Politics
PM opens Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre for sex abuse victims

Sheldon Kennedy poses at his office after Prime Minister, Stephen Harper spoke on the renaming the Calgary Child Advocacy Centre to the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre

Credits: Darren Makowichuk/Calgary Sun/QMI Agency

BILL KAUFMANN | QMI AGENCY

CALGARY -- Child sex abuse victims should find respite from an unsympathetic justice system in a Calgary advocacy centre named after Sheldon Kennedy, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday.

Harper said the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre will balance out what he called a justice system that too often serves the rights of criminal rather than those hurt by crime.

"The justice system is too often far more concerned with the welfare of criminals than the welfare of innocent victims," Harper said.

He said one of the functions of the multi-faceted centre is to help sex abuse victims from being undermined in the courts.

"This will be one-stop shopping for children in need, this leads to better evidence that will ensure victims of crime aren't victimized again," Harper said, adding it's unfortunate such a facility is needed.

"But the world is not always safe for children."
Kennedy, who was sexually abused by his major junior hockey coach Graham James for five years in the 1980s, shed tears over sharing his name with the centre, on the southwest corner of the University of Calgary campus.

"I could not have foreseen how far this issue has come," said Kennedy, who's been an activist for child sex abuse sufferers since the mid-1990s.

"I call it social change and it is happening, the conversation is happening."

The first of its kind in Alberta, the centre provides trauma-minimizing counseling with partners that include city police, the provincial justice department and Alberta Health Services.

It's also meant to help victims navigate the criminal justice system.

Since 2010, Ottawa has invested $10.25 million into such centres across the country.

Half of those suffering from sexual abuse in Canada are under the age of 17, with 200,000 investigations each year launched into such crimes, Harper said.

"These are some of the fastest-growing areas of crime in the country," the prime minister said.

His government, he said, has toughened up law and penalties dealing with child sex abusers and will continue to do so.

"We have eliminated the shameful practice of house arrest for child sex abusers," he said.

A victims bill of rights will, he said, ensure "victims are no longer an afterthought."

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