Victims of Calgary attacks fall through the cracks after funding cancelled
CALGARY -- There are nine scars all over this young Calgary man’s body.
The permanent wounds are a reminder of a horrific attack on Aug. 5. CTV News is concealing his identity for his safety as the suspect has not yet been caught.
"It took 600 stitches and staples inside and out to close me up," he said.
The victim was driving in Renfrew near the 500 block of 10th Avenue N.E. He pulled over to let a vehicle that was tailgating him pass but, instead the driver got out, went to the victim’s car, stabbed him multiple times and then drove off without saying a word.
"I was just screaming," said the victim. "There was blood everywhere. I was covered in blood and I thought, 'This is it - I’m done and this is how I’m going to die."
Calgary police say the attack was unprovoked and there is no clear motive.
The victim believes it was mistaken identity.
In cases like this, victims have been able to get financial help through a provincial fund that’s been around since 1990 called the Victims of Crime Benefit Fund.
The program, which has a $74 million surplus, does not come from tax payers dollars. Instead, funds come from fine surcharges paid for by those convicted of crimes.
Usually, all victims need to do to access the funding is to file a police report.
But in June, the province announced legislation, Bill 16, that would allow them to take that money and use it to pay for things like more police officers and Crown prosecutors.
Victims of crime advocate Christine Cusanelli says the financial benefit was integral to the victim’s healing journey.
"That was a good thing. They are then able to chart their own course. As a self advocate to be able to determine where the needs are," said Cusanelli. "It could be physiotherapy, it could be time missed off work. There was flexibility for them to utilize the funds."
MLA Irfan Sabir, NDP Official Opposition Critic for Justice, accused the UCP for raiding the Victims of Crime Fund to pay for their reckless cuts to police services.
Sabir says the Kenney government went one step further by using its majority to defeat the NDP's amendments to the Bill that would have seen 75 per cent of the money reserved for victims and agencies that serve them.
Victims of crime advocate Jimmy Kritikos, who works with Cusanelli, says he and his colleague put forward recommendations. They are stressing the importance for funding for victims.
"It’s money that is intended for victims and I think we should be using it for victims directly," he said. "I support a hybrid approach. Some financial component to it as well as some aspect of the new program as well."
Government officials say there is an interim program to provide court support, counselling as well as out-of-pocket expense for victims.
The UCP government says it's also established a working group to consult with Albertans and key stakeholders on the creation of a new victims assistance model that will improve the programs and services victims need most. The program is slated for next year.
But the young man who spoke to CTV News says while he's been able to access counseling services, he couldn’t get any financial aid because of the cancelled program.
"I was almost murdered. Bottom line, this is an attempted murder case and I almost died and I’m still living, thank God, but, after the fact, it seems like there’s nothing I’m entitled to."
As for the investigation against his case. Calgary police say a number of tips have come in and investigators are currently exploring all avenue of potential leads but still don’t have the suspect.
He is in his late 20s or 30s. Is between 5-9 and 6 feet (175 to 183 centimetres) tall with a slim build.
He was wearing a hoodie, red baseball cap with white sneakers and a surgical mask. The vehicle the suspect was driving was a grey or silver SUV. If you have any information about this crime, call police.