Posted on Jun 24, 2020
SURVIVORS OF PHYSICAL AND SEXUAL ASSAULTS SAY UCP BILL 16 IS ‘STEALING FROM VICTIMS’
EDMONTON - Alberta’s NDP Opposition is proposing amendments to prevent the UCP government from passing a bill that survivors of domestic violence, physical and sexual assault say is “stealing from victims” instead of supporting them.
Concerns continue to grow regarding Bill 16 which will allow the UCP to use the Victims of Crime fund to pay for policing initiatives, which conflicts with the intent of the fund - to support the victims of crime.
Yesterday, Red Deer County council unanimously joined the call for the UCP to preserve a fund for victims of crime. Red Deer County Coun. Christine Moore called on council to send a letter ensuring that funding for victim support volunteers is not reduced. She called the actions of the UCP “a classic example of robbing Peter to pay Paul” and said it was “grossly unfair.”
Calgary resident Tarin Arndt is the survivor of a serious physical assault. She was hit multiple times, pushed down a flight of stairs and then her attacker went on to strangle her. She said if her assailant didn’t kill her, she thought her post-traumatic stress disorder would. Arndt had to take six months off work to access an intensive outpatient program to support her psychological and physical injuries.
“The fact that I have to speak about my darkest hours on a public platform should speak volumes. This bill is wrong,” Arndt said. “I applied to the Victims of Crime Fund because it gave me hope. It gave me a safety net and assurance that I wouldn’t have to pay for services for something that I never asked for. This bill almost feels like another criminal act—it is stealing from the victims who need it the most.”
Nearly half of all Albertans have experienced sexual abuse in their lifetimes, according to a study by the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services, yet only five per cent of sexual assault survivors report these crimes to the police.
Nikki Tighe is a sexual assault survivor who did not qualify for the Victims of Crime Fund because she reported the crime over two years after her assault.
“This money was meant to directly support those affected by crime. People like me need direct funds, and have not received it,” Tighe said. “I have read Bill 16 and do not feel that taking money away from victims, and using it to fund policing initiatives in the province will help victims like myself. Rather than creating incentives to take money away from the fund I want the barriers reduced and more funds going directly to victims.”
Jacqueline Molyneaux and her children experienced domestic violence and said it is not a one day thing that happens to victims and the next day they are over it. She said it affects victims for years through PTSD, physical injuries as well as emotional and mental stress to have to rebuild themselves again.
“As a survivor of domestic violence, my children and I have undergone extreme trauma. I have experienced the trauma of being sexually assaulted multiple times, escaping with my children and going through the court process to have him convicted and sentenced. My kids experienced the harassment, stalking and fear from my abuser. They fear him, feared he would come for them. The fund was there for me and my kids but they will continue to need counselling.”
On June 22, the NDP proposed an amendment to Bill 16 to ensure 75 per cent of the Victims of Crime Fund would be reserved for victims and victim-serving agencies. The amendment was defeated by the UCP.
NDP Justice Critic Kathleen Ganley has proposed an amendment to ensure accessibility to justice and financial aid is not limited to victims of crime due to reporting timeframes and that minors, who have witnessed acts of violence are also eligible to receive financial supports.
A further amendment will be proposed to restore financial benefits for victims who may have lasting impacts including physical or psychological trauma. Bill 16, as it is currently drafted, will only allow for benefits for a severe neurological injury - this is not the only way that a victim can be impacted for life.
“Albertans are stepping forward and reliving traumatic experiences in order to help Premier Jason Kenney and the UCP understand the consequences of Bill 16 - but they don’t seem to be listening.” Ganley said.
Janis Irwin, NDP Critic for Women and LGBTQ2S+ Issues, said the UCP talks a big game about tackling crime and domestic, sexual, gender-based violence, yet they’re robbing survivors of critical supports through Bill 16.
“It takes incredible strength and courage for survivors of violent crimes and their families to work through the traumatic events they’ve experienced, and it takes even more to relive that experience when navigating the justice system,” Irwin said. “The name of the fund speaks for itself - the funds that are collected from criminals are meant to go to survivors, to victims of crime.”