Victim Services Units in the Lakeland are thankful after a splash of donations from Canadian Natural Resources to help local programs in Cold Lake, Bonnyville, and Elk Point.
The oil company made $5,000 donations to support the Elk Point group’s work with victims of crime and Cold Lake towards speciality training for their Victim Services Volunteer Advocates for child and youth court preparation.
Bonnyville Victim Services said in February in a social media post that Canadian Natural’s donation, in light of not having their Charity Checkstop fundraiser, will be able to keep their direct client services funded for the year.
According to Elk Point program manager Doris Pindroch, they plan to spend the money over the next five years.
“It’s just fantastic. I’m over the moon with joy at this because this money will go so far in the work we do,” said Pindroch.
She said the non-profit group does receive some funding through the provincial government’s Bill 16, but donations from community stakeholders like CNRL allow them to support people who can’t access those provincial dollars like the family members of murder victims.
According to Pindroch. because the family members are not ordinarily witnesses to or the direct victims of the murder who must attend court in order for the trial to proceed, they’re not able to access a lot of the provincial dollars.
“I don’t know if coming to court really helps in those situations, but for a lot of our clients they want to stay involved in the process. They need to know what’s happening, and for some of them being there helps with that sense of closure,” said Pindroch.
One thing people don’t always realize she said, is how long a process it can be. For something like a murder charge, it can be two years from when the charge is laid to the completion of the trial, and charges are often not laid as soon as the murder takes place because it takes time for police to gather the evidence necessary to prove it in court.
The assistance offered takes a number of difference forms. According to Pindroch sometimes what a person needs is minutes for their phone in order to stay connected with Victim Services during the court process. Other times it is a fuel card to help with transportation to the courthouse, or a meal when court is adjourned.
“Some people just need you to be there with them. That’s a lot of what we do, especially since COVID,” said Pindroch.
She said because of the restrictions around the number of people who can be in the courtroom since COVID-19, a lot of people who used to bring a spouse or a friend with them for support when they come to testify aren’t able to do that anymore.
“So when we’re able to make that connection with them it counts for a lot because they do know someone who is able to be there,” said Pindroch.
According to Pindroch, Elk Point & Area Victim Services saw a 20 per cent increase in clients in 2020 compared to 2019. She said in 2020 they saw approximately 361 clients.
One of the reasons for the increase in people using their services is the two satellite offices Victim Services has opened in Frog Lake First Nation and Fishing Lake Metis Settlement. Pindroch and her co-worker spend a full day in their offices in those communities each week “and so now people are getting to know who we are and we’re getting a lot more self-referrals, as well as referrals from the police.”