SQUAMISH (NEWS 1130) – Imagine you’ve been a victim of sexual assault. You want to be checked by a nurse or doctor and have evidence collected, but no one in your city is able to do that.
A former city councillor in Squamish says that’s the reality for people in the Sea to Sky region, nearly three years after a push for the province to make a change.
After that request to the then-Liberal health minister, Susan Chappelle says Squamish received access to one forensic nurse from Monday to Friday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
She says those hours are generally not when someone would be assaulted. “I’m saddened for the women who have had to show up at the hospital at 3:30 p.m. or 4 p.m., only to find out they have to go down to the city.”
“The nurse in … the Sea to Sky corridor serves all the way up to Lillooet. When [someone] is sexually assaulted, they go to the hospital. If it’s after-hours, they have to be transported — like many other communities in British Columbia — to a facility that has rape kits. This is a barrier to prosecuting or to doing what is necessary to actually obtain DNA evidence.”
She points out there isn’t transit available in the area. “So, you would have to leave your community. You would have to leave your support system. This isn’t just a corridor issue — this is a provincial issue.”
“Anybody going through a crime has the ability to report to the police and obtain evidence. When you’re raped, you have to go through a different level of proving your trauma. That includes doing a DNA test, which is doing the forensic kits. The forensic kits are available, but the professionals — which are nurses that are trained in forensic science — are not actually available in our hospitals.”
She says there are still 18 B.C. hospitals that do not provide these services, “which forces First Nations and [rest of the community] to basically travel to these services. We wouldn’t ask any other victim of any other crime to travel for services.”
Chappele says she also spoke with Health Minister Adrian Dix last year about this. She hopes the province will put up some cash to make forensic training part of standard nursing education. “Not be an extra course that you add on — so all nurses are trained, so women can receive the services anytime they go into a hospital, like any other medical procedure.”
“It would be a great asset to not just the Sea to Sky community, but to all communities to have forensic testing available — across Canada, actually,” she said. “It ends up being the under-served populations that are caught in not having appropriate services.”
She says with the #MeToo movement, this issue needs to be addressed. “We’ve had lots of hashtags, but the action surrounding these items is still very weak.”
– With files from Martin MacMahon