One-stop centre for child crime victims proposed for Nunavut
Arctic youth group gets $225,000 from Ottawa to study, plan
The Arctic Child and Youth Foundation is hoping a special centre designed to help child victims of abuse or violence might become a reality with a new cash infusion.
In fact, if an upcoming needs assessment and feasibility study pan out, the foundation would like to help establish a network of centres so that young people across the territory won’t be frightened to come forward, tell their story and get the help they need.
“I want to see change,” said Kylie Aglukark, the foundation’s executive director. “I want people to feel comfortable. I want them to know it’s OK to come forward, that help will be there for them and their families.”
The foundation recently got a letter from federal Justice Minister Peter McKay saying they will receive $225,000 in grant money from that federal department’s Victim’s Fund.
The fund pays for projects and activities across the country that support victims, including programs that promote access to justice and which help to foster referral networks.
The Arctic Child and Youth Foundation wants to create something called the Umingmak Child and Youth Protection Centre, which would coordinate and streamline agency support for child victims of sexual abuse, violence or other trauma.
Right now, if a crime is committed against a child, that child has to tell her story to police, to social workers, to Crown prosecutors and perhaps others. The process can be so daunting for a child, she may be discouraged from going through with it.
In fact, the process itself can re-traumatize a child, Aglukark said.
The Umingmak centre would offer a safe, child-friendly environment where one intake worker would assess the child and identify which agencies need to be involved and which services a child might require.
It would also provide crucial after-care so that once a trial or traumatic incident has passed, staff could create a plan of follow up so the child is never abandoned or forgotten.
“We see the need for long-term care. We see that through the high suicide rates and alcohol abuse,” Aglukark said.
The plan would be to start with a centre in Iqaluit and hopefully expand to other regional hubs and then partner with agencies in as many communities as possible to provide that same sort of central referral network for children and youth.
“There so much stress on children. On a personal level, you get into some of the smaller communities, maybe they’re a victim of someone in their family. They’re afraid to speak out,” said Aglukark.
“Would this centre change that and reduce that fear people have coming forward? I don’t know, but even just raising awareness, and getting information out there to encourage people to speak out might help.”
The grant from Ottawa will cover $50,000 to the end of March 2015 and then another $175,000 to cover April 2015 to March 2016.
ACYF will first conduct a needs assessment but proving Nunavut needs a centre like this won’t be difficult, Aglukark said.
Statistics Canada numbers on police-reported crimes in Nunavut against victims aged 0 to 17 show that in 2012, there were 112 sex assault violations, 40 sexual interference violations, and 344 physical assaults, Aglukark said.
And, she added, those numbers only record what gets reported to police. “It’s likely higher than that,” she said.
After that, they will work on a feasibility study, go over the findings with an advisory committee made up of agencies such as the RCMP, the Crown prosecutor’s office and staff from Nunavut’s family services department, and then draft a work plan.
Many southern cities already have these kinds of child and youth protection centres, Aglukark said, so ACYF and its partners have plenty of models to study.
Most of these centres are run by non-profit boards which means they have to raise money for their operations. This will likely be the case for Umingmak.
In other words, this is just the beginning, Aglukark said, but she’s determined to follow through.
“I look forward to the day when the doors open,” she said.
“I want our children and youth in Nunavut to be able to have access to the same services that are received in southern Canada, services that are going to make a difference to ensure our children and youth are protected.”
The ACYF is a charitable foundation that focuses on improving the lives of, and opportunities for, children and youth throughout Arctic Canada.