Specialist Katariina Leivo visits the Canadian Centre for Child Protection
Updated: Aug 23, 2022
I had an opportunity to visit the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (C3P) located in Winnipeg in July 2022. Their work and dedication in protecting children and supporting victims of sexual abuse was not a secret to me or anyone else working in this field. However, being able to meet the team face to face and hear about the history and development of various projects and the centre itself filled me with inspiration to continue the important work our team does every day to protect children and prevent sexual abuse in childhood.
The C3P is a national charity dedicated to the personal safety of all children. Their missions include reducing the sexual abuse and exploitation of children, assisting in the location of missing children, and preventing child victimization through a number of programs, services, and resources for Canadian families, educators, child-serving organizations, law enforcement, and other parties. In many ways their ambition and values reminded me of those we hold at Protect Children. It was easy to feel connected to people who fight against abuse that we have seen impacting a huge number of children and families also here in Finland. A lot of what we do at Protect Children, and somewhat in collaboration with C3P, shares the same objectives as their projects do.
C3P is dedicated to working together with survivors to effect change that will create a safer world for children. Leading our peer support groups for parents whose children have fallen a victim of sexual abuse has increased our knowledge tremendously and contributed towards developing our preventive initiatives. Furthermore, our recently established survivor advocacy group (“Our Voice”) has amplified, and will continue to amplify, the voices of survivors to increase public awareness and to advocate for legislative changes (read our goals for the upcoming Finnish parliamentary elections, created in collaboration with the Our Voice survivor group). As we are at the beginning of our journey working with our survivor advocacy group, it was reassuring to hear from the Canadians how through their work amplifying survivors’ voices they have already helped to facilitate much needed change in many important areas and have also been able to reduce re-victimization through technological interventions. The centre has incredible knowledge and wisdom in using technology to protect children.
They provide education to increase children’s personal safety skills and to empower parents by providing prevention tips to help reduce their child’s risks on online exploitation. Discussing obstacles parents and carers face both when trying to ensure the most effective ways to keep their child safe online or when helping their child to heal from sexual abuse, we realised that the issues and needs families face are parallel in both countries. Protect Children developed digital safety education material for parents and professionals as part of the recent Online Road Safety project, the ideas stemming from not only the current research but also from other areas of our work such as learning from victims or from analysing CSAM (Child Sexual Abuse Material) as part of Project Arachnid led by the Canadian Centre of Child Protection. To educate children on safety skills, the centre has also produced a collection of children’s books which are educational but also evoke important discussions between children and adults. Many of these books can be found translated in Protect Children’s resource bank and I feel certain there will be many more translations done in the future.
These were just a few areas of shared values and objectives mentioned. What we also share with our Canadian colleagues is the ambition to constantly develop and improve our programs and ways to protect children. Technology changes rapidly and so do the ways children are groomed and exploited online. To stay prepared, skilled and successful in protecting children from sexual abuse in all environments we all need to work hard, learn from each other and from survivors and remember the reason why we do our work. The Centre had various details in the building which remind those working there every day that there are real risks and victims out there.
I know our team will visit the Canadian Centre for Child Protection again, because their work is constantly evolving, and we are very inspired by everything that they do. I also promised to bring some more Finnish blueberry chocolates next time as they ran out fast.