To the Editor:
On Monday, Parliament held its first Abuse Awareness Day to educate legislators and leaders about reducing the long-term impact of trauma on abused children.
I was joined by my colleagues, Liberal MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette, NDP MP Christine Moore, Bloc Quebecois MP Rheal Fortin and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.
Starting in the morning, we held an all-party press conference to call for action to combat child sexual abuse with former NHLer and child advocate Sheldon Kennedy and former Great Big Sea lead singer Sean McCann.
This was followed by meetings with CPC Leader Andrew Scheer and shadow cabinet minister to discuss policy around child protection. Just before Question Period, I made a statement in the House of Commons on the importance of recognizing the signs of abuse and speaking up.
In the evening, we screened Sheldon Kennedy’s new documentary Swift Current to almost 400 attendees including parliamentarians, sports organizations leaders, diplomats and members of the public.
Following the screening, I was honoured to moderate a panel on child abuse that included Sheldon Kennedy, National Chief Perry Bellegarde, and Voice Found’s Cynthia Bland. The night also included music by Sean McCann and his own personal story of being abused and his recovery.
Our society has yet to grasp how extensive and far reaching child sexual abuse is. One in three girls and one in five boys are sexually abused in Canada. That is millions of Canadians who have experienced or are experiencing this destruction of their wellbeing, their health, and their lives.
We must not allow this to be the status quo. To turn the tide in Canada against sexual abuse, we have to address the rape culture that fosters and enables it.
This is not an issue that the government alone can solve. All of us as individuals have to learn how to recognize the signs of sexual abuse, have the courage to speak up, call 911, and stop the abusers. As Sheldon Kennedy says, we must do everything we can to make the invisible, visible.
Arnold Viersen, MP
Peace River – Westlock