SIOUX LOOKOUT- Rob Nicholson the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and Greg Rickford, MP for Kenora, and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, made an announcement at the end of July that funding up to $115,484 is available to the Sioux Lookout First Nation Health Authority to assess the feasibility of establishing a Child Advocacy Centre for remote communities in northwestern Ontario.
“Our Government remains unwavering in its commitment to protect children, particularly young victims of crime,” said Minister Nicholson. “As Minister of Justice, and along with colleagues like Greg Rickford, we are privileged to do our part to stand up for victims of crime and make their concerns a priority.”
The funding from the Department of Justice Victims Fund will assist the Nodin Child and Family Intervention Services in doing a needs assessment and feasibility study for a Child Advocacy Centre that would provide a culturally appropriate service to Aboriginal children who are victims of sexual abuse or assault.
“Funding for Child Advocacy Centres is one part of our Government’s ongoing commitment to supporting victims of crime,” commented Rickford making the announcement in Sioux Lookout, “Children who have been abused or who have witnessed a crime require services and counselling that respond to their specific situations. Child Advocacy Centres make it easier for children’s voices to be heard by our justice system and to be served in their own community”.
Over the last six years, the Government has allocated more than $90 million for initiatives that benefit victims of crime. Funds are available to provinces, territories and non-governmental organizations for programs and services that give victims of crime a more effective voice in the criminal justice system.
CHILD ADVOCACY CENTRES
A Child Advocacy Centre (CAC) adopts a seamless, coordinated and collaborative approach to addressing the needs of child and youth victims of crime. A CAC seeks to minimize system-induced trauma by providing a child-friendly setting for a young victim or witness and his or her family.
Professional services offered by CACs include coordinated forensic interviews, examination of the child by a medical professional, victim advocacy and trauma counselling. One of the goals of a CAC is to minimize the number of interviews and questions directed at a child, thereby minimizing system-induced trauma.
CACs help children and their families navigate the justice system in a number of ways. These include providing a child or youth with a safe and comfortable environment in which to be interviewed by criminal justice professionals and minimizing the number of interviews. CACs may also provide education and training to justice professionals on best practices for interviewing child victims and witnesses. As an example, interviews recorded by video are an effective method for gathering valuable information that can help both the young victim and the justice system. Ultimately CACs lead to better communication between agencies supporting young victims.
It has been shown that investigations conducted by CACs are cost-effective and can expedite decision making by Crown prosecutors laying criminal charges. Parents whose children receive services from CACs are more satisfied with the investigation process and interview procedures, and those children who attend CACs are generally satisfied with the investigation and are more likely to state they were not scared during the forensic process.
A CAC is designed to support a child’s healing and assist them in recovering from the severe stress and trauma of abuse. CACs have also been shown to increase collaboration between the agencies charged with protecting children and youth and criminal justice agencies responsible for investigating and prosecuting criminal activity.
FEDERAL VICTIMS STRATEGY AND VICTIMS FUND
Since 2007, when the Government announced the Federal Victims Strategy, more than $90 million has been committed to respond to the needs of victims of crime. Most recently, in Economic Action Plan 2012, the Government committed an additional $5 million over five years for new or enhanced Child Advocacy Centres, bringing the total federal Government commitment to Child Advocacy Centres to $10.25 million.
The objective of the Strategy, which is led by the Department of Justice Canada, is to give victims a more effective voice in the criminal justice system. The Policy Centre for Victim Issues at the Department of Justice works in close collaboration with federal colleagues as well as victims, victim advocates, provincial and territorial governments, service providers and others involved in the criminal justice system. The Department of Justice develops legal policy and criminal law reform, funds various programs for victims of crime, and shares information about issues of importance to victims of crime.
Within the Federal Victim Strategy, the Victims Fund is a grants and contributions program administered by the Department of Justice. Funds are available each year to fund provinces, territories and non-governmental organizations whose projects, activities and operations support the objectives of the Federal Victims Strategy.
The Victims Fund funds projects and activities that:
- enhance victim assistance programs across Canada;
- promote access to justice and participation in the justice system and the development of law, policies, and programs;
- promote the implementation of principles, guidelines, and laws designed to address the needs of victims of crime and articulate their role in the criminal justice system;
- contribute to increased knowledge and awareness of the impact of victimization, the needs of victims of crime, available services, assistance and programs, and legislation; and
- promote, encourage and/or enhance governmental and non-governmental organizations’ involvement in the identification of victim needs and gaps in services and in the development and delivery of programs, services and assistance to victims, including capacity building within non-governmental organizations.