Canada’s Attorney General and Justice Minister David Lametti, front and centre, announced $340,000 in funding to Vernon’s Oak Centre Child and Youth Advocacy on Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019. (Caitlin Clow - Morning Star)

Ottawa announces funding for Vernon youth advocacy centre

Oak Centre to receive $340,000 over 3 years to further its efforts to support abused youth

Vernon’s Oak Centre provides a safe space for children who have experienced trauma to come forward and share their story with police or social workers in a welcoming environment while receiving the necessary wraparound supports to ensure the youth’s wellbeing. Now, the Oak Centre will be able to continue its efforts after Ottawa announced $340,000 in funding over three years.

On Tuesday morning, Canada’s Attorney General and Justice Minister David Lametti announced the federal funding following a tour of the facility on 46th Avenue.

“Child and Youth Advocacy Centres, such as the Oak Centre at the Archway Society for Domestic Peace, provide vital services that make a difference for young victims of abuse and violence,” Lametti said.

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“I am proud that the Government of Canada supports community-driven services that prioritize the unique needs of children and youth victims in a way that lessens the impact of these tragic experiences.”

Centre manager Brooke McLardy said last year, 177 youth under the age of 19 used the facility’s services, where they were interviewed by specially trained police and social workers.

“Usually it’s because they’re disclosing some sort of horrific abuse or sexual assault,” McLardy said. “Our partners come together to provide services out of this space and we make sure we give wraparound services to these kids and their families so they can go on to be successful and healed and not sit in their trauma.”

The centre would be nothing without the collaboration between its partners in the RCMP, Ministry of Families, non-profit partners, victim services and the Okanagan Indian Band, McLardy said.

“Kids typically are very reluctant to talk about the abuse that has happened to them,” she said. “But we have had really amazing resilient children come through and tell there stories in such detail that police and social workers are able to do really thorough investigations that lead to charges against offenders.”

Those charges, she said, means these offenders are being held accountable for their actions and are off the streets, preventing further abuse and additional victims.

“The Oak Centre makes a big difference,” said RCMP officer Janelle Canning-Lue. “It’s an inviting space, not some scary police station.”

The centre is painted in warm colours, boasts elegant decor, comfy chairs, toys and books that allow children to feel at ease, compared to the cold, clinical feel of an RCMP office.

McLardy said the facility has been a success since it has opened its doors in 2015 and that’s due, in large part, to the funding from the federal funding from the Department of Justice.

“That’s allowed us to have our building, our co-ordinator, a victim service worker here that’s attached to the children and basically supply this space for these kids,” McLardy said.

But, she told the minister, conversations and coordination between provincial and federal levels of government could be improved.

“We’re getting there with funding and hopefully it’s something that will continue,” Lametti said. “I’d love to stay in this role and continue to advocate for this issue.”

“It’s so critical to hopefully prevent the damage from expanding over another generation,” he said, thanking the staff at the Oak Centre.


@caitleerach
Caitlin.clow@kelownacapnews.com

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