Victim services groups are calling on the Alberta government to halt funding changes that will see the province’s 60 police-based victim services units consolidated into four regional hubs.
The United Conservative government’s 2023 budget, released in February, calls for a move to a regional model for delivering services to victims of crime and other traumatic events.
Under the new model, the provincial government will “shift” funding from 60 “independent and dissimilar victim-serving societies” to four “integrated and coordinated regional victim-serving societies.” The budget announcement said the change will be financially sustainable and result in more consistent levels of service across Alberta “while also making sure victims still have the support they need from within their communities.”
A news release from a group called For All Albertans, however, said the change will prohibit police-based victim service units from operating as of April 1, 2024. The group is calling on government to halt the changes and consult with the sector before implementing any reforms.
“We do not feel as though the current plan reflects an understanding of victim services in Alberta, and we want to help the Government of Alberta reach its goal in a better way for all Albertans,” Craig Beattie, a member of the Victim Services Society of Stony Plain, Spruce Grove and District, said in the Wednesday news release.
“We are part of the emergency response team in communities across the province, and to lock us out when our province is facing multiple concurrent crises does not have the appearance of what is best for our province or for people experiencing crime, abuse, loss, tragedy and trauma.”
According to For All Albertans, the provincial government intends to “prohibit all currently operating victim services units from delivering police-based victim services” in favour of a model with four geographic hubs.
Under the current model, a patchwork of local societies, staffed largely by volunteers and often based in local RCMP detachments, are tasked with helping victims of crime, accidents, fires and other traumatic incidents access supports. They are sometimes called out to scenes to assist survivors or notify next of kin, and provide court accompaniment in the case of criminal matters
For All Albertans says that under the redesign, victim service units will not be allowed to work in police detachments or have access to case files. The organizations have been told their funding agreements with the provincial government will not be extended once the redesign is in place, the group said.
Romesh Persaud, chairman of the Camrose and District Victim Services Society, said many in the sector feel the changes are being implemented without proper consultation. He worries what will happen to clients if victim services are no longer rooted in their communities.
“We’re not against a redesign (of the system),” Persaud said. “We would like to have some of the subject matter experts be part of this, and have some input in how we’re going to continue to have the local touch.”
“Rural Alberta is important, and it seems like we’re forgetting that in this process,” he added.
For All Albertans urged Albertans to sign a petition on the organization’s website and reach out to their MLAs.
Neither the provincial ministry of public safety nor the Opposition NDP responded to requests for comment.