Reallocated government funds leaving Victim Services short

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

Victim Services is receiving a helping hand from High Prairie town council.

Council agreed at its Feb. 23 meeting to write a letter to the Alberta Police Based Victim Services Association in support of its efforts to fund the Financial Benefits Program, which provides money for Victim Services around the province to operate.

Victim Services helps victims of crime throughout the entire legal process from when they are first a victim including court appearances.

In presenting the report, CAO Rod Risling said the government is considering using the money collected through the victim fine surcharge program for other purposes.

Brian Turpin, of Peace River, is president of the APBSA, and says the government is now using the money for police funding, to hire 50 new Crown prosecutors, and fund drug treatment courts.

The victim fine surcharge program was first set up to fund victim services programs, not other endeavours.

However, the cash-strapped Alberta government has found a new source of revenue for their programs. The government’s own website says legislation was recently amended to “expand the scope of the Victims of Crime Fund to include public safety initiatives to deter crime and reduce victimization, such as Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams, the Rural Alberta Provincial Integrated Defence Force, drug treatment courts, and the hiring of more Crown prosecutors.

And to make matters worse, funding to victim services organizations around the province are being cut.

Mayor Brian Panasiuk said during debate they are all good causes.

“Victim services is also a very good cause,” he added.

However, he recognized the problem of funding all the programs.

“Where do you find money for these projects? [They] shouldn’t leave victim services so short.

“No one likes to hear their budget is cut,” he added.

Turpin provided one example where a $12,000 grant was cut to $1,000.

“We are seeing funding cuts for the victim service unit programs across the province over the past few months,” Turpin wrote in a Feb. 3 letter to Alberta Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Kayce Madu.

There are 74 victim services programs in Alberta.

The victim fine surcharge program raises about $45 million each year.

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