EDMONTON — The western gathering of Diocesan Co-ordinators of Care and Safe Environment Policies was held June 7 - 8 in Edmonton. This is the fourth year the group has met to discuss best practices and challenges in the area of abuse prevention.
Some 20 representatives brought together their policies from most of the dioceses in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
One of the presenters at the two-day gathering was Wayne Provencal, one of the financial administrators with APEX, an insurance group formed by 20 dioceses from Western and Northern Canada. He spoke of the importance of a shared understanding of implementation of policy.
“I don’t want to get on an airplane if the pilot doesn’t know what to do in case of a storm,” he said.
Provencal and Bishop David Motiuk of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton spoke of formalizing the group of western regions by naming provincial reps who would potentially then address the need for a national conversation to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops next year.
Brian Gedicks, Associate General Counsel for the Knights of Columbus in the Greater New York City area responsible for litigation management in that region, spoke about how the knights in the United States are putting huge efforts into educating their membership about the importance of becoming aware of how diocesan safe environment policies affect their ministry.
“Are you a member of a council that meets in a parish? Are you doing ministry in the parish?” he asked. “If so, then you are a volunteer parish minister and need to abide by the policies.”
Another speaker, Lisa MacQuarrie, youth co-ordinator for the Archdiocese of Edmonton, spoke about the implications of safe environment policies and practices for youth camps and ministries with youth.
She spoke as a diocesan minister but also as a mother of six and as a person who attended a summer camp almost every year of her youth.
“Kids go to camps to be revived and rejuvenated and because they are fun,” MacQuarrie said. “Good preparation of the camp staff goes a long way to making the camps safe.”
MacQuarrie outlined the five-step approach her office uses to ensure the parents and parishes that the camps are a good place to send children. The steps include screening, defining appropriate interactions between counsellors and kids, monitoring and supervision, on-going training and responding when incidents occur.
She noted that expectations of what camps can do to ensure the security of those who attend has changed radically from the 1970s, and therefore there is a culture that needs to be shifted.
“We need to be more prepared than in the past,” she explained. “Rainy days, bedtime, shower time . . . it’s about preparation, thinking ahead and good formation.”
Other speakers were Christa LaForce of the Edmonton Police Child Protective Services and Samantha Dover, who is in charge of Community Education and Engagement with the Zebra Child Protection Centre.
LaForce is a 12-year member of the Edmonton Police Service, with three years as a detective with a focus on child abuse. She explained how police approaches have been shaped over the years by understanding how far the role of making children feel safe in the reporting process has come.
“It is important that we build up trust with the victim and get them comfortable,” she said. “Meanwhile, non-abusing caregivers are also cared for.”
She also introduced and explained the partner role that the Edmonton City Police have had in the development of the Zebra Child Protection Centre.
Since 2002, the Zebra unit has changed the way children who report abuse are treated. Prior to Zebra, children were basically treated like adults. Zebra now tailors the environment and approach to what suits a hurting child and family. This includes bright lighting, toys, games and lots of stuffed animals.
“Kids come into the Zebra room sad and scared,” she explained. “But then I’ve seen them skip out saying they want to have their next birthday party there.”
Theresa Kellendonk, the department head for Pastoral and Parish Services in the Archdiocese of Edmonton, helped to co-ordinate the gathering and agenda.
The Diocese of Calgary has confirmed that they will host of the next gathering in 2017.