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Barrhead Victim Services Unit hopes government silence is a good sign

Barrhead and area Red Knights donate $2,000 to the Barrhead Community VSU through its Sept. 11 charity ride
Barrhead Red Knights donation to VSU Nov. 22 copy
Representatives of the Barrhead and Area Red Knights motorcycle club and Scotiabank presented the Barrhead Community Victim Services Unit (VSU) with a $2,000 donation at the Barrhead Leader office on Nov. 22. From left: Kremma Nair (Scotiabank), Kristina Kyllonen (VSU program manager), Jeniffer White (Scotiabank), Don Smith (Red Knights president), Margaret Osborne (VSU board chair), Gerry St. Pierre (VSU board member) and Jocelyn McKinnon (VSU board member).

BARRHEAD – No news is good news.

That is how Barrhead Community Victim Sevices Unit (VSU) board chair Margaret Osborne is taking the province's silence on changes to the way they do business.

Specifically, they are looking at the VSU services delivery model.

The VSU is a non-profit organization that helps support individuals who are the victims of crime, trauma, death or other emergencies in Barrhead, Swan Hills, Fort Assiniboine and Big Lakes County. Most often, the VSU volunteers, or volunteer advocates, are called upon at the request of the RCMP but also receive referrals from fire services, the Crown prosecutor’s office, healthcare centres and ambulance crews.

"We should hear something soon," Osborne said. "We were supposed to hear something last spring, then in the fall. I think the reason for the delay is that they have been working on reasons to create an Alberta force."

Another bit of good news, she said, is that VSU received their base funding from the province until March 2023.

Osborne, along with some other VSU representatives, recently dropped by the Barrhead Leader offices for a short presentation from the Barrhead and area Red Knights, who presented them with a $2,000 cheque from the proceeds of their annual charity ride, hosted with the help of Scotiabank, who sponsored a barbecue after the event.

Among the proposed changes the government is contemplating is heading the organizations with a provincial employee, amalgamating the units into larger zones or having them run under the municipal government umbrella.

The Barrhead Community VSU is opposed to all of the models.

Another change the province is considering is limiting the types of incidents requiring VSU response to only those that are the direct result of criminal activity.

Program manager Kristina Kyllonen said that would eliminate the VSU responding to incidents like the one on Nov. 22, to help a family find temporary emergency lodgings after a fire destroyed their home in Fort Assiniboine.

She added that although VSUs respond to such events, they cannot use the funds they receive from the Solicitor General for the purpose.

The reasoning behind that is the funds come from the Victims of Crime Fund, which is made up of provincial fine surcharges imposed following convictions to help crime victims through financial relief and support programs, many of which are provided through local victim support units.

"Which is why the donations and efforts of groups like the Red Knights and the Scotiabank and their donation, are so important," Kyllonen said.

Osborne said the fact that the government has not made an announcement could be a sign that they are reconsidering their position.

She noted VSUs embarked on a letter-writing campaign to dissuade the province from making any changes to their service model, including the Barrhead Community VSU.

"The municipalities were wonderful," Osborne said. "Each one we contacted wrote letters asking that victim services remain in the community instead of having these big regions and boards."

"They are under a lot of pressure, that is for sure," agreed Red Knight president Don Smith, who is also a Barrhead town councillor.

Barry Kerton,



Barry Kerton

About the Author: Barry Kerton

Barry Kerton is the managing editor of the Barrhead Leader, joining the paper in 2014. He covers news, municipal politics and sports.
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