating Committee.
There was a strong belief at that point that it was really difficult to separate the issues of sexual violence and partner abuse. We’re unique, I think, in some ways. I know, across the province, that has happened in some other jurisdictions. I think we were ahead of the game in incorporating that in our coordinating committee and have made a solid commitment to the issues surrounding sexual violence and have made that part of our mandate.
Our mandate: The Kingston Frontenac Anti-Violence Coordinating Committee contributes to the eradication of violence by promoting individual and community awareness of issues relating to domestic and sexual violence, and supporting a coordinated community response.
Member agencies involved with KFACC provide quality services to victims of domestic violence and/or sexual violence in accordance with the mandates, policies and procedures of their respective agencies.
Our committee consists of representatives from agencies providing services for victims of partner abuse and sexual violence, their families, and agencies that work with perpetrators. We include organizations working throughout the city of Kingston, Frontenac county and in some parts of Lennox and Addington county. Sectors represented in our committee include law enforcement and justice, shelter and housing, health and mental health, and counselling support. The different perspectives and expertise we each bring to KFACC enable us to develop a full understanding of the challenges, issues and priorities for our clients, our communities and one another.
We are dedicated volunteers working together to advance our common mandate to end violence. We have a multitude of agencies; I think, currently, we have about 35 agencies that sit on our coordinating committee.
Our mandate is to contribute to the eradication of violence by promoting individual and community awareness of issues relating to domestic and sexual violence, and to support a coordinated community response to these issues.
In fulfilling our mandate, we have assumed a leadership role in developing many important projects over the years. Some of the past and ongoing accomplishments include enhancing our network of services—we continue to support various projects, programs and other initiatives designed to strengthen the network of services for victims, perpetrators and their families. Examples include counselling for perpetrators of partner abuse; services for immigrant women; hospital-based services for victims; and the Neighbours, Friends and Family program. KFACC administers some initiatives directly and assists other organizations in securing resources in their own programs and services.
At that point, which was 2007-08, we were working on a big project around looking at the community establishing a one-stop shop, a collaborative service-delivery site for victims and survivors of partner abuse and sexual abuse. It was a lot of work. We hired a consultant at that point who did a lot of work. Again, I think it’s unique, when we look at providing services in that fashion, that it absolutely included domestic violence and sexual violence. We worked on that project for about two years. Again, there was a community coalition that worked, so some of those community partners sat on the coordinating committee; some didn’t. At the end of it, we had a report. Unfortunately, we haven’t moved to that model but, hopefully, at some point, this community can. We’ve already done a big bunch of work around the research to do that.
The other thing that we had during that project was a survivors’ council. I have a strong belief personally—as well as, I think, can reflect the coordinating committee—that we need the voices and the expertise of women and children survivors who have actually navigated through the systems, to help us understand better how we can really collaborate and make things easier for them. The survivors’ group at that point did a lot of work to help inform that project.
Some of the other things that we have done: In 2003, we developed and launched our Partner Abuse Protocol. In 2008, we launched our Sexual Assault Protocol. Again, both of those protocols sit under the coordinating committee. It was probably about two years ago that we gathered all the signatory partners of those two protocols, and we began to look at how we can make those living and breathing in our community. We committed to meeting with signatory partners once a year and we committed to revising it. It was revised and relaunched publicly last May with a commitment to do ongoing training. Some of that training has already started. Recently, we’ve done that.
Some of the other work that the coordinating committee has done: We’ve done a Youth Dating Violence Project. It was a web-based resource for information for youth on dating violence, services available, safety information. We did a Healthy Relationship Video Contest. Again, there is a strong commitment from the coordinating committee around the prevention piece and definitely looking at younger elementary school or high school age. This program, the Healthy Relationship Video Contest, was aimed at secondary students. It was awesome. It certainly included sexual violence, as well as power and control issues and healthy relationships.
We’ve done multi-sectoral training. KFACC has organized half- and full-day training sessions. Topics presented recently include legal issues relating to partner abuse, options for creating a local one-stop collaborative service delivery site, and Dave Franklin’s workshop on relationship terrorism.
The protocol committee, after the launch and some of the training they’re currently looking at doing online—again, a strong commitment from the coordinating committee around those protocols and really what’s at the essence of the protocols in terms of best practice and really what collaboration means. There is a commitment to ongoing training. As we find out over and over again when we all sit around a table, we don’t really know what everybody does. So it’s a great opportunity to network and find out what people’s roles are and what their mandates are and how best we can work together. The committee has also endorsed and supported initiatives, including Don’t Be That Guy and Un-Blurred Lines.
Ms. Elayne Furoy: Basically, it’s a prevention campaign that was aimed—one of the criticisms of a lot of messaging out there when we’re looking at trying to prevent sexual violence is aimed towards people who experience sexual violence. We have to be very careful about that. It sends the wrong message; right? It actually is a form of victim blaming. So when we say to people, “Be careful. Don’t send naked photos of yourself over the Internet because then you’ll be a victim”—we really want to kind of steer away.
Don’t Be That Guy is a very successful campaign basically where the messaging was toward young men, potential perpetrators, by saying, “You help a girl into the cab and she’s really drunk. Do you take advantage of that, or do you assist her?” It’s kind of trying to point that out, to say, “Don’t be that guy.”
Thank you very much. I have to say, lots of projects that you’ve tackled in the past few years, so congratulations for all that work. I guess I have a question in terms of, what would be some of the best practices for treatment and support that should be adopted and you could recommend to us?
Ms. Lisa Fox: We certainly like to use our protocols, so we have the specific Partner Abuse Protocol and the Sexual Assault Protocol. In essence, some of the guiding principles and the beliefs of those two documents are what I would consider sort of the best practices, because it really gets at how we treat people who might walk through the door in terms of receiving services. We all will come from our own perspective in terms of our agencies and what our mandates are, but this is around the essence of really working collaboratively together.
Mr. Randy Hillier: Thank you very much. One of the things that we’ve heard about often is integration and coordination. I think you mentioned that you were working for a couple of years on a one-stop-shop delivery model, but you haven’t been successful. It sounded like you’ve spent a couple of years trying to put that together but it hasn’t come off the ground. Maybe if you could just explain what the hurdles have been in getting that off the ground.
Ms. Elayne Furoy: Also, too, I would say, domestic violence is under a different funding stream. DV is under MCSS, whereas sexual violence falls under victims of crime, and so that’s under the Attorney General. It’s very difficult, from a government perspective, to get those different pots of money to basically collaborate and come together. That’s one of the barriers.
Ms. Lisa Fox: Yes. There was, philosophically, a strong commitment and a strong buy-in from all the community agencies. The report that was done actually spells out how much it would cost per square foot of the building, including all the things that would come with that, so it was a very comprehensive report that was done. But again, I think it’s a shift because it would mean placing a person, a resource, into another office, so it would look different. I think it’s a shift in how people do work currently with that model.
Mr. Randy Hillier: I’m going to assume that you’ve got a model and a framework created for this one-stop delivery service, and I’m just wondering if you might be able to share that with this committee as well so we can take a look at that and whatever other information might be pertinent to it, for us to look at.
Ms. Peggy Sattler: Thank you very much. I come from London, which is a community that also evolved from a domestic violence coordinating committee to the coordinating committee to end woman abuse. I appreciate very much the work that you’re doing in this community.
Earlier this week we had a presentation in Windsor about some best practices in prevention and they talked about some fundamentals. Single-gender-focused programs tend to be more effective. It sounds like you’re doing that with Don’t Be That Guy. It sounds like that is directed at male audiences.
I wondered if you’ve also found that in the evaluation of the other kinds of programs that you’re doing, around youth dating violence and healthy relationships. Is that something that you have found in your work?
Ms. Elayne Furoy: I think when some research was done around prevention, as you heard from Rebecca and Bailey first thing this morning, the results are mixed. It is an area that has been under-researched. Definitely there is value in having gender-specific prevention and education, and there’s also value in having blanket messaging for everybody. It just depends on what the outcome is that you’re focusing on. But I would say that the jury is kind of out on that.
Ms. Peggy Sattler: Okay. And then your survivors’ group: I was interested in hearing more about the role of the survivors’ group. Are they involved in program development or is it feedback on programs as they’re being implemented? What’s their role?
Ms. Lisa Fox: When we worked on the collaborative service delivery site, it was instrumental. They were informing that working group at that time. The survivors’ group at that point, when that project concluded, continued on for about a year.
More recently, last year—we’ve got a new survivors’ group. The previous survivors’ group didn’t have leadership connected with it, so we re-established a survivors’ group last year, and they are currently in the planning stages of what they want to do. Again, there is a strong commitment between the coordinating committee and the survivors’ group that they will work together and collaboratively. They did, actually, come speak to the protocol training and did presentations there. Again, the importance of that is huge.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Thank you very much, ladies, for coming in and chatting with us today and sharing your information. We very much appreciate it. We invite you now, if you wish, to join the audience.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): I will now call on our next presenter this afternoon, with the Community Advocacy and Legal Centre. Good afternoon. Please make yourself comfortable. Have a glass of water if you like.
Ms. Sharon Powell: I’ve had my pamphlet passed around for our legal centre. Just a brief overview: We’re a non-profit community legal clinic, and we provide free legal services to low-income residents of Hastings, Prince Edward and Lennox and Addington counties. We’re staffed by lawyers, community legal workers, and support staff. We’re funded by legal aid, and we have a volunteer board of directors. “Community legal worker” is a term within the clinic system. Most community legal workers are now licensed paralegals, since the law society has started licensing.
My role within the legal clinic system is as a paralegal/community legal worker. My primary role within my clinic is Criminal Injuries Compensation Board claims. Our case-selection criteria for that is people who have been the victims of childhood abuse or domestic or sexual assault. I would be happy to do an overview of criminal injuries compensation if that’s required. If people are familiar with the program, I won’t. I’ll leave that.
One of the things that we have done within the clinic system is start a study group with Criminal Injuries Compensation Board people who do that work. We meet quarterly and we discuss concerns and best practices. The submission that has been passed around to everyone is from that group, done by Deirdre McDade, a staff lawyer at my clinic, and myself, with contributions from members of the group. What we’re looking at is that, because the government is looking at changing some of the aspects of the victims of crime act, we’re asking them to open the legislation and review it, as it hasn’t been done since November 1986.
We totally support the time limitation period that the government has put forward for victims of sexual assault, but we’re also asking that that be extended to victims of childhood abuse and domestic violence, as they are also severely traumatized by what’s happened to them. Very often those forms of abuse also include sexual violence.
We feel that the most egregious aspect of the current practice of the board is offender notification. Any time there has not been a conviction of an offender, the offender will be notified that the victim is bringing a claim against them. That does stop many victims from proceeding with claims, because they’re afraid to face the offender. The board does not tell the offender where the victim resides, but we’re in a small community where often the offenders know where the people reside or people know who their offenders are, so they’re aware of where they live.
It’s really not practicable, usually, for the victims to sue the offenders in civil court, because the people that we work with are on a low income. It prejudices people who know their offenders, as claims can go ahead even if the offender is unknown or deceased. Anyone who knows their offender is going to have to say where they are, and the board will notify that person.
Also, there’s a subrogation issue, and the board hasn’t pursued subrogation in some time. That was one of the recommendations by Justice Roy McMurtry and which is in the submissions on page 3. One of the things that he recommended was that offenders not be notified of the applications by victims. A way around that is to get rid of the subrogation aspect.
Other aspects that we think are worth looking at are the amount of the awards—which hasn’t been changed since 1986—and the board making a decision on a claimant’s capacity, which then puts the awards into trust and puts it forward to the Public Guardian and Trustee.
Our primary recommendations, on the last page of our submission, are about eliminating the provision on subrogation, waiving notification of offenders in cases of sexual assault, domestic violence and childhood abuse; and eliminating the limitation period for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and childhood abuse.
Ms. Sharon Powell: It says in the legislation that they shall serve the offender where practicable, and it was waived, very liberally, if we provided submissions or an affidavit from the victim, saying that they felt they were in jeopardy if the offender was notified.
The purpose or value is that the person has the right to defend themselves, if they choose to, and question what the victim is saying about them. However, it’s a balance of probabilities. It’s not “beyond a reasonable doubt” as the burden of proof.
Ms. Sharon Powell: I totally agree with where you’re going with that. That’s part of our point: It does not result in criminal charges against the offender. It doesn’t prejudice their reputation, because there’s a publication ban on decisions involving childhood abuse, domestic or sexual assault.
You can ask for an extension. The main reason that people need an extension is because they don’t know about the program. They normally don’t know it is in existence. The board has recently—in the last few years, they have been very liberal in granting extensions. Certainly, before that, we went through a period where, with historical abuse, it was very difficult to get an extension.
Ms. Sharon Powell: Not to extend it beyond two years, but in the action plan that the provincial government has put forward, it would be that they would eliminate that two-year time limitation for victims of sexual assault. We totally agree with that and we’re asking that it be expanded to victims of childhood and domestic.
Ms. Sharon Powell: Right. What it means is that the board—say they award a person $10,000 for pain and suffering. Then the board can go after the offender for the $10,000 and sue them to get the money back.
Ms. Sharon Powell: To the best of my knowledge, and in the submissions—Justice McMurtry did a very thorough review of the system after there was an Ombudsman report about criminal injuries compensation. He said that they haven’t pursued it in over a decade. It’s not usually worth their while for the time that it takes, and if the offenders don’t have money, there’s no point.
We’ve spoken to a number of survivors over the last couple of weeks in the opportunities that we’ve had here. A lot of them have talked about how difficult it is to find the right supports and to find what they’re looking for, especially as victims, and how hard it is for them.
Ms. Sharon Powell: Yes. So we’re legal support. We screen many of our clients for violence, and that’s how we get a lot of clients for criminal injuries compensation. We get a lot of referrals from the local agencies. I’m also an active member on the coordinating committee in my community, which is similar to the committee that you just heard about in Kingston. There’s a coordinating committee in the Quinte area that we network monthly, and so they would refer people to me and vice versa.
Committee members, you’ll see on your list that our next presenter is going to be reached by teleconference. However, we’ve been told that she’s not available, at the earliest, until 2:45. As you can see, we’re a little bit ahead of schedule, so we’re going to stand in recess until 2:45. I look forward to seeing you then.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Joy, this is Daiene Vernile. I’m Chair of the Select Committee on Sexual Violence and Harassment. Before we get started, we’re actually going to go around and have everybody tell you who they are so that you know to whom you’re speaking today. We’ll start on my left.
Ms. Laurie Scott: Hi, Joy. It’s Laurie Scott. Thank you for being willing to appear before committee. I had asked Joy. So, Joy, I was the contact, and I will leave it at that. You know enough about me.
Ms. Joy Smith: Okay. I will begin right now. I know I’m presenting to the Ontario Select Committee on Sexual Violence and Harassment. I’m Joy Smith, member of Parliament from Kildonan–St. Paul. Thank you to you all for inviting me to testify. I have to say that I’ve been working on the human trafficking and the violence-against-women file for a very, very long time. I was a former member of the Manitoba Legislature, and my son was in the integrated child exploitation unit and the child abuse unit as a cop. Having said that, he taught me about what was happening in our country, and I started working with the victims. That was about 17 years ago. Unfortunately, I got to know a great deal about human trafficking and what it was in this country.
Subsequently, I passed two bills, Bill C-268, mandatory minimums for traffickers of children 18 years and under. It’s in the Criminal Code, as we speak. It did make Canadian history as the 15th private member’s bill that amended the Criminal Code since Confederation. The other one was Bill C-310, and that’s when we reached the long arm of the Canadian law when permanent residents or Canadian citizens go abroad and traffic or exploit others in countries that have weak judicial systems, weak police forces. We now can bring them back to Canada and we can try them here.
I thank you for having me come to your committee today and I’m hoping it’s somewhat useful to you. I also wrote Connecting the Dots, a proposal for a national action plan against human traffickers. Our government did adopt that action plan and we do have the government action plan as a result of that.
Anyway, when we talk about human trafficking, I understand that you’re studying the prevention of sexual violence and harassment—and to improve your response to Ontarians who have experienced sexual violence and harassment. I’ll be focusing my remarks this afternoon on the issue of preventing sex trafficking, which is a particularly heinous form of sexual violence. Primary venues of sex trafficking are prostitution, massage parlours and strip clubs, and I will share with you the information that I have gathered and end with recommendations.
Sex trafficking impacts many women and young girls, but also some boys and men, particularly boys in the last five years. According to a Criminal Intelligence Service Canada report on organized crime, several street gangs are especially active with the domestic sex-trafficking market. These groups facilitate the recruitment, the control, the movement and the exploitation of Canadian-born females in the domestic sex trade, primarily in strip bars in several cities across the country.
A number of organized crime syndicates and family-based networks recruit girls to trafficking inter- and intra-provincially, so New Brunswick to Montreal to Toronto to Niagara. Middle-class females between the ages of 12 to 25 are recruited by male peers posing as their boyfriends. Victims are controlled by direct rape and assault and indirect threatening, like to family—all sorts of forms of coercion. The daily earnings, ladies and gentlemen, of one victim can range between $300 to $1,500 a day. A single Canadian victim of sex trafficking is worth approximately $280,000 on the market today per year to her exploiter or to her trafficker. Human traffickers can be males or females and are called madams or pimps sometimes. It’s not about sex, actually; it’s all about the money. They earn a great deal of money off very innocent victims.
The process that they go through is recruitment and isolation, control and exploitation. I just had a case this past weekend—I was very busy this long weekend—of a young girl who was lured by the traffickers over the Internet. It’s the same MO. They persuaded her to disrobe and took inappropriate pictures. They were going to meet her at a certain place. The traffickers were much older than she was. This particular young lady was 16 years old. Fortunately, her mom and dad interceded and intercepted what was going on.
We were able to trace those traffickers down to Texas because often they recruit in Canada. Most of the trafficking happens between the US and Canada and Canada and the US, although I’ve worked with victims from Hungary, from Ukraine, from Israel—from different countries across the globe.
Ontario has had a number of human trafficking cases. Very recently, in January, as you know, a trafficker was arrested after a 17-year-old girl was forced into the sex trade, beaten, choked and threatened. Again, in February, Hamilton police rescued a 16-year-old girl being trafficked in the sex trade and charged her 18-year-old trafficker. In March, in Toronto, police rescued a 14-year-old girl being sold for sex by three women. In April—this is just giving you examples. There are so many of them, but I want to bring it home to you because I really applaud you for what you’re doing in Ontario. Ontario is very active, as are all the other provinces in Canada. In April, just a couple of months ago, RCMP investigations in Toronto and Montreal resulted in the arrest of an international human trafficking crime ring that had brought up to 500 young women to Canada from Asia. You probably read about it in the newspapers. There are more and more articles in the newspapers that are talking about what is really happening.
I know that you’ve heard from survivors like Katarina MacLeod and Casandra Diamond. They’re amazing women. I’ve worked with them for quite a long time. They’re wonderful, wonderful women who are survivors. It’s so critical that you hear from survivors, because these are the ones that can provide some of the most important recommendations on preventing future sexual violence.
Let’s be clear: Prostitution is not the world’s oldest profession. It’s the world’s oldest form of oppression. Prostitution does exploit women, youth and vulnerable populations. It escalates gender inequalities by turning women into a commodity to be bought, sold, rented and exploited. Prostitution provides an avenue for abuse and violence.
I call out prostitution because they call it the age-old industry. It’s actually human trafficking because if you look at the backstory behind what happened to these so-called prostitutes: They were targeted, they were lured and they were forced into the sex trade or persuaded to go into the sex trade without realizing what was happening, and somebody else was getting all their money.
In a Canadian study on women and prostitution from Vancouver’s downtown east side—and I’ve done extensive work down there—100 women were interviewed. They were aboriginal women; they represented 52% of the women down there on the east side being trafficked in the act of prostitution. Almost 75% of Canadian women experienced stabbings, beatings, concussions and broken bones. It really isn’t the Pretty Woman scenario that was put on the movie screen; it was just exactly the opposite. Some 50% of the women experienced serious head injuries. They were attacked with baseball bats and crowbars. It’s just a horrible existence for these women who are so controlled by their traffickers.
I think Ontario’s approach must recognize that prostitution as a result of trafficking is not just violence but itself is a form of violence. This is a position that has been adopted across political lines here in Canada. As you know, in the 2006 report of the national Standing Committee on the Status of Women, which I was a part of, called Turning Outrage into Action—I was the vice-chair of that particular committee. We adopted the position from that Status of Women document—after hearing the majority of witnesses before us, we came to the conclusion that prostitution was closely linked to trafficking in persons. We believed—that particular committee—that prostitution is a form of violence and a violation of human rights. The committee as a whole felt that prostitutes’ consent is irrelevant because you never consent to sexual exploitation.
Another issue in Ontario that I’ve been very aware of and one that is of great concern to me is the number of vulnerable youth being lured into prostitution. As you know, in 2013, the RCMP report Domestic Human Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation in Canada revealed alarming trends among the trafficking of youth. If you read that report—which I don’t have time to go over right now because I know I only have about five more minutes. I want to make sure that you draw attention to that report because you’ll see that youth in group homes and foster care are highly at risk of traffickers luring them and trafficking them on the street. It also reveals the message used by traffickers to recruit vulnerable youth. Really, they gain their trust, to make a long story short. If you read that particular document, it is well documented.
Another study highlighted by a literature review by the Canadian Women’s Foundation—you should really get this wonderful study they did on trafficking in persons. I think it was $2.2 million they spent on a year’s study. The study itself is incredible. A lot of those victims in that study I recognized and worked with over the years. In that study, it found that aboriginal youth were found to make up one third to one half of the sexually exploited participants. Foster care and group homes were the first site of sexual exploitation. So that’s an issue that really has to be addressed.
In the National Task Force on Sex Trafficking of Women and Girls in Canada in 2014, members of the task force met 160 women and girls who had been trafficked. Many had been first trafficked as a young teenager, typically at age 13 or 14. A lot of them are from middle-class homes with parents who cared for them. I’ve worked with a lot of victims. Everybody thinks it’s aboriginals, street kids, whatever; it’s not. It’s any young person who is vulnerable.
First, I think that this committee should recommend that the Ontario Legislature adopt MPP Laurie Scott’s private member’s motion on a provincial task force to combat human trafficking. I really like that motion. It’s an important first step. I can’t begin to express how important it is to have a collaborative approach that brings key stakeholders to target sex trafficking and to head it off in Ontario here. I just, again, have to commend MPP Scott for putting forward this motion. I’ve never met Laurie, but I read her speech and read what she said. This is groundbreaking—what you’re doing on this committee here in Ontario—and I thank you all for that. If it passes and is acted on by the Ontario government, it’ll be a significant step forward.
Secondly, I’d like to recommend that any effort to combat sexual violence include targeted measures to vulnerable youth, especially those in group homes. There needs to be more training and education for group home staff and social workers etc.—and police officers as well.
Third, I would recommend that the committee consider legislative changes to better protect victims of human trafficking. For example, my home province of Manitoba has enshrined certain protections into law. Manitoba’s Child Sexual Exploitation and Human Trafficking Act became law on April 30, 2012. It’s not about what political party did what—actually, our province is NDP; it’s about everybody working together to stop this heinous crime against vulnerable youth.
Fourth, I’d like to recognize that in 2011 the Ontario government took a few encouraging steps to target human trafficking, including the development of a crisis line and funding for organizations assisting victims, and establishing a human trafficking advisory committee. I’ve been watching this very closely. These are great steps, and you have great police forces who are becoming trained and doing some really good work. But, unfortunately, Ontario still lags behind some other provinces in anti-human-trafficking efforts. I believe that Ontario needs an action plan to combat human trafficking with measurable goals, and it needs to increase funding for organizations supporting human trafficking victims. The $650,000 that is available right now is nowhere near enough to support non-governmental organizations.
I believe Ontario also needs to prioritize tackling the demand for prostitution. This means supporting the ban on purchasing sex and advertising sexual services. There are excellent police forces in Ontario—out of Toronto, Peel, Durham and Halton, to name a few—who are targeting the johns, and they need the full support of the Ontario government. In this regard, public education, in my view, is imperative, because it informs people about the links between sex trafficking and youth sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
So I think these are some very, very important steps, and I’ve been watching very closely because I’m just thrilled to know that this committee has tackled this very important topic. I just want to thank you for that.
Ms. Peggy Sattler: Thank you very much, Joy, for taking the time to present to this committee. You talked about foster care settings and group homes often being the preferred location for traffickers to recruit victims, and also recommended targeted measures for vulnerable youth, especially those who are in group homes.
You mentioned training for group home staff. Are there other targeted measures? Is there legislative change that should be considered? Do you have anything else in mind as to what would be an effective targeted measure to address the issue of recruitment through foster care and group homes?
Ms. Joy Smith: I don’t want to give a wrong impression that that’s the only place that youth are targeted. It’s not. It’s anywhere. I’ve had kids in school set up a schoolmate and sell them to the traffickers and get their way paid through university—upper-middle-class Canada, I’m talking about.
Group homes and foster care are particularly vulnerable places where I think some—education is our greatest weapon, and I think people don’t realize how traffickers work. How traffickers work is they come on as the victim’s friend. They don’t come on as bad guys or bad women. They try to gain their trust. The second step they do is, they try to separate them from their support systems, and that could be group homes, schools, churches, family—just separate them. And once they’ve separated, what they do is they get their identification somehow. Youth should be told: Don’t give your identification to anyone.
When they gain their trust, often they become a very close friend or a so-called boyfriend. I don’t want any of the kids to get paranoid or things like that, but when someone starts asking for your identification, it’s time to put the red flags up. When someone wants to separate you from everything you know—your family, your comforts—there’s a problem there.
I had, this weekend, a young girl lured over the Internet. She got to a point where she totally trusted a person who she’d never, in her whole life, met. The reason why they go after underage kids is because they’re easy to influence; they’re easy to manipulate. They give them experiences and they give them promises, and if they meet them, they start to groom them very nicely by giving them dinners out, flowers—things that young kids normally, at that age, don’t experience. So they gain their trust and I think that wherever they are—group homes, in schools, whatever—I just am particularly concerned about group homes because I do think that, from what I can tell and from what I’ve seen across Canada, that is one place where they do circle the wagons and try to get the young people inside.
I’m wondering if you can provide some information for us, more with respect to sexual violence and harassment, on what the major trends are—or perhaps the top two or three—that you can identify that are of most concern to you, and what can this province learn from your perspective?
Ms. Joy Smith: You know, that is such a good question. Thank you so much. I look at two things—because I just met with some top women executives—and talk about harassment in the lofty halls of top corporations. A lot of women CEOs are enduring those comments. One lady, a couple of weeks ago, was telling me that they made a comment, “Oh, you know, you’re so good. You get paid. You just lay on your back, and you get all the money you want,” like that kind of stuff.
I think in our schools and in our communities, we have to not laugh at those kinds of things. We have to discuss the environment we’re setting for young women where people think that’s funny. It’s not funny, because that does happen to some people. The fact of the matter is, it sets an environment for sexual harassment being a common, ordinary thing.
And it’s not only men; it’s women, too. I know I was sitting in a circle of parliamentary people, and I have to tell you—no names will be said at this committee—there were men and women there, and they had great guffaws about the prostitutes. I just went up to them and said, “You know what? After what we’ve been studying and what you know, I find that this just turns my stomach.”
I thought they wouldn’t speak to me ever again, because this was on a Friday. They were in the Maple Leaf room in Air Canada—and I’m not talking about parties. I’m talking about a whole group of parliamentarians, mixed parties. They were just having a couple of drinks and sitting, waiting for the plane. I thought no one would be speaking to me on Monday. Guess what? Everybody acted like nothing had happened.
You know, people never speak up. When you talk about sexual harassment and that kind of stuff, we have accepted it as a community. Earlier this year, Fifty Shades of Grey—I spoke out against it and very strongly, because, sorry, violence against women—I called it “Fifty shades of violence.”
Anybody can do anything they want in this country, but it has got to a point—when it hurts somebody else, that’s not on. When women are disrespected or men are disrespected, I think we have to set up an environment in our country of dignity and respect for all people. When we start accepting this kind of thing and thinking it’s funny and it’s the joke of the day, it’s pretty sad.
Ms. Laurie Scott: Joy, I can’t thank you enough for all the work that you’ve done for so long. If you don’t know at the table, Joy is retiring this year and donating her full-time work to her foundation, the Joy Smith Foundation, helping exploited women.
Ms. Laurie Scott: I know Manitoba does some things differently, and I wondered if you could expand—you touched upon them lightly—either from supporting victims, because we know there are crucial time periods in which you can help these young women. How do you do it differently in Manitoba than in Ontario?
Then the other part, that somewhat you’ve addressed, is making people more aware of the extent of the problem. We’ve got incredible coverage, I have to say, since last Thursday, and I’m encouraged that maybe the government will certainly bring this forward. You had success with private members’ bills. We all support the motion to deal with human trafficking. But if you could touch on those two areas quickly, on what you might do differently in Manitoba, and the public awareness. Thank you.
Ms. Joy Smith: Thank you. First of all, I think what is so profound is that the provincial government—which, as I said, is an NDP government; I’m Conservative. I said, “You know, we have to work together. It’s not about what political parties are.”
They put forth Manitoba’s Child Sexual Exploitation and Human Trafficking Act. It became law on April 30, 2012. What this law did was create a protection order for victims of human trafficking or child sexual exploitation, which does offer protection to victims by requiring the respondent—that’s the person you want to be protected from, the human trafficker or the exploiter—to stay away from the victims.
This law also allows a victim of human trafficking to sue the trafficker for money. That’s a first. When it hits their pocketbooks—because it’s all about money. They make so much money off of these innocent victims, and now the victims have become survivors. When you listen to Katarina and Casandra, I could give you 300 such young women—more than that—and the story is always the same. No one looked at them as a victim; they looked at them initially as a bad girl and they were disrespected or whatever.
Education is our greatest weapon. The backstory to how traffickers work, the backstory to how they’re controlled—they have to smile. They have to do as they’re told. If they don’t, and if they don’t hand over their money, they get beaten or worse: They do not live through the experience. There are many girls who have disappeared and gone because, you know, they’re easily disposable.
Disposable people are not what Canada is supposed to be about. It’s supposed to be enhancing and providing programs for victims of human trafficking and victims who have been exploited, to restart their lives. I think the story is getting out in Canada now, because education is our greatest weapon. The story is getting out that human trafficking is very prevalent here in our country, and that’s not what we stand for in Canada. Canadians are the True North, strong and free, and we stand by that.
But to do that, to make that happen, we need to hear the stories of the survivors who came out of it, and people like yourselves who stood beside them. To downplay the fact—there’s nothing good about prostitution. There is nothing good. I have seen so many trafficked victims, and they’re called prostitutes—and I’m thinking to myself, “How did they become where they are right now?” They became where they were because somebody targeted them, lured them, took away everything they had, and they thought the only thing they had was survival—that is, continuing to service men—or women; it happens with young boys as well more and more, which I find very alarming, these last five years.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Committee members, we’re now going to be calling our next presenter. It’s also going to be a teleconference. We only have one line, so we had to say goodbye to Joy, and we’re now going to be calling Julie DeMarchi.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): All right. Very nice. Julie, you are being heard right now by 10 Ontario MPPs, who are sitting around a table. I’m just going to read their names quickly to you and we’ll get started.
We have MPPs Sattler, Natyshak, McDonell, Hillier, Scott, McMahon, Lalonde, Kiwala, Malhi and Dong. My name is Daiene Vernile, and I’m the Chair of the Select Committee on Sexual Violence and Harassment.
Ms. Julie DeMarchi: Fantastic. My name is Julie DeMarchi. I’m the executive director here at the Timmins and Area Women in Crisis, also known as TAWC. We’re a sexual assault centre that was established in 1992, so 23 years ago. On average, our funding for the sexual assault centre is about $258,000 per year, and we have 3.25 staff and an active volunteer base of 15 to 20 volunteers at any given time.
The women’s crisis centre, TAWC, basically works toward the prevention and eradication of all forms of violence against women, specifically sexual violence. We recognize that violence against women is one of the strongest indicators of prevailing societal attitudes towards women.
We offer some of the following services: We have group and individual supportive feminist counselling—feminist counselling being a very different form of counselling than your typical. We offer a safe refuge from violence. We have a shelter program. We also have a 24-hour crisis line for both the sexual assault centre and for our women’s shelter.
We have group programming; community events; and hospital, police reporting and court accompaniment. We accompany women to some of the most difficult places that they have to go to report. We have a transitional and housing support program through our agency. We have aboriginal programming, such as healing circles and smudge ceremonies.
We have a staff that’s funded, that does information on the legal system, community resources and strategies for coping. We offer information and support for partners, families and friends of survivors.
We do a lot of social awareness events: Take Back the Night, which most of you should be fairly familiar with; Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which is the month of May, this month; International Women’s Day; and December 6. We do a lot of public education to inform students, professionals and community members about violence against women and violence prevention.
What we’ve come to know over the past 23 years is that sexual assault and harassment is a constant, daily part of women’s and children’s lives. That reality takes a great toll on women’s lives. Misconceptions about sexual violence contribute to both individual and community responses to this gender-based crime.
Some of the misconceptions include—a lot of victim blaming; denial prevalence; and a lack of knowledge, which can impact survivors of sexual assault directly, for example, by functioning to cause people to minimize or question the experiences of victim/survivors—blaming the victim or survivor—and to contribute to the barriers of their experience and excuse the perpetrator’s actions.
Rural women often face more complex concerns. Violence and abuse are often easily hidden in a rural setting because of the geographical remoteness. Sexual violence carries a particular stigma in rural areas. Rural women are seen as violating community norms by their peers and families if they seek help. Traditional norms are more prevalent in rural areas, and so are patriarchal attitudes that devalue and objectify women. Although poverty affects everyone in rural and urban settings, the rural poor experience of poverty manifests itself mostly around access to transportation and less opportunities for employment and wage levels that support sustainability. There is an abundance of weapons that are used in the north, hunting season being fairly common.
The Timmins area has no LGBTQ-identified organization that offers support, so the women’s crisis takes on that role of supporting the LGBTQ community as much as we possibly can, understanding our mandate.
On another note, something that is rarely addressed in discussions about sexual violence is the toll that the work of supporting survivors, advocating for change and doing social justice activism takes on front-line workers. That is especially true where you have three staff—3.27 staff—who have consistently committed to supporting survivors of sexual violence, who are easily recognizable in a small community at the grocery store etc., where disclosures and resource information are sought by survivors, family friends and neighbours on a regular basis. So we liken ourselves to the doctors, pastors and priests who are always on duty—always “on”—because we’re never really anonymous.
We often experience disbelief that sexual violence exists in small communities: “It always happens in the big cities,” and that is so not true. I can talk about a couple of personal experiences—a current situation that just happened on Monday. I’m going to go a little bit off-script and give you a little bit of detail on this—not identified in the media yet as intimate partner violence because the media does not know how to identify that. We’re currently working on a media kit to assist the media to be able to identify intimate partner violence and be able to speak to it in the media. They identified this as a personal attack. Understanding full well at this point that most of the information I’m getting are rumours—but my family is closely connected to the perpetrator and the victim as my children are the same age as them and friends with them.
So, 18 years old, a young man picks up the victim—coerces her to the car because she has been told that she’s not allowed to see him anymore. He managed to coerce her by telling her that somebody had committed suicide: “I need you in the car. I really need to speak to you. I really need to be with you.” She goes in the car. While in the car, he was seen driving 160 in an 80 zone and pulling U-turns on the highway; told her he was going to kill her and that if he can’t have her, nobody can; proceeded to stab her while he was driving the car; and hit another vehicle head-on. When she didn’t die and he didn’t die, he continued to stab her, and he sliced his throat. He’s dead; she’s in the hospital in Ottawa at CHEO right now—13 stab wounds. She is very, very lucky to be alive. This is intimate partner violence. This is not a personal attack; it’s intimate partner violence.
These are the things that we don’t believe happen in our little cities. Timmins is a safe place to be, but do you know what? It happens everywhere. It doesn’t matter how old you are. They’re 18 years old, both in the vicinity of grades 11 or 12, about to graduate. You don’t hear of this kind of stuff in these small cities, but it happens just as much here as anywhere else.
On a personal level, myself at the age of 17, I was living in Ottawa. I was gang-raped by six men—never reported it. I waited till they all fell asleep. I got up—there was myself and one other girl. I felt like I was to blame. I felt like it was my fault because I became friends with them. I joined their circles and hung out with them. They invited me over. What was I thinking, going there? I should not have. So those are all the things that a woman goes through.
I did not deal with it. I only started working here at the sexual assault centre five years ago. Other than having spoken to my sister about it, my mother and my partners over the past 20 years—my ex-husband and my current partner—and my best friend—other than those five people, I never spoke a word of it to anybody else until I started working at the sexual assault centre and thought, “Oh, goodness. I probably need to deal with my stuff so that I’m able to help others, because if I don’t deal with my own”—I could acknowledge that this happened to me, but I’d never really processed it. At the age of 17, that’s not something that you can process.
Like I said, I waited until they all fell asleep and I snuck out and I moved back to Timmins. I called my mom and said, “Oh, my God. I need to come home. I’m in a lot of trouble,” and I moved back to Timmins.
This stuff happens on a regular basis. It’s scary stuff. I was just talking a little earlier about the front-line staff who deal with this every day. We need more staff. We need more people who can assist women going through it.
Some of our recommendations are very simple. Women in Crisis calls on the select committee members to address sexual violence through multiple levels, including, but not limited to, community-based policy and systemic approaches. Sexual violence cannot be divided from a broader social context, one in which the victim/survivor, the violation itself or the threat of it and the offender exist in a larger system of societal norms, values and beliefs. The World Health Organization agrees that many prevalent societal attitudes justify, tolerate, normalize and minimize sexual, physical and emotional violence against women and girls.
We believe that education on sexual violence, including information on prevalence, myths, misconceptions and attitudes informed by misogyny, greatly lends to the prevention of sexual violence. Also, a gender-based analysis ought to be integrated into all conversations and strategies for dealing with sexual violence, including workplace harassment.
Our next recommendation, probably my biggest one: We recommend adequate, stable funding for Ontario sexual assault centres and other services that support survivors so that they may better respond to sexual violence survivors and communities. Sexual assault centres already have the appropriate knowledge and skill set to deliver survivor-directed services. The structures are already in place. We hope that part of the action plan will include an increase in funding to sexual assault centres in Ontario, which have been doing this work for some 23 years and still only have 3.27 staff.
I highly recommend the engagement and the expertise of the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres in your next steps of implementing the action plan’s 13 steps. OCRCC has been a provincial organization aiming to improve systemic and supportive work for survivors of sexual violence for over 30 years and can offer a lot of information on best practices, educational prevention work and barriers facing survivors in Ontario’s communities. I recommend that they be involved in how to implement these 13 steps. They need to be at the table at all times. They are the experts. When you want the experts, OCRCC are the sexual violence experts. And it wouldn’t hurt to maybe incorporate a little bit of funding for them as well. I think that would really be helpful.
Another thing that we recommend is the active engagement of others with expertise in sexual violence, such as sexual assault support staff, aboriginal women in communities and sexual violence survivors. We support indigenous-led strategies to be incorporated into the gender-based violence against indigenous women—we support the integration of information and conversations on sexual consent, healthy relationships and online sexual activity and to help the curriculum for the youth population.
We recommend that stakeholders aim to better understand and address reporting barriers, that the police really need some training to understand the barriers to reporting. Way too often are we told: “They need to report.” It’s not that simple, because that table is so quickly turned on you.
A cancer survivor went for dinner with a friend, and he horribly violated her. The judge said to her, “Why didn’t you just leave?” It’s not that simple. Understanding the broader context—the police, the judicial system, just doesn’t get sexual violence. Sexual violence is not the same as your regular, everyday—it is so unique and so different. Providing funding to a mainstream organization and saying, “Do sexual violence work” is not going to work. You need the feminist counselling agencies to have that funding to be able to proceed. We also hope that prevention campaigns will continue to hold men accountable for their abusive behaviour.
One of the prevailing themes that we’re hearing about is that the justice system—or the formal court process, if you will—is not something that is accessed by many survivors, nor is it a process they want to undertake. I just wondered if that’s consistent with your work in Timmins and, consequently, your thoughts on how we could provide support to survivors, particularly those who don’t want to come forward. Certainly in smaller communities, there are issues with not so much stranger danger, but knowing your perpetrator. Can you give us some ideas and some thoughts on that?
When it comes to the justice system, I think one of the big flaws or difficulties is that, as a sexual assault centre, we’re almost not taken seriously at times. When we go in to see the police, we’re not considered probation, police or crown attorney, so when we go in to speak to the police etc., they almost don’t see us as experts. They see themselves as the ones who know this stuff better than anyone else. So I think it’s important for them to get this training from sexual assault centres and recognize that sexual assault centres know this stuff and are able to train them in the best way possible to better understand victims.
Why do they not report, and is there a way to help women report? Well, it’s about holding the perpetrator accountable. What happens is that when a woman does report and it goes to court, first of all she’s ostracized by her community, by her friends, because they happen to be his friends as well: “How could you be doing that to him?” or “I never saw that,” calling her a liar—all of those things that happen to women when they come forward.
We saw it with Jian Ghomeshi. We saw it with Bill Cosby—we had celebrities calling out other folks who were coming forward about Bill Cosby. This is a very public forum. Bring that down to a small-town scale where everybody knows each other and it’s very, very difficult, because you’re basically calling out your brother’s friend or your aunt’s boyfriend—who knows—in a small community. I don’t know if there’s much that we can do to help survivors come forward, other than really holding perpetrators accountable and getting rid of that victim blaming.
How do we do that? Public education is probably the best way. For many, many years, we’ve been seen as radical feminists who are always talking about sexual violence; this is probably an amazing time in history right now, with you at the table. You have the ability to make some changes with sexual violence that have never, ever been made in history. It’s wild. This is a really exciting time for us, because we’ve never had an opportunity where sexual violence was the primary topic. This is a great opportunity for you folks at the table to be able to make some very important decisions.
We’ve heard from different communities as we’ve travelled. There’s certainly some best practices in different communities. Other communities need a little help in coordinating services. It disturbs me a bit, what you were saying about kind of the culture that’s up there. I represent a rural community. I hear you. I just had my local community organization speak to us. We heard the statistics that basically parallel what you’re saying about the known offenders.
I don’t know if you’ve seen the programs; I think they’re called Draw the Line. Basically they’re teaching men and boys how to act. Draw the Line is basically saying what I’m trying to say. Is there anything like that initiative up there in Timmins area—
Ms. Laurie Scott: Do you find that that’s helpful? Can you get into the schools? What is the kind of relationship? It was a little disturbing what you said about the police. How can we help you up there?
Ms. Julie DeMarchi: Well, the Draw the Line campaign is a perfect example of something as a rural community that we were able to really bite into, that was tangible for us to be able—and we postered the entire city. We postered the posts on the highway going through the city. We had them all over the place. It was a fantastic campaign and a great opportunity for us to be able to get the message out. It looked professional. It was funded. It was fantastic.
Those are the types of programs that we need to get out there. Yes, every now and then we’d walk by and there was a poster that was pulled down, but we just kept putting it back up. That is really important.
As far as the schools, I think the most recent changes with the sexual violence in school, the sexual violence curriculum in schools—that’s really going to help us be able to get our foot into the schools. Our mandate is 16 and up, so the schools, when we work with them, we work with the high schools, right? The curriculum is very helpful.
I think really the justice partners is where we need to be. I think the fact that people are taking sexual violence more seriously is key; so continue talking about it, continue bringing it to the table. Programs like Draw the Line need to be funded and need to be continued. That is a fantastic program.
Like I said, as a rural community we don’t have all the resources that large urban communities have. We don’t have the ability to invest a whole bunch of money into a campaign. Draw the Line was free for us. We were able to just basically email them and say, “I need 50 of these posters and 500 postcards.” It was free and that was key for us, because $258,000 to run a sexual assault centre is not a lot of money.
It’s always surprising to me, given the number of presentations that we’ve heard, when some new themes start to emerge. There’s a lot of consistency but also some new issues that are raised. This morning, in fact, we heard about sexual assault centre staff who experience harassment when they’re out in the community doing their work. You talked about the toll that is taken on staff who work on the front line in your agency.
Can you tell us a bit about what kinds of—are there resources to support front-line staff in the vicarious trauma and the wear and tear that they experience when they’re helping women who have experienced violence?
Ms. Julie DeMarchi: Yes. So, sexual assault centres—you’re right, that is a very dangerous field. Our public educator will not do anything alone. She always has to have a second person with her at all times. There’s always assault. We have to safety-plan around when she has presentations that she does publicly. We always have because that is a dangerous place to go.
People don’t understand sexual violence. That’s the bottom line: People don’t understand it. People can’t wrap their heads around it. Marital sexual violence: “Well, she’s my wife”—you know, people don’t get it.
Yes, we do have some plans. As far as the supports, as a feminist centre we’re very supportive of our staff and ensure to provide them with as much time as they need. We do a lot of debriefing, that kind of stuff—not enough to be able to properly support the staff and the stories that they hear, because they are really going down to the nitty-gritty with some of the women. They’re reliving some of these women’s historical traumas because of the sexual assault centre.
Sexual violence and domestic violence are so integrated, quite often, and sometimes it’s difficult to keep them separate. So when they come in, they’re talking about everything, and it’s not just that sexual experience. It’s about everything, and how that one sexual experience when they were 10 years old—by their grandfather—has impacted their entire life, and now they’ve become—so the front-line workers are hearing everything. The public educators do have to safety-plan. There are not enough supports to ensure that the staff is well cared for and that they’re taking care of themselves.
Ms. Julie DeMarchi: I truly appreciate it. Like I said, it is an honour to have spoken to you. Please, do the best that you can with this, because this is a very exciting time, and a very important time, in the sexual violence work.
Colonel Michel Drapeau: My name is Michel Drapeau. I’m a retired colonel. I served 34 years in the military. I’m also a law professor at Ottawa university, and I’m a practitioner. I have my own office in Ottawa specializing in military law. That’s the short of it.
Colonel Michel Drapeau: I don’t have any prepared script. I’m going to speak about three or four points that I want to make to you, not really knowing what the parameters of your committee are all about. Presumably we’re here to discuss sexual misconduct in various establishments within Ontario.
I testified before the US Congress a couple of times last year about the same issue, so it’s not something that is unique to the Canadian military. Many other militaries have come across the same difficulties, particularly those who haven’t followed the suit that is taking place at the moment in Europe, particularly as a result of the European human rights tribunals that fundamentally have questioned the jurisdiction of military tribunals to deal with ordinary common-law offences. Countries such as Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, France and many, many others have eliminated military tribunals in peacetime, so those are dealt with by common-law tribunals—which is one of the issues I want to return to, as to why we have the problems that we have today.
If I were to encapsulate the problem as I see it, one of the major issues—of course, sexual assault, whether it be one or five a day, is something that should be a concern to all of us. What is of major concern to me is one issue: under-reporting, something which we have found to be present in the United States Armed Forces, where there are 33,000 reported sexual assaults; a number of others are not. In Canada, I know from my own practice, I know from my own studies, that a significant number, up to 70% of those, are not reported. So the statistics that we have are skewed, to say the least.
Because our military justice system provides now, and only since 1998, the military with the jurisdiction to deal with it, I have to go back—allow me just a couple of minutes to explain in as brief terms as possible as to what’s happening and why it is happening.
The Code of Service Discipline was modified in 1998 in order to provide the military, through an amendment, jurisdiction over sexual assault. Up until 1998, the Canadian military could not prosecute murder, manslaughter, kidnapping of children or sexual assault. As a result of a massive amendment in 1998 in the wake of the Somalia inquiry, an amendment was just slipped in. There was no debate anyplace. The minister introducing the bill, the Honourable Art Eggleton, did not mention it at first or second reading. The committee did not discuss it. Nobody raised an issue. All of a sudden, we found the military being equipped with this.
First of all, the issue of policing is a large issue because the military police have not been found to be experienced in investigating crimes of this particular nature, and others. All I have to tell is the report that was produced a month and a half ago by the Military Police Complaints Commission that basically said in no uncertain terms that the military police are not experienced, not competent, to do criminal investigation.
Having said that, once you go to the prosecution side of the house, the prosecution and the defence both work for the Judge Advocate General, who in turn works for a political minister. He works for the defence minister, not the CDS.
As a prosecution proceeds, the military has a choice: either to prosecute the offence as a discipline issue or as a criminal issue. More often than not, they would do it under “Conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline.”
I’m representing at the moment Stéphanie Raymond, whose face was on the front cover of Maclean’s magazine last May. A young lady in Quebec City had been assaulted on the 15th of December, 2011. Her case incarnates what’s wrong with the Canadian military’s handling or mishandling of sexual misconduct issues. What I’m going to relate, as it concerns Stéphanie Raymond, I could apply here at the college. It’s the same circumstances, with the same litany of problems.
Stéphanie Raymond was assaulted on the 15th of December, 2011. She went home, thought about it, spoke to a few close friends and family, and when she came back to her militia unit in early January, she reported to her chain of command. She reported to a captain, for whom her assailant worked—her assailant being a warrant officer, somebody many ranks over her, a bigger size than she was, and responsible, in fact, for her career and her economic well-being. As a reservist, she served in class B. Class B means that you go from contract to contract to contract. The warrant officer held in his hand the ability to renew or not renew her contract.
When she did this and nothing happened with the chain of command, she went and saw the Lévis police just outside of Quebec City. They said, “Go and see the military police.” She went to see the military police. The investigation was opened and closed the same day. They said, “You don’t have a case.”
When that didn’t work, about six months after, they moved her 45 kilometres across the river to a new unit. Her class B ceased; a promotion was denied. She went into a deep descent, eventually attempted suicide, and started to put harassment complaints in it. The harassment complaints were not investigated.
It was only when the journalists from L’actualité, and eventually Maclean’s, started asking questions that a charge was laid against the individual, and he was charged with conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline. This “go to your room” type of thing is what you’re going to get as a result of it.
When the report came out, a journalist called me and asked me if I could take over her case from this point onward, which I did. That’s the first thing I asked. It took me about three weeks to find out what charges had been laid against him—and by the time they did, they said, “But here’s a new charge. We’ll charge him with sexual assault.”
While this was taking place, on December 15, 2013, exactly two years to the day, she was fired from her job. She received, by Speedy Messenger or something, an order saying, “You’ve been released. Your contract”—or job, or whatever—“has been done.”
Some of you may be aware of a report by Gloria Galloway, that was published in the Globe and Mail a couple of weeks ago, about the military college. When Madame Deschamps’s report exploded—and I’ve been following it for quite a while; I’ve been writing about it for quite a while also—I decided to contact Mrs. Galloway and tell her this story.
This story goes this way: In 2013 I came to this fair city a couple of times, accompanied by my wife, who also works at the office, to interview a number of would-be victims as a result of information that I had received in confidence as to these individual young cadets—all of them young females in their second or third years—having been assaulted. The degree of assault, and the severity of it, has varied quite a bit.
None of them were prepared—I wouldn’t say to go public, but to go to report it to the authorities. Some of them retained our services, and the reason why they retained our services is to act, basically, as a protector of their rights as cadets; their rights as members of the Armed Forces; their rights to complete their studies and go on with their careers. That was the purpose of it.
All of them, without exception, as a result of the assault, or coincident with the assault, were revictimized by becoming the subject of harassment, of discrimination. In the process, their health deteriorated. Some of them, in fact, attempted suicide more than once. They were separated and, in some cases, estranged from their families, who live in various provinces. They had nobody to go to, nobody at the college to go to—they didn’t know who to trust—and they were there. Some of them took a medical release.
After I got this information and had seen these persons first-hand, I decided I had to be loyal to my oath to protect the identity and the information that I had received in confidence. I wrote a letter to the commandant—first, to the president of the board of governors, a fellow who I knew, because I myself had just terminated a tour on the board of governors of the college of Saint-Jean in Quebec. I wrote to him in that capacity.
In the letter that I did write on June 3, I said, “I’m writing to you as a former commissioned officer—we served together—second, as a former board of governors member, and as a lawyer. I’m telling you there is a major issue here, a major issue of under-reporting, let alone the fact of the existence of it, which I’m presuming you’re dealing with.
“I’m suggesting to you, as Madame Deschamps has said, that there be a safe zone, that there be somebody—clergy, academia, media, politicians, whatever it is—a person who will feel safe to go to, and to report and to receive support.”
I received a letter and I was furious, to say the least, because the response was, “Well, we’ll address that as soon as we can when we return in September.” That just made me so mad that I wrote a letter to send to the commandant of the military college and the Minister of National Defence in his capacity as chancellor of the RMC, to which I have yet to receive a response. You can imagine my—“disappointment” would be a huge understatement. I now have new clients who come to see me and say that they’ve been subject to assault in September and October 2013, which is what this court martial is all about, two months or three months after I sent this letter out.
Why am I focusing on the military college? I don’t think the military college is more fertile in this type of misconduct than many other organizations in Canada—for a number of reasons, and I’ll cover two. I think that in most organizations where you have young men and women whose hormones are at full speed, liquor is readily available and they have very good pay indeed, you have a recipe where this kind of thing could happen more. Unless you have not only discipline, but supervision and an absolutely ironclad process whereby somebody could go and report a crime, that will happen.
I am certain that the situation exists in most of our cadet schools; anybody who doesn’t is wilfully blind. At large schools like Borden, which has a student population of between 8,000 and 10,000, it is significant. The difference with the college is that you have two tiers of supervision, two tiers of authority. The first one is the individuals who are of a certain age and certain rank—the lieutenant colonels, colonels, majors and so on—but they’re small in number, and they look at running the general administration of it.
But the discipline, the supervision—en français on dit « l’encadrement »—of cadets belongs to senior cadets. These guys—I’m asking you to close your eyes and go back to the time you were 18, 19 and 20. The power, the influence that a 19- or 20-year-old young man can have on a young 17-year-old is incredible. It’s three or four times the kind of difference that would apply to the other age factors. So when these guys are given the grade, the authority—they have the stature, they’ve got the good looks, they’ve got the energy and everybody likes to be popular, more so when you’re 17 or 18 and unsure of yourself and so on—these guys sway an awful lot of power over some of the young charges, many of them female. They’re easy to seduce and to be seduced by, and that’s what we see.
The problem we see at the military college is cadets upon cadets. There is, in fact, sort of a mafia code of silence that is in there. You don’t dare to speak, because most of our guys, if not all of them, can make your life very difficult. Most of them are chosen because they are athletic, they are good, they are smart, they are articulate and they are going places. They are the leaders of tomorrow, so to try to make the case that a 16- or 17-year-old—you’re naive, you’re uncertain of yourself. To try to make a charge of sexual misconduct or impropriety or whatever takes a lot of bravery, courage and support, and they don’t have it. That’s what we see. That’s the first reason. It’s a concern, and I see it; I heard it again today.
The second reason is the individuals who are picked, the thousand or so cadets that come to the college are—I think it’s reasonable to suggest—in many respects the cream of the cream. They go through an extensive selection process—linguistic, athletic, racial, gender, sometimes geographic and so on, and the good marks that they have—and they should. I don’t know of anybody in Canada, at least in my Canada, who has a more privileged position than somebody who serves at the military college.
Consider that they get paid going through college—not only paid; the time they serve at the college is pensionable. If they were there five years, when they retire as a general, five of the 35 years will be from the college. They don’t pay for their tuition, don’t pay for room and board and don’t pay for the uniform. They get some pay deducted, but they’re fine. Health care is on demand; they don’t have to line up. They don’t have to find family physicians. Dental care is on demand, and they have one of the best sports programs; the lowest student-teacher ratio you could find at any Canadian university. Maybe you could find it at some private university in the States—certainly in Canada. There’s a certain elitism about this, both the uniform, the standing and so on. I don’t know of too many mothers of my generation who did not wish her son to go to the military college.
I work, and I teach, and I see some of our young students who have $90,000 worth of debt or the lawyers we have in the office with $100,000 accumulated debt—married and a mortgage and so on and so forth.
I’m saying that, first of all, because they are a privileged lot, more significantly, only 20% of them remain to make a full career in the forces. We find them overrepresented by a long shot—I’m not criticizing; I’m just stating the facts—in the senior ranks of the armed forces. The CDS at the moment, the VCDS, the chief of the army, the chief of the air force: They’re all graduates of the military college. So it tells you if they become a four star, a three star or two stars, they would have had to navigate rather rapidly and quickly through the hierarchy. They play a dominant role, and you can watch them. You can see them because they’ve had a special formation—not only academic formation but four years’ athletic formation, military formation, second-language formation and so on. They stand apart. They are the elite. If we cannot expect the elite to be disciplined and the elite to trust one another and the elite to be respectful of one another, we’ve got a problem.
So many of them find themselves in key leadership positions. What I am told by young cadets who come to see me is that the culture at the college is—the difficulty that many of them have, young victims, is the treatment, the response, the callous reflexes of their female cadet friends who tell them, “Well, what do you expect? That’s part of military culture. You better get used to it”; as Madame Deschamps said, a “passage obligé.”
That’s my characterization. That’s my interpretation. That’s my assessment of it. If it is, as we say in the movie, “Houston, we’ve got a problem.” Because it’s not by doing a court martial here or there—and that’s really what’s happening—that’s going to fix the problem. We have a cultural issue and the cultural issue won’t be fixed by leaving the military to give us another promise, which they did, by the way, in 1998 when Maclean’s magazine published, back to back to back, three front page covers on rape in the military. Things haven’t changed. I think it’s gotten worse.
So my recommendation—and I’ll finish on that—has been, continues to be that we in fact need to get rid of that and ensure that in fact anybody, any place in Canada—no second-class citizens, whether you’re Canadian-born, or RMC cadets—if you’ve been subject to an assault, you call the police and let the police conduct an independent, impartial professional investigation and let prosecution take place, if it does take place, before a civilian court of law.
Mr. Randy Hillier: Thank you very much for being here today. I guess what I’m going through with your presentation—the Ontario Legislature has no jurisdiction in the military or with the college and no influence on the military code of conduct and all those different things, but what you’re seeing and what you relayed about the experiences of cadets and people in the military certainly has a very clear parallel with what happens in the private sector and what happens in civilian life—maybe more amplified and exasperated in the military culture or military institutions.
What information can we draw from the military experience, in your involvement with the military, that we can use for civilians under provincial legislation? You mentioned that the lack of reporting in the military is also a problem in the civilians—so from your knowledge of our legal system and practising as a lawyer, what suggestions or recommendations could you offer this committee that we could look at and put in place in practice?
Colonel Michel Drapeau: Funny you should ask. Let me get on my soapbox as to what I think ought to be done—and I’m having quite a bit of difficulty, so I’ll share with you my experience over the past year or so in doing this, as more cases like this come to light.
It may have to do with my age or my background or whatever—but when I see these young women coming, they’re desperate. They come to me from an angle, sort of: They don’t want to address the sexual assault, but everything that results from it—loss of a job, loss of status, loss of confidence, joie de vivre, and so on and so forth. For those who have come forward, such as Madame Raymond—I’ve had four so far, such as the young cadets who I’m acting for at the moment—the reaction has been the same. When I present myself as acting for these individuals, I’m getting a visceral, if not violent, reaction, not from the defence—they don’t care—but from the prosecutor’s office. “You’re going to do what?” “I’m acting for her. Come through me. And when you interview this person, I’m going to be there. I’m not going to be in the way; I want you to succeed. I’m going to be there because I’m the only friend in place that she has, somebody to turn to who can really act for her.” The prosecution doesn’t act for her—not against her, but it does not act for her.
In two recent cases, it made a difference between a prosecution or no prosecution, because the person felt, and one of the persons in particular said, the only—she said “friend,” but really, what she meant was, “The only person who is loyal to me, by virtue of his mandate, is my lawyer, and I want him to be here.” So I was.
In all four cases, at the end of it, they’ve turned around to me and thanked me for my presence—not my activity; my presence. So throughout their doing this, by giving this person, the victim, a chance to have somebody to speak to and somebody to receive advice from on something as simple as a publication ban—in all four interviews that I’ve been at, the prosecution tells their client, “We shall have....”; “I do one or the other.” They’re not being asked. The client cannot ask, “What are my choices? Have I got a voice in it? Have I got a choice?” They’re being told. In some cases, they are trusting also that they will look after them during the cross-examination or subsequently; they’re not. So there is a failure here by the system.
This poor female can call her insurance agent or call anybody else, but at the moment of need—and she’s all alone; she’s got nobody to speak to—she calls the police. In most cases, police are receptive. In some cases, they’re not. I’ve seen cases like that.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: My questions are along the same lines. Given the parameters of this committee and the limitations of the provincial government in relation to the Canadian Forces and the Royal Military College, I would ask for your counsel in what we can do to raise awareness or what we can do to facilitate the changes that I think you are working on. We are all aware of the 10 recommendations that have been recently made by Madame Deschamps. Two, we understand, have been accepted; eight have been accepted in principle.
Our Canadian Forces are exemplary in many ways. Sexual assault and sexual violence within the Canadian Forces are akin, as I see it, to sexual assault and violence in the public service or in any workplace. These are incidents of workplace violence. Are there any of the 10 recommendations that are transferrable, for the purposes of this committee, to the broader public sector in Ontario? Are there any lessons that we can learn? What would you point to or guide us towards within the recommendations that Madame Deschamps proposed?
Colonel Michel Drapeau: I think the scourge is among us, not only within the Canadian military. It’s there. I think the under-reporting issue is there also. We can never get a true measure of it. And probably those that are under-reported are not the benign type, but of the more severe type. I’ve found some people who came who were violently raped, and those people are immersed in thoughts of shame and blame and lack of everything else and so on, and they put their lives in danger.
From what I can see, what Madame Deschamps has said is she was prevented from looking at any aspect of the military justice system. Her mandate excluded her from it and the military police. So it’s a circumvented way to say—and she said the 700 people she spoke to did not trust the military justice system or the military police. So she said, “Let’s have a system outside.”
To my mind, you don’t need to build a system outside. You have the system outside. Somehow, you have to reach out to these individuals who do not report. At the moment, the system is not very, en français, accueillant. It’s not very warm. You don’t have an 800 line.
The federal government, and I will be critical for a moment, has recently passed a law, a charter of rights—what do you call it?—a victims’ bill of rights. Well, let me tell you how unimpressed I am. At section 18 of that bill, it excludes the military. It excludes members who report a crime to the military police for prosecution by the military. So the military victims of sexual crimes are denuded of any protection, they’re denuded of any support and, at the moment, denuded of any bill of rights.
What can you do as a province? I don’t know. But you have an Attorney General, and he or she sits at the table at the federal level. I see under-reporting as the issue where, if I had to concentrate the resources that I have, and the weight—and Ontario is the largest province—I’d say that’s what we need to address. That may require a special mechanism to do that.
My colleagues, I think, are bringing forward some great topics, in bringing it back to the province. But I guess I’m a little curious, and I’m going to keep—although it may not be our jurisdiction, I guess I just wanted to know. I know that, publicly, you’ve said that you would like to see—and I’m hearing this through your words—a third-party civilian oversight investigating cases. Maybe I would like you, for this committee, just to elaborate on what it would look like, in your perspective.
Colonel Michel Drapeau: I would not have one. Madame Deschamps has said—we’re both saying—it has to be taken out of the military. To my mind, we would amend section 70. Section 70(d) should say “sexual assault.” They don’t deal with it.
Only recently, when I took a victim of a crime unreported since 2007—it took us all that time to convince her to come forward. It was to the military police. When I asked the military police for the names of those who would be interviewing her, and their ranks and their gender, I was told their ranks and their names. “Why would gender mean anything?” was the response that I got. I said, “If I need to explain this to you, we’ve got a problem.” So I did explain it. Then when we showed up a couple of days after, it was a “she” who was in the room, conducting the investigation.
The military police don’t have the critical mass required to acquire the experience and the diversity, and they get posted all the time, and so on. Many of them investigate one sexual assault every second year or so, so they’re gauche at doing it—not because they’re bad people and so on, but they’re not doing it.
So I say do it with the civilian police. Augment the local police, if required. There’s probably a bill attached to it—I don’t know what it is—but do that. There has to be—I don’t know if it’s a commission or a special office—a safe zone where people—if I’m right in suggesting under-reporting is a problem, civil or military, then we face a common issue. Who do people who are high school students or university students, or their parents, go to? You expect them to walk into a police station? It’s pretty intimidating for anybody to do that. If you are a young person, being assaulted on top of that—give him or her that support, a multidisciplinary type of support. That’s what I would do. And it could be une équipe volante or it could be in large centres.
Colonel Michel Drapeau: Absolutely. That’s what I see. Absolutely. I think we could do mankind and womankind a huge service by doing so, showing that we care. We’re not throwing more resources at the courts or the police.
We have to receive them, first and foremost, and even if they decide, for reasons of their own, not to file a complaint, they need assistance. They need a shoulder. They need somebody who can comprehend and perhaps assist them in some other ways.
The Chair (Ms. Daiene Vernile): Committee members, that is our day for Kingston. Our hearings are now coming to an end. I’ll see you all tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. in Ottawa. The bus will be on the driveway for us at 5:15. Please be ready to go.