Group urges residents to sign petition
By: Dawn Smith
| Posted: Thursday, Jan 17, 2013 06:00 am
A group of Airdrie residents is asking for help with a petition aimed at changing provincial laws regarding crimes against children.
The Arizona group launched the petition at the beginning of December in response to a sexual assault case involving a local child that was dismissed on Oct. 3 because of court delays.
The case involved an Airdrie woman, now 27, who alleged she suffered years of sexual abuse, between the ages of nine and 17, but had her case stayed because of the length of time it took to expedite it.
In 2009, her accused was arrested and charged with sexual assault, sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching and sexual exploitation, six years after the alleged abuse ended. She has since been dubbed “Arizona”
“We have got over 200 signatures,” said Alison Jones, of the Arizona group.
Jones said the group is hoping to present the petition at the Legislative Assembly during the spring sitting and is hoping to have as many signatures as possible.
Organizers are hoping a law will be written to ensure if a case against a child is dismissed due to institutional or Crown delays, an investigation outside of Alberta Justice will be triggered.
The petition also asks that victims older than 18 be given the right to waive publication bans; that the number of Crown Stay of Proceedings and Withdrawals be published annually with an updated action plan from the Attorney General detailing how this problem is being addressed; and ensure enough resources are allocated to the Crown Prosecutor’s office to be able to manage all prosecutions against violent offenders, especially those charged with sexual and other violent crimes against children.
“We are really trying to make sure court cases don’t get thrown out and if they do, that the government has to tell us why,” said Jones. “This is just not acceptable.”
Jones said the group is looking for help in collecting signatures during the group’s presentation at the Legislature.
“The more people that will join us, the merrier,” she said, adding the group will be knocking on doors as early as the third week of January.
“The more signatures we get, the better we will look in the Legislature.”
The petition is available at Airdrie’s Shamrock Lanes and Here’s the Scoop and the group is looking for more businesses to host the document.
She added those who can’t visit the businesses are welcome to contact her at 403-650-8519 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jones said a member of the group will deliver the petition to anyone who wants to sign, adding anyone is welcome to sign the document, regardless of their age.
Airdrie MLA Rob Anderson encourages people to get involved with the petition.
“I urge everyone in the city and outside of the city to sign that petition,” he said.
“I hope we can get over 10,000 signatures… we are hoping we will have bus loads of people coming up (to the Legislature).”
Anderson said he remains optimism the group can affect change.
“If you put enough pressure on the (Province), they eventually do it,” he said.
Jones said she is frustrated that no one from Alberta Justice has contacted either the Arizona group or the victim regarding the case.
“We also want to put pressure on the justice minister to make good on his promise to have the results of their so-called inquiry into why ‘Arizona’s’ case was dismissed due to delays,” she said.
During a previous interview, Minister of Justice Jonathan Denis said his involvement ended when he launched an investigation by Alberta’s Associate Deputy Minister of Justice Greg Lepp into the case in the fall.
According to Michelle Davio, Alberta Justice spokesperson, the investigation into the case is ongoing.
“There is no scheduled date for it to end,” she said. “It is a priority.”
Jones said it is imperative Alberta laws are changed and that the judicial system has the resources it needs.
“‘Arizona’ went through three-and-a-half years of hell and we don’t want it to happen to anyone else,” she said. “We want to change the world, we want it to be safe for people to come forward.”
For more information, contact Jones or visit Arizona’s Voice Against Childhood Sexual Abuse on Facebook.