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Local legal centre says assault and abuse victims will suffer most from provincial cuts

The local Community Advocacy and Legal Centre, based in Belleville, is concerned the provincial government’s proposed cuts to compensation for victims of crime will hurt the most vulnerable.

“Early reports indicated that “pain and suffering” awards will be capped at $5,000 for all victims, even if they have suffered extensive childhood abuse, sexual assault, or were the target of domestic violence,” said Deirdre McDade, CALC’s co-director of Legal Services.

For 30 years the Community Advocacy & Legal Centre (CALC) has helped local victims, mostly women, to recover up to $25,000 to help compensate for pain and suffering they experienced at the hands of their abusers.

“We recover approximately $1 million annually for victims of domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault. The average compensation received for pain and suffering is $20,000,” said McDade. “These awards are life-changing and allow victims to receive trauma therapy, cover medical expenses, and move on with their lives after receiving official recognition that they were victims of crime and their recovery is recognized as important.”

The compensation program for victims of violent crime is currently administered by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (CICB)

McDade, who also co-chairs the government’s CICB Practice Advisory Committee, said that the provincial committee was not consulted about the change or any other threatened changes, including dismantling of the CICB.

“Under this new proposed system, victims will now get significantly less compensation and will no longer have an opportunity to have their case heard before an impartial adjudicator,” she said.

“Hearings provide victims with a sense of justice they have often been denied,” she said, noting the hearings help provide an opportunity for victims to heal.

“The CICB’s current victim-centered trauma-informed approach will soon be replaced by a bureaucratic system that reduces compensation for the most vulnerable.

“The dismantling of a system that has worked well since 1971 will disproportionately affect women who are victims of crime and who account for two-thirds of CICB applications.”

McDade said CALC has met with Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith, and asked for further information about the proposed changes, and asked him to ensure the voices of victims and their advocates are heard.

The Community Advocacy & Legal Centre (CALC) is a non-profit community legal clinic principally funded by Legal Aid Ontario. The clinic was founded in 1980 and provides poverty law services to low income residents of Hastings, Prince Edward and Lennox & Addington counties. The clinic’s main office is in Belleville, with satellite locations in Trenton, Picton, Napanee, Amherstview, Bancroft and Madoc.

For more information, visit CALC’s website at www.communitylegalcentre.ca.

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