Scott Newark's picture
Ontario Budget 2021
Posted on Mar 30, 2021

While the Ontario 2021 Budget is understandably focused on addressing COVID 19 and restoring the Ontario economy, it also contains important information and commitments relevant to public safety and security in Ontario which merits both attention and awareness.

To help the thousands of people struggling with mental health and addictions issues, Ontario is providing additional funding of $175 million in 2021–22 as part of the historic investment of $3.8 billion over 10 years, to provide more and better care for everyone who needs it.

To assist survivors of domestic violence — which has increased during COVID‐19 — and other heinous crimes like human trafficking, Ontario is investing an additional $2.1 million over three years to support victims of crime. This support is in addition to funding provided through various existing programs to help victims of domestic violence and other violent crimes.

To make progress on our collective efforts to address systemic racism, Ontario is making additional investments in key communities. This includes investments of $1.6 million over two years to support the AntiRacism and AntiHate Grant program, which will support community based antiracism initiatives focusing on antiBlack racism, antiIndigenous racism, antiSemitism and Islamophobia. This builds on a $60 million investment in the Black Youth Action Plan.

Assisting People in Crisis

When a person experiences a mental health crisis, police officers are often the first to arrive and offer assistance. This is why Ontario is investing $8.4 million over three years in a crisis call diversion program. This program will offer immediate support for individuals experiencing a mental health crisis, ultimately providing the right supports, which may include diversion to appropriate mental health services. Mental health workers will be embedded in Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) communications centres to provide support to individuals facing a mental health crisis, offer referrals and help people find and access existing services.

  • $18.5 million over three years, beginning in 2021–22, in the Transitional Housing Support Program, to support victims of domestic violence and survivors of human trafficking to find and maintain affordable housing and help them transition to independence.

Supporting Victims of Crime

Ontario is committed to standing up for victims of crime and enhancing support services for victims in underserved communities. Domestic violence has tragically increased during the pandemic. This is why the government provided several investments to combat the impact of COVID‐19 on people and children fleeing violence, including:

  • An emergency payment of $2.7 million to help ensure that over 50 community agencies remained accessible to those in need;
  • $1 million to help frontline agencies adapt to COVID19 remote service delivery and ensure continued operation for the people of Ontario. This funding also supported the operations of the Assaulted Women’s Helpline, including developing text and online chat platforms, setting up toll‐free lines, and providing on‐demand interpreter services to respond to increased call volumes; and
  • More than $6 million over the next three years to help combat crime and build safer communities from the Proceeds of Crime Frontline Policing Grant. These grants take proceeds from criminal activity and invest it back into communities to help victims, survivors and their families heal.

Building on this support, Ontario is investing an additional $2.1 million over three years to expand victim and sexual assault services in under-served communities, expand free legal support services for survivors of sexual violence across the province, and improve collaboration across the sector to provide seamless supports to victims and survivors.

On February 22, 2021 the Ontario government introduced the Anti‐Human Trafficking Strategy Act, 2021, with other new and amended legislation that together support the province’s response to combat human trafficking. Changes include additional supports for survivors seeking restraining orders, including specific consideration for Indigenous survivors, more tools for law enforcement to effectively locate victims and hold offenders accountable, and stronger protections for exploited children.

Hiring More Probation and Parole Officers

Ontario is keeping communities safe by investing $23 million over two years to hire 50 additional probation and parole officers. This will help support safe transitions of persons in custody and increase the supervision of offenders to enhance public safety. Through this investment, Ontario will also be increasing community reintegration supports, including gun and gang exit programming, in partnership with municipalities and community organizations.

Supporting Indigenous Women and Girls

Ontario is investing $18.2 million over three years to help address violence against First Nations, Inuit and Métis women and girls. This investment will:

  • Enable access to community supports;
  • Enhance resources for First Nations police services for sexual assault, human trafficking and domestic violence investigations;
  • Provide culturally responsive programming to Indigenous women in the correctional system; and
  • Build on existing investments to support community safety and provide additional support to end violence against Indigenous women and girls.

These actions are part of Ontario’s response to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

Making Progress on Addressing Unregulated Tobacco

Since 2020, the government has been consulting on unregulated tobacco with public health stakeholders, industry and retail associations, as well as First Nations partners. Building on the commitments made in the 2020 Budget, the Province has launched engagement with First Nations on tobacco in February 2021. These conversations are being led by independent Indigenous facilitators and are essential to informing solutions to unregulated tobacco.

This engagement with First Nations will support the development of a made‐in‐Ontario tobacco strategy. While the consultation is ongoing, the government is taking action by enhancing and expanding existing programs that have proven to be successful in addressing unregulated tobacco. This includes:

  • Continuing to support the Akwesasne Mohawk Police Service in addressing cross‐border smuggling through funding for their dedicated SAVE Team marine unit;
  • Increasing funding to the OPP’s Contraband Tobacco Enforcement Team to continue to disrupt the role of organized crime in unregulated tobacco;
  • Collaborating with federal partners on strengthening border enforcement and addressing tobacco smuggling.

Scott Newark is a former Alberta Crown Prosecutor who has also served as Executive Officer of the Canadian Police Association, Vice Chair of the Ontario Office for Victims of Crime, Director of Operations for Investigative Project on Terrorism and as a Security Policy Advisor to the governments of Ontario and Canada. He is currently an Adjunct Professor in the TRSS Program in the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University.