WHEREAS the Government of Alberta is planning to shift the governance and delivery of victim services to a four-zone model in March 2024; and
WHEREAS the four-zone model will replace the existing local victim services governance and program delivery model; and
WHEREAS the unique needs of communities within these new zones may not be addressed; and
WHEREAS stakeholders were not given the opportunity to discuss the boundaries of the new zones even though the Recommendations on Victims Services – Report to Government (Report) identified that any model should recognize the unique need in each area; and
WHEREAS under the four-zone model, decision-making and service delivery approaches in smaller communities may be eliminated or modified to meet the needs of larger communities within each zone; and
WHEREAS this decline in services for lesser populated areas could disproportionally affect rural Alberta; and
WHEREAS many communities will be without representation on the new zonal boards, which will further limit their ability to address the unique needs of each community; and
WHEREAS the regionalization of many other professions in Alberta has not resulted in improved service provision for clients; and
WHEREAS the new zoning model could result in significant volunteer and staffing challenges, due to the large area that a single regional manager would oversee; and
WHEREAS the funding and delivery of victim services could be downloaded to municipalities under the new zoning model; and
WHEREAS Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) has taken the position that the current model of service delivery is effective for a large percentage of the population; and
WHEREAS the Report asserted that most stakeholders prefer to maintain the current model with increased funding levels; and
WHEREAS the Report did not document any problems with the current service delivery model, nor did it identify any existing gaps in services; and
WHEREAS the Report advised that “victims’ needs should be the number one priority” yet victims have not been given the opportunity to provide input as to what their needs are; and
WHEREAS the Government of Alberta has not done its part in assisting those few communities that have been struggling in their effort to provide victim services;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) advocate to the Government of Alberta to maintain the current model of victim services program delivery and instead provide direct assistance to the small number of communities that are struggling to operate under the current model and have insufficient services for victims; and
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that RMA advocate to the Government of Alberta for more consistent funding for the current model and the development of an approach for more consistent regional collaboration and information-sharing within the current model.
The existing model of Victim Services Units (VSU) has worked well for 30 years engaging local board members, local volunteer advocates and local staff from their respective communities. These local police based VSUs have always had huge support from the police and their communities and are appreciated for the quality one-on-one service they are able to give victims of crime and tragedy in their communities. With the very small percentage of problems that have arisen within these current VSUs, there was never any real effort from the Government of Alberta to resolve any conflict issues. Instead, these isolated problem areas were left to deteriorate. In the past (10 years ago) a team of two provincal representatives would come to the VSU with a problem and conduct a program review to identify and resolve issues. These communities should receive the help they need, without resorting to zonal model that penalizes every other VSU that was operating effectively.
RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.
Alberta Public Safety and Emergency Services
The current model of victim services has been providing varying degrees of assistance to Albertan’s for more than 30 years. It began as a grassroots movement of localized volunteers passionate about helping others within their own communities and, over the course of three decades, has evolved into an often but not always reliable means of ensuring victims of crime and tragedy are able to access the supports they deserve – at times of extreme crisis and, where necessary, through complex criminal justice system processes.
We recognize however, that the current system has never been the beneficiary of an articulable strategic design or an equitable, consistent, and sustainable governance structure. As such, and despite the good will and intentions of its participants, it has intermittently but repeatedly shown itself to suffer from a lack of uniformity and stability across the province.
The MLA-led Victims of Crime Review conducted in 2020/21 identified specific gaps in the services and supports available for victims of crime within the current model, and stakeholder input at the time indicated that any new service delivery model for police-based victim services units should:
• encourage consistency in services;
• reduce administrative and service duplication;
• include sustainable paid staffing;
• reduce over-reliance on volunteer advocates;
• include longer-term funding arrangements to provide greater operational stability; and
• address the reluctance of some victim-serving organizations to collaborate.
I would like to reassure you that the move to a regional governance model for police-based victim services units has always been intended to improve the availability of services received by victims of crime across all municipal, rural, and remote regions of the province. It is also designed to ensure that all victims will continue to be supported locally by dedicated workers and volunteers from within their own communities. Although board governance is moving toward integration, all front-line services will remain local.
These changes to victim services in Alberta are an exciting step forward to ensure victims in our province have the help they need when they need it most. Over the next year, we will continue to work closely with municipalities and Indigenous communities to design and implement the new service delivery model.
The resolution calls for continued funding and support for victim services across the province using the current local service delivery model. The current model allows for local victims services units (VSUs) to address community needs on a case-by-case basis in a way that reflects the local community. The resolution emphasizes the importance of the local nature of VSU delivery under the current model and expresses concerns that a regionalized model may not meet the needs of victims in rural areas. Unfortunately, the Government of Alberta response does not provide any meaningful data or evidence related to why a shift to a regional model is required and what specific deficiencies in the current model justify such a significant change.
During discussions with RMA, Alberta Justice staff have indicated that the new regional model has already secured provincial funding that will be at a level that is, at minimum, equivalent to the total current provincial funding received by individual VSUs plus all additional revenues generated through local fundraising. If this is the case it is unclear why the province cannot simply fund local VSUs at a higher level and allow local fundraising to continue to supplement provincial funding. This would likely allow struggling VSUs to add necessary governance and operational capacity, as requested in the resolution.
This resolution is assigned a status of Intent Not Met, and RMA will continue to advocate for the continuation of the local VSU model.