Prince Albert Regional Victim Services closing in the coming weeks

Jodi Schellenberg
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The community has been shocked by the announcement of the closure of the Prince Albert Regional Victim Services RCMP program, but it isn't all bad news.

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Dwayne Lawrence, the acting director of the Victim Services branch with the Ministry of Justice, assured the Daily Herald that it is not a permanent closure, but rather a restructuring of services.

In the past, the province announced an initiative, including a $1.2-million province-wide expansion of police-based victim services, he explained.

“It is not a matter of services ending. This is a part of a restructuring in the region.”

Victim Services provides a wide range of help to people, including providing crisis intervention after a crime or a traumatic event, providing information, support and referrals to other service agencies, providing information about the court process, the criminal justice system, providing court updates and helping people get prepared for court and to go through the justice system.

As part of the restructuring process, the victim services in the Meadow Lake and Prince Albert regions will be restructured to strengthen their services, Lawrence said.

“This is going to be consistent with an approach in northern Saskatchewan with a larger regional program model,” he said. “That is also a model that is under development in central Saskatchewan right now as well.

“It is really a restructuring and development of these services and it is also going to complete the province-wide expansion because the restructuring is going to include a couple of RCMP detachments that currently don’t have services.”

With the change in services, other RCMP detachments such as Blaine Lake and Rosthern will be included in the regional victim services.

The ministry is working with the RCMP F Division, Crime Prevention, Crime Reduction Unit to develop the new program.

Not only will the program be expanded to other areas, it will also mean more staff to provide services and centralized administration, Lawrence said.

“The experience with that newer model in the north has been very effective,” he said.

Since the program will be shut down for a short period of time during the transition, Lawrence hopes people understand there are other services still available through partner programs, such as victim compensation program and witness services, which provide services to vulnerable adult victims and children, helping them to testify.

“There are those other services in communities so that we would hope that they would be involved as well,” he said.

As there will be a restructuring. Lawrence said the new program may not have the same name as before, but it will offer the same types of services.

 “Clearly it is a change -- it is a restructuring and a transition -- but it is an opportunity to complete the province-wide expansion of police-based victim services,” Lawrence said. “The larger regional approach and structure does provide some opportunities to strengthen services.”

Although he is unsure of the timeline, he said there still should be access to some services.

“We would hope there would be some capacity to cover services during that period, but we don’t know the exact date. We want to work with the RCMP to form the new board as quickly as we can and there are some steps involved in that, but we want to minimize the period where there is a gap there (or) reduced services.”

Also, the Prince Albert Police Service has its own victim services unit, which will not be impacted by the RCMP-based restructuring.

Organizations: RCMP, Prince Albert Regional Victim Services, Ministry of Justice Daily Herald Prince Albert Police Service

Geographic location: Meadow Lake, Prince Albert regions, Northern Saskatchewan Saskatchewan Blaine Lake Rosthern

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