Ont. Attorney General to Meet with Sex Abuse Victims

By Randy Richmond
Toronto Sun
October 13, 2010

LONDON, Ont. - Ontario's Attorney General says he'll meet male survivors of sexual abuse in the wake of mounting criticism over how the province is choosing to fund agencies that help victims.

But Chris Bentley said he cannot derail or interfere in the funding process, which critics say allows unsuitable agencies to vie for funding, pits groups against each other and ignores survivors.

Instead, Bentley suggested the province and survivors start talking now to make sure programs work once the agencies are chosen.

"What we are talking about is having a look at how we address some of the concerns survivors have got, on an ongoing basis," Bentley said.

Some advocates welcomed the chance to meet with provincial officials, but questioned how much good it'll do if the province fails to addressed flaws in the funding process.

Groups across Ontario have until Nov. 1 to apply for a share of $2 million in funding from the Ministry of the Attorney General. That money will be split between one province-wide crisis centre and four regional lead agencies. Only existing non-profit agencies operated by boards of directors will qualify.

In southern Ontario, two groups hope to become the lead agency, and both have their share of critics.

One is the Sexual Assault Centre of London, an agency some male survivors say has ignored abuse against men. The other is Catholic Family Services Hamilton.

"It's a hellish process," said Rick Goodwin, executive director of The Men's Project in Ottawa, which offers services for male survivors of abuse. "Everyone and everybody is applying for funding. A lot of agencies are coming out of the woodwork, saying, 'We have always worked with survivors.'

"It's outrageous to have a process where Catholic agencies can go after the funding, given the damage to young men and youth because of the church."

"We are an inclusive agency," Linda Dayler, executive director of the Catholic Family Services, said.

She said they would transfer the money to other agencies, which wouldn't have to be Catholic.

Services are long overdue, but the province is rushing and offering a pittance of the money needed, said London psychotherapist Len Kushnier.

"The process is creating divisions among agencies. It is miserably puny in its scope."

The province should follow the recommendations of the Cornwall public inquiry into abuse and take the time to listen to victims and counsellors, then set up a framework for services, he said.

Londoner John Swales, a survivor and advocate, suggested the province at least slow down the process to give survivors a chance to say what they want.

"They have put a flawed proposal on the table," Swales said. "It is bigger than the funding. It is about men having lost their voices."

The province's plan differs from the December 2009 recommendations of the Cornwall inquiry, which recommended the province first take the time to study the best way to offer services, and create five demonstration projects in the meantime.

The Cornwall inquiry was called after it was discovered that the Roman Catholic Church paid a Conwall, Ont., man $32,000 to drop sex-abuse charges against a priest and a probation officer in 1992.


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