November 24, 2020
Treaty 1 Territory, Winnipeg MB—NDP MLA for The Pas-Kameesak, Amanda Lathlin, introduced a bill in the House today that would help children and young people in northern and isolated communities access crucial health care when they have been sexually assaulted.
“Too many communities, especially in northern Manitoba, do not have the health professionals to provide support to children who are victims of sexual abuse,” said Lathlin. “This means that if a minor comes forward to report sexual abuse they have to leave their community and travel by plane to Winnipeg just so evidence can be gathered and charges can be laid. It’s an unnecessary layer of trauma for victims and a very real obstacle to finding perpetrators of sexual assault.”
Bill 213 would require the province to report annually on the number of health professionals trained and approved to examine child victims of sexual assault. It would also require the province to publicly report on the number of evidence kits available in all health regions.
Currently in Northern communities like The Pas, only adults have access to sexual assault kits administered by the RCMP. If a minor reports sexual assault they are flown to the Health Science Centre in Winnipeg where they are seen by a sexual assault nurse examiner. Health professionals use evidence kits to gather DNA evidence which can later be used by police to charge perpetrators of sexual assault.
This inequality in access to resources for victims of sexual assault has grave implications on the number of minors who report abuse and the mental and emotional health of young victims.
“Our children deserve better,” said Lathlin. “The government needs to act today to invest in more resources for underage victims of sexual assault in the North and ensure communities have an adequate supply of trained health professionals and sexual assault kits.”