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Sexual violence response projects funded

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TORONTO—Ontario is putting $1.8 million toward 15 pilot projects aimed at improving police responses to sexual violence, including two case review models that are similar to a celebrated approach pioneered in Philadelphia.

Advocates say the case reviews in Brantford and the OPP's Northwest Region are a good first step.

But so far, they say the projects fall short of the Philadelphia model, which front-line workers long have urged Canadian police to adopt.

“I anticipate that we might be in a place very soon where we will have a Canadian first in adopting the Philadelphia best practices, but we're not quite there yet,” said Sunny Marriner, executive director of the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre.

The Philadelphia model enables front-line workers and legal advocates to conduct annual reviews of cases declared unfounded or cleared because an officer believes no crime occurred, as well as some open cases.

Since the model was adopted about 17 years ago, the city's unfounded rates have dropped from 18 percent to below 10 percent.

The Ontario initiative is part of the province's plan on sexual violence.

The government asked police departments to submit proposals last year and yesterday announced the 15 projects across the province that would receive funding.

“Our ultimate goal is to end sexual violence and harassment, and to create a space where survivors feel more comfortable and confident disclosing that information,” said Community Safety minister Marie-France Lalonde.

Lalonde said she's especially interested in the Philadelphia model, but noted each police service has its own unique issues and should determine its own approach.

The province hopes to learn from all the pilot projects and draw out best practices, Lalonde added.

The OPP's Northwest Region, headquartered in Thunder Bay, said it will appoint a committee of experts to review and oversee complaints, including assessment of cases that did not result in convictions.

It didn't say who the experts were.

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