TORONTO — The Ontario government is investing more than $550,000 in initiatives that will help keep kids safe in class and online. The funding will support programs that combat sex-trafficking, violence against women, bullying and cyberbullying.
According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 23 per cent of Ontario students reported being bullied at school and 22 per cent of Ontario students reported being bullied over the internet. And Statistics Canada found the following:
- 95 per cent of victims of police-reported human trafficking were women and girls.
- 22 per cent of police-reported victims of human trafficking are children under the age of 18.
- Most of all police-reported incidents of human trafficking in Canada occur in Ontario.
The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (2019) highlighted that, “While Indigenous women represented only four per cent of the Canadian population in 2016, they comprised nearly 50 per cent of victims of human trafficking. Of those, nearly one-quarter were under the age of 18.”
These statistics are disturbing, and the Ontario government is acting to protect students through partnerships with community organizations. The new initiatives supported by the Ontario government investments include:
- $150,000 – in partnership with OneChild, to empower children and youth to combat the sexual exploitation of children through prevention education, advocacy, survivor care and survivor empowerment
- $100,000 – in partnership with White Ribbon, to develop a program or resources specifically to support boys in secondary school to counteract sexual exploitation, violence against women and the attitudes that lead to it
- $90,800 – in partnership with Respect Group Inc., to develop resources and tools to equip educators and school staff to identify, address and respond to bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination
- $59,950 – in partnership with the Ontario Native Education Counselling Association (ONECA), to provide an opportunity for Indigenous students to inform ministry and school boards in identifying their needs and concerns regarding bullying prevention
- $50,000 – in partnership with PREVNet, to develop resources designed for educators of Grades 7 to 12 to enhance knowledge related to bullying, harassment and discrimination, as well as engaging peers to becomes allies
- $50,000 – in partnership with Egale, to develop an online platform in support of 2SLGBTQI students, including access to counselling services and supporting resources to address mental health, anti-bullying and suicide prevention
- $50,000 – in partnership with the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, to develop training workshops and a virtual youth summit aimed at supporting 2SLGBTQ+ mental health.
“All students deserve to feel safe at school, and our government has zero tolerance for sexual exploitation, violence or bullying of any kind,” said Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education. “That is why our government has adopted a zero-tolerance approach to serious crimes against children, harassment and bullying, and through these investments, we are protecting children of all faiths, heritage, sexual orientation and colour of skin.”
Ontario’s partnership with One Child builds on the Keeping Students Safe – Policy Framework for School Board Anti-Sex Trafficking Protocols, which sets a strong foundation for school boards to establish key partnerships and regionally tailored anti-sex trafficking protocols. School boards will collaborate with community and police organizations with the goal of having protocols in place for all provincially funded schools.
These new investments are part of the Priorities and Partnerships Funding (PPF) COVID-19 Equity Supports, which funds various initiatives that help to promote a positive school climate, support healthy relationships, build empathy, and address bullying and cyberbullying.