Looking out for victims of crime

Lisa Goudy
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Kim Gramlich, victim services co-ordinator with the Delta Police Victim Services in British Columbia, poses with Caber, her trauma K9, in the Macoun Lounge at SIAST on April 8, 2014. She made a presentation at the Taking Action for Victims luncheon to coincide with National Victims of Crime Awareness Week held April 6 to 12.

First trauma K9 in Canada visits Taking Action for Victims luncheon

There is a reason dogs are known as peoples’ best friends.

“Dogs can help people in a way that human beings cannot. Dogs connect with human beings on a different level than other humans do,” said Kim Gramlich, victim services co-ordinator with the Delta Police Victim Services in British Columbia. “There is this kind of unconditional love and acceptance instantly upon meeting them where as with me and a client, there isn’t that same level of connection.

“Maybe eventually we can develop more of a sort of trusting relationship, but in the first instance, I’m still a stranger.”

Gramlich, along with her partner, a yellow Labrador retriever named Caber, did a presentation at the Taking Action for Victims luncheon in the Macoun Lounge at SIAST on Tuesday. The Moose Jaw Partners Against Violence Committee put on the luncheon to coincide with National Victims of Crime Awareness Week held April 6 to 12.

Caber is the first trauma K9 dog in Canada. In the first two and a half years of service, Caber helped 500 victims. There are now two dogs working for police agencies in Alberta.

“His job is to work with us in victim services to comfort victims of crime, calm them down, reduce their blood pressure and make their experience of going through the criminal justice process a little bit more comfortable, a little it easier for them to perverse through that process,” said Gramlich. “Our ultimate goal with him is to reduce their trauma.”

He started with the department in August 2010 with two years of training from the Pacific Assistance Dogs Society (PADS), which serves all of Western Canada. Caber is used in crown counsel interviews with crime victims as they review their testimony. The goal is also to have Caber sit in court with victims as they testify.

“It’s incredibly helpful. I have multiple stories of where it’s been transformational in a sense for a lot of our clients. I find that what it does its it normalizes a traumatic experience,” said Gramlich. “Sometimes we forget that at the heart of any crime is a victim and I think we that we can never let ourselves forget that … the needs of the victim are first and foremost in our mind in everything that we do.”

Donna Blondeau, victim services co-ordinator with the Moose Jaw Police Service, said the luncheon and presentation was made possible through $5,800 in funding by the national Department of Justice. She said the luncheon was also to show appreciation for victim services volunteers.

“We want people to be aware of the trauma K9,” said Blondeau. “We’ve been doing things pretty much the same way for a long time, but this is going to take us into another realm ... of better assistance.”

The theme of the national week is “Taking Action.”

“I decided to tack on ‘for victims’ because that’s essentially what we’re doing here is to ensure the best possible service for them,” said Blondeau. “If this is another way that we can complement what we’re already doing, I think we need to look at that.”

At the event, Mayor Deb Higgins signed a proclamation declaring the national week in Moose Jaw. Sgt. Dean Bohlken of the RCMP and Rick Bourassa, Moose Jaw police chief, also said a few words.

“That is a bit of a rare occurrence because not very many cities in Saskatchewan, at least that I’m aware of, that have proclaimed the week over the years. So I’m pleased to see it,” said Pat Thiele, director of the provincial victim services branch with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice.

“Every year our ministry uses this week to highlight important work being done to assist victims of crime in Saskatchewan and about the programs and services available to victims and their families.”

For more information, look up Justice Canada on YouTube and watch a video on Caber or visit www.pads.ca.

Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.

Organizations: Taking Action for Victims, Delta Police Victim Services, Moose Jaw Partners Pacific Assistance Dogs Society Moose Jaw Police Service Department of Justice RCMP Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice

Geographic location: Western Canada, British Columbia, Alberta Moose Jaw Saskatchewan

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