Alberta boosts financial support and advice for victims of crime

The program is funded by Alberta’s Victims of Crime Fund, where money is pooled from the additional ticket and court fees the province collects.

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Victims of crime in Alberta will soon have access to a number of new supports, as the province announced various funding programs for them and a change in how the funds are managed.

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Justice Minister Tyler Shandro said on Tuesday that a victim assistance program will first be introduced on a limited basis on September 1 before expanding over the next year. Once fully rolled out, the program will provide victims with immediate access to emergency financial assistance and counselling. They will also be able to move on to longer-term counseling and apply for funeral costs, medical benefits and court appearance costs, as well as injury benefits.

The deadline for requesting services will also be extended from 45 days to two years.

“We know that the previous financial benefits program was not fast enough and simply did not provide enough immediate support for those dealing with trauma and that was not acceptable,” said Shandro. “We are putting in place an enhanced range of services and supports for victims of crime. This will close the gaps in the current system and ensure victims have immediate access to the help they need.

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The new line of support comes after the province passed the Victims of Crime (Strengthening Public Safety) Amendment Act in 2020. Following the bill’s introduction, Deputies Angela Pitt and Nathan Neudorf led a task force to consult with industry advocates.

Shandro said his government accepted all of the recommendations that came out of this task force.

Victims will have access to up to $5,000 for safety and security expenses out of their own pocket and up to $600 for emergency accommodation, with victims of human trafficking eligible for up to $1,000 for accommodation and $5,000 for relocation expenses. Those seeking to flee situations of domestic violence can receive up to $1,000. Victims can also apply for a lump sum of up to $100,000 for critical injury supports, plus additional payments.

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Funds for counseling and funeral expenses are also available and victims of sexual assault will have a ‘third option’ to store evidence for up to a year.

The program is funded by Alberta’s Victims of Crime Fund, where money is pooled from the additional ticket and court fees the province collects. Previously, the government said some of this money would be used to fund programs that would deter crime from happening in the first place. On Tuesday, the government announced that it had changed course and that the fund would continue to serve only victims of crime.

The government had previously been criticized for its plans to use the funds for other parts of the justice system.

“We recognize that it is essential to ensure that funds are dedicated solely to the needs of victims of crime,” said Shandro.

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The government also announced on Tuesday that victim services programs would move to a four-zone model. Funding will grow from distribution to 62 governance councils to four – east, west, north and south.

Shandro said employees working in the sector will have the opportunity to apply for new employment under the new organizational structure.

Melody Littell, regional program manager with Northeast Corridor Victim Services, said they were working under a pilot project which saw services delivered regionally. She said this approach has enabled staff to respond to the specific needs of the region.

“This model has given us the ability to change as needed, as we expand our region and discover new challenges,” Littell said.

NDP Justice Critic Irfan Sabir said in a response that the UCP had delayed support for victims.

“After dismantling this program and sitting on this report for over a year, the UCP ended up reversing its original decision, causing years of harm to victims,” ​​Sabir said. “These recommendations fail to restore funding and support to victims of crime who have been waiting for the UCP to implement a new support program for two years.”

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