THE VISION

A focus on healing, efficiency, and better outcomes for all. Toba Centre for Children & Youth is evolving and creating a new, multi-disciplinary child advocacy centre for Manitoba  at 710 Assiniboine Park Drive. 

The We Will Capital Campaign will raise $15 million to fund the renovations required to develop the space for the very specific needs of a high-functioning, multi-disciplinary child advocacy centre in a calm and serene setting.

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Capital Campaign

Children need to be heard, helped and healed. Together, we will change the future for victims of abuse, their families, and for all of Manitoba. Will you help us?

What is Child
Abuse?

Child abuse is any behaviour that intentionally endangers the development, security or survival of someone under the age of 18. Child abuse can be sexual, physical, or emotional in nature.

Source: Zebra Child Protection Centre and Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre.

In Manitoba, there are about 4,000 child abuse cases are investigated every year. It is widely believed that many more cases of child abuse in Manitoba go unreported.

Our Stories

“I Was Right There. And I Didn’t Know.”

Names in this story have been changed for privacy reasons.

“Where were the parents?” That’s what I see in the comments section whenever I read about child abuse in the news. A lot of people question where the parents were and how they could have let this happen to their children—lots of blaming. But let me tell you, nobody can blame a parent more than they blame themselves. It’s torture. 

When I became a dad my life changed completely. I was young at the time and it felt like I grew up overnight. When things didn’t work out with my ex, I became the primary caregiver for my daughter and I was so grateful. She was, and is, my whole world. I would do anything to protect her. What I didn’t know back then was who I had to protect her from. I thought I was protecting her from strangers—not imagining I had to protect her from her own mother. I don’t intend to share any details of what my little girl endured in her mother’s home, but it’s something that no child should ever have to endure and what most people cannot even imagine. It’s something I can never erase from my own mind, but now my life’s mission is to erase it from my sweet daughter’s. “Where were the parents” you ask?  I was right there. And I didn’t know.

When the police came knocking on my door, my life suddenly changed, and I was thrown into a world I didn’t understand. I felt powerless, lost, overwhelmed, and hopeless. I thought that I’d never be able to put all the puzzle pieces together to even have a hope of finding a path to recovery, to heal from the abuse that had torn through our lives.

What happened next, after the abuse was uncovered, made us feel like victims all over again. There were a lot of kind people who spoke with us, but we never knew who we were going to have to talk to next and we rarely saw the same person twice. Once people got what they needed from us to do their own job, we didn’t hear from them again. We felt very alone, like we were invisible, inadequate, or disposable. And, all that time, I couldn’t help thinking that those who hurt children and cause all this pain, get more support than we do! In the end, we were left with a pamphlet listing a number of places where we could seek help. But by this point I could barely get through the day, never mind finding the energy to seek out services. I’m not sure I could’ve even brought myself to tell people what had happened. I didn’t have the words. I couldn’t. Getting through the day was all I could focus on. 

Throughout the investigation, it felt like no one was on the same page. We had to repeat the horrific details too many times to count, starting from the beginning each time. I started to think the reason we had to do this was because I wasn’t doing a good enough job, that maybe if I had spoken better or explained our story more clearly, then maybe we would have had more help. The constant repetition, and the consistent lack of support or acknowledgement, made me feel like it was my fault we weren’t getting help.

I was connected to Toba Centre after most of the investigation was over. It was at this point when things finally started to change for us. The people at Toba Centre understood what we were going through. We finally felt supported.

I know that Toba Centre has a vision for a new approach to child abuse response and plans for a new centre, and I cannot tell you what a huge difference it will make. For victims and their families, it will be life-altering to have a safe and comprehensive support system. To have people whose primary goal is to help you get through the trauma and recover is essential, and that support does not exist today. It is a sad truth that victims receive less support, less recovery resources, and in a less organized manner than that of their abusers.

Most importantly, it is reassuring to know there are people who will support us over time. There’s no schedule or timeline for healing. They believe in us, and remind us that we can, and will, recover. Sometimes you need people to believe in you, especially when you’re hurt so badly that you just don’t know how to believe in yourself anymore. 

Toba Centre makes me and my child feel valued as a human-beings.

They make me feel like they genuinely want to hear what I have to say and want to know how we are doing.

They offer guidance and regular check-ins. 

They are also organized and knowledgeable about systems I know nothing about, removing a large burden of stress.

They make me feel empowered, like I have a team and a support system that has my back. 

They initiate a lot of communication which is helping remove that feeling of being invisible or disposable.

And, they are so organized and know what the next steps are, which helps alleviate the feeling of being overwhelmed.

I now feel empowered and hopeful that we can heal from the trauma we have faced.

For myself, today, I can’t say that I don’t still blame myself. Or, that I don’t go over and over in my mind, asking whether I could have somehow prevented what happened. But, day by day, it is getting better. The less hidden away we are, and the more open we become, the more hopeful we feel. My daughter deserves a childhood and my only priority is to give that to her. I know now that she can be okay and that is all I need. 

“It’s time.”

Names in this story have been changed for privacy reasons.

It was a Friday afternoon in the summer of 2017 when the grandparents arrived to pick up their 5 year old granddaughter, Kate, for the weekend.  This was a typical scenario since their daughter, Noelle, worked shifts and was estranged from her children’s father;  Noelle’s parents regularly cared for her children while she worked  and often  provided childcare when she was unable to be home.    When they arrived, rather than seeing their granddaughter waiting with a smile & eager to get the show on the road, they were met with police cars and officers blocking most of the street…as well as being inside the house.  As the story would unfold, the grandparents learned that their daughter and Noelle’s boyfriend (stepdad to Kate and her brother) were handcuffed and led out of the house in front of the very young children and taken away in separate police cars; the arrests were made for child abuse and child sexual abuse imagery, but details were scarce.  Even though the grandparents were identified as being Noelle’s parents, at no point was further information shared other than that Noelle was being questioned.

A communication was made that the young children were to be interviewed at the corner store parking lot by Child and Family Service workers.  At this point the CFS Workers interviewed each child and at no point would communicate with the grandparents who were not only care providers for their grandkids but were also family and the parents of the children’s mother.  When the grandparents were trying to chat with the kids to try to ‘normalize’ the situation somewhat, a CFS worker called out from across the parking lot and said that there should be no conversation with the children.  At no point did they explain the process of what was going on, nor attempt to establish the grandparent’s connection with the children.  Once these interviews were done, the children were to attend Children’s Hospital for forensic exams.

The family sat in Emergency at the Children’s hospital for five hours.  They were in crisis; they were in trauma and no one came out and interacted with them.  No one came out to explain the situation or to see how Kate, the child who was to be examined (and by this point was very frightened) was.  It seemed that no one cared.  We didn’t matter.  Kate didn’t matter.  

After the forensic exam was finally done, the Police called to say that Noelle was ready for release and that she was ‘in a bad way and would obviously need help’.  What seemed to have unfolded was that Noelle was arrested so that she could be used as to leverage information from Jason (Kate’s stepdad) – information about how he had been abusing Kate for at least a year and had been posting naked photos and videos of her online, and selling them to a ring of pedophiles like himself around the world on the internet.  The police showed Noelle some of the pictures and she was overcome with guilt, shock and grief….devastated that this happened under her roof and by someone she loved and trusted.  The trauma of that evening was too much to bear.

Noelle’s parents described her as disheveled and incoherent upon release from the police.  Noelle wanted to die.  She felt shame and felt that she had been manipulated to build a case against Jason (even though there was already clear evidence to his guilt).  Noelle was left in a cold interview room with a table and a chair….and often no one else with her….no one to counsel her or to help her understand the process of what was happening.  She was suicidal and her parents did not think she was going to survive the night.

They attempted to have Noelle admitted to the Crisis Response Unit but after a brief interview with Noelle (who was inconsolable & unable to maintain her thoughts) they sent the family home to rest’.

Three years later Noelle still battles the effects of that night:  she is a shell of herself.  She is often sullen and distant and will not talk about what happened even though Jason is now in jail and Kate is doing well for the most part. ‘Noelle is a victim.  We are all victims’ say the grandparents. ‘We didn’t know where to turn to or what to do to get the support we needed.  We were lost and felt like we had to fend for ourselves. Along this journey we did meet empathetic people who meant well but felt that many of the professionals they encountered did not work in such a fashion as to help provide support and direction….instead we were left to fend by ourselves and do what we thought best’. 

The photos and videos of Kate will likely persist in the dark corners of the internet, perhaps forever, and the profound trauma that Noelle feels will likely be with her for all time but had the supports been different at the outset, their story would be very different.

While the grandparents are still seething at the system’s shortcomings, they are so very happy to learn about the development of the new centre that would help families navigate the process following disclosure of child abuse. Their hope is that the new centre will keep ‘a file open forever’ such that victims and their families can always get the help they need.

‘This is what we needed and it’s shocking that we don’t already have something like this; it’s time’.

Let this story be the reason you step forward today to support the Manitoba Child Abuse Response Centre. Let’s fix a damaged system. For children. For families. For Manitoba.

“You’re the reason”

Names in this story have been changed for privacy reasons.

A year later, Ella still sleeps fully clothed and with the lights on.

Still, she is willing to talk about what happened to her. Eager, actually. Many others aren’t.

“I have told my story so many times, and I feel I have to keep telling it,” says Ella, 17. “I’ve had people say to me ‘you’re the reason I decided to talk about what happened to me.’”

Meet Ella. Hers was one of roughly 4,000 cases of child abuse investigated in Manitoba in 2019 by Child and Family Services.

In February 2019, Ella—then 16—slept over at her best friend’s house, across the street from her own father’s home. As the evening was winding down and Ella prepared to fall asleep on the couch, her friend’s father approached while the other girls were upstairs. He was a man she had known for years. A man she trusted. With no one else around, he sat beside Ella and sexually assaulted her.

“It didn’t last long, but it felt like it lasted forever,” says Ella of the horrifying, life-changing incident. “(My friend) and I grew up together. This was a safe place for me, but in just a few minutes my place of safety turned into a very bad place.”

Ella knew she had to tell someone what happened. So, she composed a long descriptive text and sent it to another friend who was also in the house. Confused and frightened, unsure of what to do and where to go at that late hour, Ella fell asleep.

When she awoke, she copied and pasted the same text and sent it to her mother, Jackie, disclosing the abuse that happened the night before. The text arrived at 7:37 a.m.

“I was shocked, I was scared, and I was angry,” says Jackie.

Throughout the year that followed, Ella and her family experienced their fair share of shock, fear, and anger as the cumbersome—sometimes chaotic—process played out.

There were multiple meetings and calls with the police, with Child and Family Services, Victim Services, and eventually the crown attorney. There were numerous delays. Long stretches where Ella and her family didn’t know what would happen next. Or when.

Everyone along the way did their job, but it seemed clear to Ella and her family that people were not working together. There was not one person Ella or her mom could contact to get definitive answers and support. Too much mystery. Too much uncertainty. Too many delays.

Jackie was relentless in seeking updates and information, but often felt dismissed and alone. She was scared as she watched the daughter she knew disappear. She needed help understanding how to support her and knowing how to manage her own anger and despair.

“What I needed was someone to help us navigate the whole thing,” said Jackie. “I needed somebody to call in those times when I didn’t know who to call, I needed someone to say that we didn’t have to do this alone.”

The court date finally arrived, a year following the incident, almost to the day. It was a two-day trial. The verdict? Not-guilty. It was a long stressful year of intimidating investigation rooms, frequent questioning, and long delays to arrive at an unsatisfactory verdict.

But for Ella, this awful journey has revealed her exceptional strength of character. While she is haunted by the abuse itself, what followed strengthened her. She came forward. She and her family persisted in the pursuit of justice. She continues to share her story. She is focusing now on healing. And she is inspiring others to step forward and tell their own stories of abuse. She is the reason.

Let Ella’s story be the reason you step forward today to support the Manitoba Child Abuse Response Centre. Let’s fix a damaged system. For children. For families. For Manitoba.

The Impacts of
Child Abuse

Adverse childhood experiences are the single greatest unaddressed public health threat facing our nation today.”

— Dr. Robert Block

Education

Children who have been abused are 30% less likely to graduate from high school.

Job Stability

Adults abused in childhood are more likely to have problems holding jobs.

Crime

Children who have experienced abuse are four times more likely to be arrested as a juvenile.

Violence

Boys abused by a family member are 45 times more likely to perpetrate dating violence as adolescents. 

Well-Being

Adult survivors of child abuse have four times as many contacts with mental health services as people who did not suffer abuse.

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Poverty

Victims of child abuse are 26 times more likely to become homeless.

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Suicide

Victims of child abuse are four times more likely to report harming themselves or having suicidal thoughts.

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Addiction

Nearly 75% of people in a detoxification program reported a history of abuse.

With proper supports in place, the new Toba Centre can change these numbers, reducing the very significant negative impacts of child abuse.  Together, we will change the future for victims of abuse, their families, and for all of Manitoba.

Our Vision

We will focus on healing, efficiency, and better outcomes for all.

Currently, Toba Centre’s primary role is to support child abuse investigations by providing child-friendly spaces for victim and witness interviews. With limited space, Toba Centre interviews fewer than 10% of child abuse victims in Manitoba.

Money raised through the We Will campaign will fund the renovations required to develop the space for the very specific needs of a high-functioning, multi-disciplinary child advocacy centre in a calm and serene setting.

Vision

WE WILL change the
conversation.

The current system can be chaotic and unfriendly to victims of child abuse and their families. Children are often interviewed more than once; no single person is available to help the child and their families understand the process; and no one is keenly focused on the mental well-being of the child through the investigation and beyond. The focus has been on investigation, building a case, and seeing the case through the complicated criminal justice process, with each participating agency focusing specifically and exclusively on their own responsibilities.

Introducing
710 Assiniboine
Park Drive

“The new centre will be located in a City of Winnipeg owned building that is relatively central and features extensive work space and parking. The surrounding environment is calm, close to nature, and away from the frenzy and crowded venues of human activity. It offers a natural shelter where families and staff of the centre can step outside with privacy and dignity to cope with the emotional impacts of the crisis and the moment. This is a place that calls one to sit on the grass, lean on a tree, go for a walk, to find one’s own inner strength and the composure to go on.”

– Theodore Fontaine, Sagkeeng Ojibwe First Nation former Chief and band member, Elder and Knowledge Keeper

The new Toba Centre enables police, social work, and other supports to be provided on site.  Each discipline will be a critical element in the multidisciplinary team that works together to serve children and families and provide the necessary services. This coordinated response will serve to reduce potential trauma to children and families and improve services overall, while preserving and respecting the rights, mandates, and obligations of mandated agencies.

Take a virtual tour of our new home.

Our Goal

The WE WILL Campaign
seeks to raise

15m

Toba Centre will adopt best practices and learn from other established child advocacy centres across Canada and the USA to create a first of its kind, made in Manitoba, centre of excellence. A review of an integrated child advocacy centre in Toronto—the type we are developing in Manitoba—showed:

REDUCTION IN
HEALTH CARE
COSTS

FASTER ACCESS
TO COUNSELLING
SERVICES

UP TO FOUR HOURS
SAVED PER CASE FOR CHILD PROTECTION, LAW ENFORCEMENT, AND HEALTH PROFESSIONALS

A RETURN ON INVESTMENT OF $3 FOR EVERY DOLLAR SPENT ON THE PROGRAM

WE WILL improve efficiencies together.

Our Supporters

Thank You

Every person counts and every dollar takes us one step closer to building a child advocacy centre for all Manitobans. Will you help?

Gov Manitoba

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Campaign Cabinet

We are grateful to our volunteer committee members who have been working tirelessly in support of Toba Centre’s We Will Capital Campaign.

Ken Talbot
Campaign Chair

Dave Angus
Kevin Betzold
Rejean Beauchemin
John Bockstael

John Douglas
Norm Dupas
David Eggerman
Ron Evans
Leilani Kagan
Tony Lavilla
Karl Loepp
Laura Lomow

Lorraine Maciboric
Tim McKay
Linda Palmer
Hiren Shah
Anita Sharma-Turner
Don Smith
Tom Thomas

There can
be no justice
without healing.

Your gift today
will change a
child’s life forever.

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