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Calgary Herald - May 8, 2004

Abuse Initiative Unveiled

Two new posts will help stop family violence

Gwendolyn Richards - grichards@theherald.canwest.com

A province-wide examination of bullying and domestic violence drew to a close Friday as the Alberta government announced the creation of two new positions that will focus on initiatives to stop abuse.

Former Crown prosecutor Val Campbell will spend the next year working with the Justice Ministry to create a system for victims of violence going through the courts, as well as training programs for the police, Alberta Children’s Services and the Solicitor General to help them with cases of family violence.

Justice Minister Dave Hancock said the new model will be about more than just how the court handles domestic violence and its victims, but will look to reduce the repetition of cases going through the system.

“We want victims of family violence and bullying to know that they don’t have to stop the violence.

“The criminal justice system can and will take a lead role,” he said.

At the same time, Sheryl Fricke will co-ordinate domestic violence initiative from all the provincial ministries.

The move comes at the tail end of seven months of roundtable discussions on the problems of family violence and bullying.

Initiated by Premier Ralph Klein back in October, the discussions spanned the province, bringing in front –line workers, stakeholders and victims to talk about the problem and identify possible solutions.

“We wanted to make sure we engaged Albertans, understood the problem and then contemplated the next stage: education, awareness, trying to make sure everybody understands they have a part in this,” said Alberta Children’s Services Minister Iris Evans.

From here, she said, the next step is to take all the information and begin developing programs to combat the problems of violence in the home and schools.

“One thing we heard is that people, not programs, change people,” she said.

Already this year, 10 people have died in incidents attributed to family violence. Two years ago, that number was six.

“Albertans are increasingly showing concern about violence in society, in the playground,” said Evans.

“There’s a reawakening.”

Meanwhile, several organizations are charging the provincial government with perpetuating stereotypes when it comes to domestic violence.

Gus Sleiman, president of the Men’s Educational Support Association, said government publications continue to highlight men as the perpetrators and women as victims.

He said while laws dealing with family violence have changed, their application hasn’t.

At the counter-roundtable meeting also held Friday, Sleiman was joined by researchers and university professors talking about violence stereotypes and biases in the justice system.

Paul Millar, a speaker at the counter-roundtable, added that the Alberta government is only emphasizing a select number of perspectives as they try to create new policies for dealing with domestic abuse.

Elder advocate Ruth Maria Adria said the roundtable discussions haven’t included abuse against seniors, despite the fact that Elder Advocates of Alberta receives three or four complaints per day about the mistreatment of seniors.

Copyright; The Calgary Herald