NDP Bill to Support Young Victims of Sexual Assault in the North Passes Second Reading
Today the NDP bill that will help children and young people in northern and isolated communities access crucial health care when they have been sexually assaulted passed second reading with support from all parties. This bill was first introduced by NDP MLA for The Pas-Kameesak, Amanda Lathlin, in November. Amanda Lathilin was the first First Nations Woman elected to the Manitoba Legislature in 2015 and this is her first bill to pass second reading.
“Today marks a critical step in supporting young people in the North,” said Lathilin. “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. “I'm calling on the province today to ensure speedy passage of this bill.”