The VACR Project

A first for Canada in implementing the Philadelphia Model

On 3 February 2017, Robyn Doolittle of the Globe and Mail published the results of her 20-month-long investigation on how the police in Canada handle sexual assault complaints. The  ‘Unfounded’ investigation re-enforced what VAW experts have been saying for years, revealing that the police dismiss 1 in 5 complaints.

For the last 5 years, VAW experts and front-line workers in Ottawa--led by Sunny Marriner of the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre-- have been campaigning to bring the ‘Philadelphia Model’ to Canada. These advocates have worked for decades to shine the light on systemic issues preventing the administration of justice and dissuading survivors from reporting to police.

The Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre (ORCC) and the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (OCTEVAW) is launching a new model for reviewing police investigations into sexual assault and intimate partner violence. Based on the 'Philadelphia model' pioneered in the US, this program will be rolled out at six Ontario pilot sites (Ottawa, Kingston, Stratford, Timmins, Peterborough and London) and in Calgary, AB. This marks an important milestone in the movement to improve the administration of justice in violence against women cases across Canada.

The new review model (VACR) will engage advocates with expertise on violence against women, frontline survivor support workers and legal experts to review police decisions on violence against women cases and work in partnership with police to address investigative gaps and systemic barriers to justice. The Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre and the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women will coordinate the project, with funding from Status of Women Canada for three years of programming at the Ontario sites.

The implementation of this model in Canada will give police services access to front-line expertise to improve their response to sexual assault and intimate partner violence, strengthening their accountability and transparency to the public—including to survivors.  

  • The launch of this pilot project marks an important milestone in the movement to improve access to justice for survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence in Canada.
  • This project is the result of years of sustained efforts by front-line organizations and VAW experts to bring this model of case review to Canada.
  • This project is one element in a broader movement to improve support for survivors of gender-based violence.

This will be a site to learn more about the implementation of the VAW Advocate Case Review Model. Please check back frequently for updates!