THE HUMAN COST OF VOTING CONSERVATIVE
Updated: Oct 9, 2019
Quietly, in the middle of the night on Monday September 30, 2019, Premier Doug Ford and Attorney General Doug Downey followed through on plans to close the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (CICB). In doing so, the conservative government has forever scrapped any meaningful government compensation for victims of crime in Ontario.
In the 72 hours prior to this government closure I submitted 25 plus applications on behalf of victims of crime. My colleagues across the province did as well. Apparently, the CICB received over 2000 applications in the 3 days before its closure.
Without question, that is strong indictment of how little faith victims of crime and their advocates have in this conservative government’s ability or desire to help victims of crime.
I have not dealt with this much trauma since I worked in post-war Liberia and Sierra Leone in the 2008. The levels of criminality perpetrated against the young women of Ontario I worked with in recent days is nightmarish.
The majority of the 25 CICB applications I submitted were on behalf of Human Trafficking survivors. These particularly vulnerable women and girls will require thousands of dollars in rehabilitation and treatment costs to enable them to reintegrate back into society.
Without it, the chances of going back to school, getting off social assistance, finding a job, and/or kicking addiction diminish. More importantly, without support the causes of vulnerability go untreated thereby increasing the likelihood of these young women being preyed upon again and again. The societal costs of Ford and his cronies slashing this funding are incalculable.
My colleagues and I have faced down these sad realities for months. For me, the intensity of the last few days was haunting as Doug Ford and Attorney General Doug Downey continued undeterred in closing the CICB.
The last survivor’s application was accepted at 11:59 PM on Monday September 30, 2019.
Months ago, the conservative government slashed CICB pain and suffering awards from $25,000 to $5,000 and vowed to close the CICB for good. They did so with the veiled promise of a new system that would deliver necessary services and even more funding.
Unsurprisingly, those veiled promises have not materialized.
The quick access and boldly touted “one stop window” for victims’ services remains haphazardly explained by government officials. Front line organizations have been left in the dark.
In the days following the closure of the CICB I called the Ministry of the Attorney General number provided in automated emails. I was cycled through various Victims Services offices, having to call 3 separate numbers. Finally, I was told the awards and compensation formerly available under the CICB would not be available through the Ministry of the Attorney General or any other government branch of Victims Services.
Meaningful compensation for victims of crime in Ontario is gone.
In the months prior to the CICB's closure we saw through the rhetoric and expected this result based on the anti-women and anti-societal modus operandi of the current regime. Advocates for victims of crime across the province moved quickly to help as many people as we could.
I will never forget the panicked, but brave faces of the young women I worked with.
In many cases, these victims of heinous crimes proceeded in the face of ongoing criminal prosecutions against their perpetrators. They pushed forward against treatment advice, in some cases re-triggering their own traumas to bravely put pen to paper.
They have borne their souls, painstakingly itemizing the crimes perpetrated against them. Tearfully recounting how horrific crimes resulted in profound injuries that reverberate throughout their daily lives.
Knowing the conservative government's penchant for targeting vulnerable people, these victims of crime, these survivors, these women, had no choice but to rush through applications to the CICB before September 30, 2019.
The conservative government of Ontario deliberately took away money from survivors. Months ago $33 million in pain and suffering compensation was slashed. By zeroing in on reducing pain and suffering awards (95% of all CICB awards last year) they knowingly went after the main source of funding administered to survivors of violence by the CICB. (Click to read more.)
In our civil law system, judgments awarding necessary amounts for pain and suffering are increasing in value for survivors of violence, particularly sexual assault survivors. As a society, we are beginning to understand the complex physical and mental health injuries that result from crimes like rape. In our civil law system, we see the need to compensate effectively for damages that result from crimes of sexual violence. (Contact me if you need advice.)
However, in the government-controlled service delivery system, the current regime has decided to follow a regressive approach in dealing with survivors of crime and violence.
I have yet to hear a convincing argument that would justify dismantling the CICB. (Concerns raised in a 2007 Ombudsman Report have largely been addressed).
The CICB was not a perfect option, but it was the only route to recovery for many people. As of September 30, 2019, it is no more.
The closure of the CICB is an extreme blow to justice delivery in Ontario. Frustratingly, I now have to recommend victims of crime lean more heavily on the criminal justice system to prosecute and the civil law system to sue for compensation. The CICB had been set up to provide a victim focused means of accessing justice.
I would wager a guess that most conservative voters did not intend for all of this when they voted conservative. Nevertheless, in voting for Doug Ford and his government, Ontario elected a Premier, MPPs and Ministers that have axed the CICB and delivered a painful blow to our most vulnerable.
If we are not protecting the most vulnerable in our society, we may not have much of a society at all.
*Dave represents numerous sexual assault survivors seeking compensation for crimes committed against them by way of civil lawsuits. Dave has been involved in supporting survivors since working for Amnesty International in post-war Liberia/Sierra Leone from 2007-2009. Most recently he provides pro-bono legal services to the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre and Covenant House.