At the most recent meeting of Town Council, a delegation from the Regional Vision for Non-Violence Coalition was present to give an update on the impact the coalition has had over the past two years.
Alissa McDonald and Colleen Lewis told Council the main vision of the coalition is to reduce violence in our communities. They way to do that, according to Lewis who is the coordinator for the coalition, is through education and using the same language throughout.
“Our main preventative goals are identifying family violence and bullying, develop and implement solutions that have a collective impact with a shared language, create a continuity of resources and consistent messaging, sharing the resources amongst coalition communities,” Lewis said.
Through the opening of the Centre for Positive Relationships, which have been occurring throughout last fall and continue in the coalition communities, the Vision for Non-Violence has been working on its preventative goals.
With the addition of three new communities, the 16 centres across Central Alberta will share all the same resources and utilize the same language. Lewis also said all members of the coalition have been under going training to work with those who have been affected by violence.
“Our coalition members have asked for more training specifically in family violence, because they are seeing many cases brought to them,” Lewis said.
The Vision for Non-Violence also keeps tracks of cases of violence in the communities. According to Lewis, cases of domestic violence have increased over the past two years.
Working with the RCMP, Lewis said there were 213 reported cases of domestic violence in Sylvan Lake over an 11 month period in 2017.
“It is estimated that only 22 per cent of all incidents are reported to the police, therefore the real numbers are much higher.”
The number of reported incidents are down in Sylvan Lake from 2016 to 2017, with 245 cases of domestic violence reported to RCMP in 2017.
Because the more cases of domestic violence are not reported, Lewis believes the actual numbers to exceed 300 cases in Sylvan Lake alone.
Violence is also far reaching. Every person affected by violence in some way will affect another, with it creating something like a ripple, touching the lives of others in an outward fashion.
It is believed family violence has had the far reaching effect on as many as 4,677 people in the community.
“All children suffer from witnessing violence against their mother,” said Lewis.
According the the Government of Canada, fewer than one in five people who were abused by a spouse reported it to the police in 2014.
The “Family violence in Canada: A statistical profile, 2015” study from the Statistics Canada Catalogue says 79 per cent of reported partner violence has been against women. The same report says of the children and youth victims of violence reported to police, “30 per cent were victims of family violence perpetrated by parents, siblings, an extended family member or spouse.”
“Alberta has the third highest incidence of family violence in Canada,” Lewis said.
Preventative measure will ultimately save the tax payers money. For every one dollar invested into preventative measures and programs, $6 is saved. Lewis says costs are avoided by investing into measures such as policing, justice, family abuse, health care and addiction treatment.
The coalition’s works has received recognition from the province, as well as receiving two provincial grants for continued work.
The group hopes to continue to grow and help the communities in Central Alberta with the help and support of Town Council.
“We have only scratched the surface. We can’t fix everything in two years,” said Lewis.