Alberta’s NDP government is hoping to help fight child sexual abuse by expanding the model used for the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre in Calgary to several different communities across the province.
The advocacy centre, named for the hockey player who brought to light sex crimes by one-time junior coach Graham James, began helping clients in 2013. It uses a unique integrated practice model that brings police, social workers, doctors, nurses, psychologists and prosecutors together in one building.
On Thursday, Human Services Minister Irfan Sabir joined Calgary’s Global News Morning to announce an investment of more than $1.7 million in funding to support three existing child advocacy centres in Calgary, Edmonton and Grande Prairie, as well as four emerging centres in Fort McMurray, Lethbridge/Medicine Hat, Lloydminster and Red Deer.
WATCH: Zebra Child Protection Centre CEO Bob Hassel discusses what new additional provincial funding will do for the agency.
Edmonton’s Zebra Child Protection Centre, which provides social, medical and mental health services to children who have experienced abuse, will receive $400,000 over three years.
The centre said it will use the money to increase capacity and serve as a regional training and development hub for future child advocacy centres in northern Alberta. The money will also go towards hiring more staff.
“One of the most valuable things we can do as an established child advocacy centre is to ensure all children throughout the province are given equitable access to the services that heal,” Bob Hassel, CEO of the Zebra Child Protection Centre, said.
“Not only is this funding essential for enhancing our own support services, but it allows us to assist other child advocacy centres develop a consistent approach to supporting children and families who have experienced abuse.”
The Zebra Child Protection Centre saw a 14 per cent increase in children accessing support services in 2015, and a 52 per cent spike during the first quarter of 2016, Hassel said.
WATCH: Alberta Human Services Minister Irfan Sabir joined Global Calgary’s Leslie Horton at Mount Royal University on Thursday to announce more than $1.7 million towards advocating for child abuse survivors
The announcement comes on the heels of a symposium on childhood trauma being held at Mount Royal University on Thursday, called Connecting the Dots on Childhood Trauma.
“The symposium is about an integrated practice model, which is an innovative way of doing things,” Sabir said.
Former NHLer and abuse survivor Sheldon Kennedy says integration of victims’ services is the key to helping fight childhood trauma.
“We have to do this together. It’s like if you have an X-ray of a broken leg and you cut it in four slivers, and you give a sliver to health, you give a sliver to child and family and you give a sliver to police – and you’re supposed to fix the broken leg, but you can’t talk to each other.”
“It’s a shift in culture but we’re doing it. The excuse is out the window that we don’t work that way anymore,” Kennedy added.
“We should be excited, because we are leading the way.”
WATCH: Former NHLer and abuse survivor Sheldon Kennedy joins Leslie Horton from Mount Royal University to discuss Thursday’s Connecting the Dots on Childhood Trauma symposium
Country artist Beverley Mahood, who will be performing at the symposium, opened up about her experience with childhood trauma.
“I’m definitely the victim of child abuse myself, and I kept it a secret for many, many years,” Mahood said.
The Canadian songwriter said it was Kennedy’s advocacy for child abuse victims that inspired her to tell her story.
“For me, I never talked about it for years,” Mahood said. “What kept me going was music, and that I could write about it.”
Mahood even penned a song inspired by her trauma, titled Can You Keep a Secret.
“I didn’t know how I could talk about it, because I hadn’t healed.”
Mahood said her message to victims of abuse is to share their story.
“You’re not the one that was in the wrong. You were abused. And you’ve got to get it out there to the world and heal.”
WATCH: Country artist Beverley Mahood discusses her experience with childhood trauma
With files from Caley Ramsay, Global News.