The History of Victim Services in Ontario

History of Victim Services in Ontario

In 1982 the Canadian Urban Crime Survey, conducted in seven major urban centers by the Ministry of the Solicitor General Canada with the assistance of Statistics Canada, provided much insight into the victims of crime, as defined by those persons who had themselves been victimized. Services valued highly by the survey respondents included immediate, at the scene support, practical help and information.

Such assistance helped victims to feel more confident that they could deal with both the consequences of the crime and their emotional reactions to the crime. Police also reported that victims who have had their own needs attended to effectively are better able to recall details important to ongoing police investigations.

Further substantive documentation proved that victim assistance programs are an effective and valuable means of helping victims of crime and tragic circumstance.

In 1987, the Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General, as part of a multi-ministry initiative through the Ontario Women’s Directorate, began three pilot projects in Ontario to test a new method for assisting police officers to meet their concerns about victims of crime. Utilizing trained and accredited volunteers, the Victim Crisis Assistance and Referral Service (VCARS) in Algoma District, Brant County, and Frontenac County offered twenty-four hour a day, mobile crisis response teams to assist victims at the request of police officers.

In 1989, an independent evaluation of the VCARS projects concluded that victims, police officers, community agencies, and volunteers themselves were in agreement that the provision of immediate assistance and timely appropriate referral did help to reduce trauma and enhance recovery from the effects of victimization.

Victim services are available through community-based Victim Crisis Assistance Ontario (VCAO) programs or independent police-based victim assistance programs. There are currently 48 VCAO organizations providing much-needed crisis support to victims of crime, tragedy, and disaster in the Province of Ontario.

History of Victim Services in Grey, Bruce, and Perth Counties

Service for victims in Grey and Bruce counties originated as a project of Owen Sound Police Services in 1992 and was funded by local community groups.  The service was volunteer-based with two Owen Sound police officers, John Stekli and Ralph Schmidt, overseeing the project.  Funding for a local VCARS site from the Ministry of the Solicitor General through the Victim’s Justice Fund became available in 1995 and the program expanded to include North Grey County.  Further expansion to all of Grey County and incorporation in 1998 as the Victim Assistance Program Grey/Owen Sound soon followed.  Funding for service to Bruce County was obtained in 2001 and the service was renamed Victim Services of Bruce Grey & Owen Sound in June 2002.

Victim Services of Perth County was incorporated as a registered charity in 2002 and held its first training session in 2003.  In late October 2012 Victim Services of Perth County began working cooperatively with Victim Services of Bruce, Grey & Owen Sound under a Collaborative Business Plan.  Immediately following this, the Ministry of the Attorney General announced its plan to modernize VCARS through regionalization of service delivery zones which, if it came to fruition, would have seen Bruce, Grey, Huron, and Perth as a single service delivery zone.  With this in mind, the two Boards of Directors ultimately decided to proceed with amalgamation.  On July 1, 2013, the organization became Victim Services Bruce Grey Perth.

The Victim Assistance Program Grey/Owen Sound (now Victim Services Bruce Grey Perth) and the Victim Witness Assistance Program (V/WAP-Owen Sound) have shared office space since 1997.   This pilot, whose focus was to create seamless services for victims, was established under the direction of Susan Lee Director of V/WAP, and is the only one of its kind in the province.