SURREY, BRITISH COLUMBIA-July 24, 2013) - The Honourable Peter MacKay, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Central Nova, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, announced $350,000 in funding for the further development of Sophie's Place, a Child Advocacy Centre (CAC), to support child victims of abuse in Surrey.
"Navigating the justice system can be a significant challenge, especially for vulnerable victims of crime such as children and youth," said Minister MacKay. "The establishment of Sophie's Place will help lessen the potential for trauma or re-victimization of young victims of crime and their families living in the Surrey area."
Through the Department of Justice's Victims Fund, the funding will be available to the Centre for Child Development of the Lower Mainland for a pilot project to further develop Sophie's Place.
CACs provide a safe, child-friendly environment where a collaborative, coordinated team of professionals work together in a child-focused manner to help child or youth victims or witnesses navigate the criminal justice system. The work of the multi-disciplinary teams at CACs can greatly reduce the emotional and mental harm to the child.
Since 2006, the Government of Canada has allocated more than $120 million to respond to the needs of victims of crime through programs and initiatives delivered by the Department of Justice Canada. This funding includes more than $10 million allocated since 2010 for the establishment or enhancement of Child Advocacy Centres. So far, CAC projects have been funded in more than 20 cities or municipalities across Canada.
The Government of Canada has also put forward a number of measures to better protect children, including:
putting forward the Safe Streets and Communities Act, which increased penalties for sexual offences against children and created two new offences aimed at conduct that could facilitate or enable the commission of a sexual offence against a child;
strengthening the beautiful offender registry;
increasing the age of protection from 14 to 16 years old;
eliminating house arrest for criminals who commit serious and violent offences including for all child sexual offences;
putting forward legislation to make the reporting of child pornography by Internet service providers mandatory; and,
strengthening the sentencing and monitoring of dangerous offenders.
This funding announcement is in keeping with the Government's Plan for Safe Streets and Communities, one of four priorities identified by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. This plan focuses on holding violent criminals accountable, enhancing the rights of victims, and increasing the efficiency of our justice system.
Backgrounder: Child Advocacy Centres
Child Advocacy Centres (CACs) are child-focused centres that coordinate the investigation, prosecution, and treatment of child abuse and other crimes. They adopt a seamless and collaborative approach to addressing the needs of child or youth victims or witnesses of crime. CACs seek to minimize system-induced trauma by providing a child-friendly setting for a young victim and his or her family.
Child Advocacy Centres bring together a multi-disciplinary team of police, child protection, medical services, mental health services, and victim services. Professional services offered by CACs include coordinated forensic interviews; examination of the child by a medical professional; victim advocacy, including court preparation and support; trauma assessment; and counselling.
CACs help children and their families navigate the justice system in a number of ways. For example, CACs provide a child or youth with a safe and comfortable environment in which to be interviewed by criminal justice professionals, and seek to reduce the number of interviews and questions directed at a child, thereby minimizing system-induced trauma. 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 and to increased access to services for young victims and their families or caregivers.
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 interviewing process.