Thursday, November 19, 2009

Podunk Below the Masthead, Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Providing assistance for abused children, the passing of Doug Kerr and the Nisga'a has new laws covering home ownership, some of the items of note for Wednesday.

Daily News, Front page, headline story
WEBSITE AIMS AT HELPING CHILDREN THROUGH THE COURT PROCESS --Taking the intimidation of the courts out of the process for abused children is the goal of The Canadian Society for the Investigation of Child Abuse. Towards that goal, a new interactive website has been launched and the Daily News outlines some background on what it is all about.

Controversy over the direction that Hereditary Chiefs of the Gitxsan people want to go towards is making for a split in those communities and the Daily News has details over the legal protest that has been launched over their plans by the existing band council.

The passing of Doug Kerr is observed with a page three tribute as Monica Lamb-Yorski traces the life and times of Mr. Kerr and the impact that he has left with his community with his passing.

The Port of Prince Rupert has updated its communication strategy, rebranding their newsletter as "The Current" and seeking out the publics feedback by way of email, where Rupertites can ask questions of the Port over some of the latest developments on the waterfront (the Online version of The Current newsletter can be found here)

In the Sports section Curling, Minor hockey and the curious decision making of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick are all up for examination in the Wednesday edition.

(Daily News Archive Articles for November 18)

The Northern View
(No new items posted for November 18)

First Nations Meet in Prince Rupert to Develop Marine Use Plans -- Details of a conference in Prince Rupert which brought together a number of area First Nations to discuss marine use strategies (see article here)

Thornhill Assault Victim Dies, One Person Arrested -- A violent incident in Thornhill has left one man dead and another under arrest (see article here)

New Home Owner Law for Nisga'a -- The Nisga'a Lisims Government has passed the Landholding Transition Act which will see Nisga'a citizens given the right to own their own properties on Nisga'a land (see article here)

CBC British Columbia, Daybreak North
Snowbirds beware-- The CBC talks with Lorraine Bullock with the British Columbia Automobile Association, discussing what homeowners need to know if they're leaving their homes for warmer climates in the winter (listen to interview here)

Daily News, Front page, Headline story
Website aims at helping children through the court process
By Monica Lamb-Yorski
The Daily News
Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sometimes it is not easy being a kid, especially one that has been abused.

And one of the hardest things for abused children is going to court. Anxiety, fear of the unknown or being in the presence of a perpetrator are all factors that could influence a child not to testify.

That reality has inspired the creation of a new website being launched on November 19 for abused children who must testify in court.

On that day the website will be up and running and will enable children from all over the world to access the site, or join in on group sessions while being known only by their first name.

“My biggest fear is that the website will be the best kept secret and if the police, crown and children aren’t using it, then what?” said Lynn Barry, Executive Director and founder of The Canadian Society for the Investigation of Child Abuse.

Speaking from Calgary two days before the launch, Barry noted she has been running face-to-face programs with children who are scheduled to go to court since 1992, but has found over time her organization was receiving more and more requests and it was impossible to meet the demand.

“Then an epiphany happened,” said Barry. “We realized through an interactive website we could make our services available to children at no cost. Kids these days are text-based and internet savvy.”

“We’ve put a positive spin on it to make it more interactive. It’s all game-based and kids have to demonstrate that they have understood the concepts before they can move on,” Barry said.

When children log on to the website they arrive at Super Hero Island and are asked to give their name, sex, hair and eye colour. Next they are asked to indicate where they live.

One of the most important aspects of the game is a prep program aimed at teaching kids how to remember.

“When we were kids we were taught to remember lists of things by creating sentences,” Barry explained. “If your mom gave you a list of five things to buy at the grocery store, she would make a sentence out of the words to help you remember. Kids now don’t have those skills so we’ve developed some memory strategies.”

The website also has links to other websites, such as a courtroom tour video in B.C.

Children will also hear the voices of a defence lawyer and a prosecutor during a cross-examination. Inside the courtroom they will be encouraged to find a focal point on the wall to help them relax if they are feeling anxious.

Even a lion at the circus in the game demonstrates deep breathing as a way for a child to calm him or herself, a tight rope walker acknowledges that a child may have fears, but a man standing with a safety net below assures the child there are safety features, such as a security guard, in place in a courtroom.

A social worker for many years, Barry worked in child protection and has seen that you can have a wonderful first intervention, but if a child does not testify nothing happens.

Children in Canadian law are required to be in court to testify and there are all sorts of scenarios. Imagine a 4-year-old child who walks into court. She stands on an apple box because she cannot see over the podium. She freezes and does not say a thing.

It can be the same for teens, Barry added, because often they are terrified at seeing the offender and will be totally distressed.

“The last thing we want to do is re-traumatize so if they know what to expect they’ll be fine and ready. If their story can get out then justice is served.”

In the game, the children never talk about what happened and any discussions that occur are always in the context of the game.

Any time a child wants to go beyond the realm of the game and interact with a facilitator online, Barry or one of a core group of 25 will be available to them for an hour session.

“We will put kids in groups and could have Jane from Yellowknife, Joey from Prince Rupert and Emily from St. John’s interacting, but not talking about what happened to them.”

It is that concept of not being alone, Barry said.

The website was made possible with generous funding from the Alberta Solicitor General and Public Security, Victim Programs, Bank of Montreal Employees Charitable Foundation, Calgary Foundation and Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire.

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